Bombing Harvey: Based on a True Story
A novel based on the real-life extortion attempt on a Lake Tahoe casino masterminded by a veteran of the Hungarian air force–turned–restaurateur should be more gripping than this halting effort, mostly told from the perspective of the criminal's son. John Birges Jr.—also one of the book's coauthors—survives a difficult childhood: he is physically abused by his father, John Birges Sr., and his mother takes her own life after his parents divorce. Desperate to escape his father's grasp, the younger Birges leaves home at the age of 16. Three years later, despite the family rift, the younger Birges agrees to help his father out of a jam, ostensibly because he's flattered that he might have something to offer the old man. The resulting scheme to escape from crippling gambling debts by planting a bomb in and extorting $3 million from a Lake Tahoe casino would be considered over-the-top if it wasn't true. But the book provides little tension to sustain reader interest and the underdeveloped psychology of its characters also proves a serious drawback.