El Bronx

Jerome Charyn, Author Mysterious Press $22 (288p) ISBN 978-0-89296-604-2
The ninth--and very possibly the best--in Charyn's amazing series about mythical New York Mayor Isaac Sidel features a strange, angry and wonderful Children's Crusade against corporate greed, drugs and violent crime. Sidel is a commanding figure, an intellectual ex-cop and police commissioner in his late 50s who roams his city alone (though armed with a Glock), wearing secondhand clothes and trying hard to hold it all together. His adult cohorts--his daughter, the much-married Marilyn the Wild; her current husband, rogue cop Joe Barbarossa; and the many other policemen and prosecutors whom Sidel has mentored over his long career--are also strong characters. But it's the children who quickly take and hold center stage here. Angel Carpenteros, aka Alyosha (after the character in The Brothers Karamazov, which he claims to have not understood a line of, but we soon know better) is a 12-year-old graffiti muralist who memorializes the gang dead on the walls of the Bronx. Marianna Storm is also 12. She's the daughter of a power-mad lawyer who, during a baseball strike, threatens to bury the Bronx by forcing the Yankees' owner to move the team out of the borough. Marianna bakes cookies for the mayor and fights with a wooden akido sword to keep Alyosha alive. Other children surround and pursue them, including the armed teenaged girls who serve as bodyguards for a brutal Dominican drug lord. Charyn (The Good Policeman; Montezuma's Man; etc.) tells his complicated story with touches of magic realism, bursts of pulp lyricism and a level of energy and imagination as high as anyone writing today. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1997
Release date: 02/01/1997
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