cover image Funny Boys

Funny Boys

Warren Adler, . . Overlook, $24.95 (317pp) ISBN 978-1-59020-034-6

Set mostly in the Borscht Belt, Adler’s satiric take on 1930s New York gangsters falls short of the mark set by such other novels of his as The War of the Roses . Mickey Fine, an itinerant entertainer known as a tumler , has landed a gig at a Catskill hotel frequented by some of the leading thugs of the day. He falls for Mutzie Feder, a frustrated young woman from Brooklyn who’s ended up as the girlfriend of Pittsburgh Phil Strauss (aka Pep) after a makeover so she looks like Jean Harlow. As Fine’s feelings for Mutzie grow, he runs afoul of the jealous Pep and must develop a plan to free her from the life of prostitution the gangster has planned for her. At times Adler overdoes the Brooklynese dialogue (“Certain tings make me crazy. Like sweet liddle canaries who can’t keep der lips clamped shut”), while some readers may find the parodic element makes it hard to engage emotionally with the characters. (Mar.)