The Summer of the Paymaster

Alfred Nielsen, Author W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (379p) ISBN 978-0-393-02888-1
It's 1968 and Andy Hapanowicz, a ``little Polack kid'' working in a Staten Island, N.Y., gas station, awaits the imminent return from Vietnam of his ``blood brother,'' Marine war-hero Jimmy Dietz. In this strongly proletarian coming-of-age novel, Nielsen lovingly evokes a Staten Island of woods and bungalows, before that borough was overburdened by garbage dumps, highways and housing developments. Andy, the narrator, idolizes Jimmy, who may be missing in combat, but also harbors pent-up anger toward his tough-guy buddy, whose rash actions in a gang brawl years ago left Andy with one glass eye. Helping him come to terms with his feelings and find his own path is ``The Paymaster,'' an elusive oil-company employee who visits gas stations, posing as a customer, and rewards hard-working pump-jockeys. Catholic confessionals, teen sex, stickball, a secret cabin in the woods--the rites of youth are set against an America wracked by Vietnam and civil rights protests in a fictional debut several notches above the conventional ``American loss of innocence'' novel. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
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