James Winston's father, Rudy, ``a good man to know'' on the tough South Side of Chicago in the 1940s and '50s, is a small-time gangster who runs an all-night liquor store and befriends politicians and top cops. Unfolding in short vignettes interspersed with family snapshots, this rueful, funny account of an unusual boyhood is closer in spirit to a memoir than to fiction. A distant, inscrutable father, Rudy, who is Jewish, divorces his Catholic wife, Eva, when James is only five. Mom drags impressionable Jim to tea-leaf readings when he's not touring alligator parks in Florida or hanging out with his auto-mechanic buddy Moe, a James Dean look-alike. Obituaries and newspaper stories, meanwhile, provide ironic counterpoint on ``cafe-society luminary'' Rudy. Further reverberations emanate from an FBI report giving conflicting testimony on Rudy's role in a 1945 bank robbery in New Orleans. Gifford's ( Wild at Heart ) tonic work limns people in all their wayward, illogical variety. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1992 Release date: 03/01/1992 Genre: Fiction
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