HEART OF THE OLD COUNTRY

Tim McLoughlin, Author . Akashic $14.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-888451-15-3

Set in a crummy corner of present-day Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, this sweet, sardonic and by turns hilarious and tragic first novel opens with a no-hoper named Michael going through his motions. These consist of driving his father, Vinny, an ex–sanitation worker turned smalltime bookie, on his appointed rounds; "working" for Big Lou's Car Service, a connected gypsy outfit shuttling senior citizens around the neighborhood; marking time with Gina, "a really decent set of tits"; and drinking and drugging it up with his "friend" Nicky Shades, a junkie on his way down. Big Lou's gangster brother, Tony, vouches for Michael, so he gets away with much in a neighborhood where one's local standing is the only real currency. Michael has recently entered into strange territory by enrolling in night college classes across the river in Manhattan. Having been raised by his widower father never to reveal himself to strangers, he winds up in an awkward position when he finds himself attracted to a college girl named Kathy. Just as he is about to learn something about the outside world, however, Nicky robs Tony's club and is killed, and Michael is sucked into turf battles on his home territory. McLoughlin, a Brooklyn native who works in the Brooklyn court system, powerfully describes the bonds between Michael and his father, whose background is gradually revealed as Michael implicates him further in his own criminal bunglings. The novel's greatest achievement is its tender depiction of Michael as a would-be tough guy, trying to follow his father's dictum of "Give them nothing," while undergoing a painful education in the real world. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
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Paperback - 216 pages - 978-1-936070-00-8
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