cover image Ravage & Son

Ravage & Son

Jerome Charyn. Bellevue Literary, $17.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-954276-19-2

The underwhelming latest from Charyn (Big Red) portrays real-life newspaper editor Abraham Cahan battling with a fictional real estate baron in pre-WWI New York City. Cahan, the muckraking editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, finds himself at odds with Lionel Ravage, whose wealth and power provide mixed blessings for the city’s immigrant community; though he funds charities and helps people make their way through Ellis Island, he’s an uncompromising landlord. Years earlier, Cahan adopted one of Ravage’s numerous illegitimate children, Ben, after finding the boy laboring in a machine shop, and sent him to study law at Harvard. Now working as an investigator for the Kehilla, a group of wealthy Jews who police the city’s Jewish neighborhoods, Ben is on the trail of a madman assaulting Jewish girls. His investigation alternates with Cahan’s efforts to expose Ravage’s abuses and weaken his grip on the city, even as the newspaperman struggles with his own conscience for running ads from big businesses whose rapacious values differ from his own. Though Charyn continues to deliver boisterous and flavorful prose, the dueling plotlines detract from each other, and the detective sections build toward an unsatisfying reveal. This doesn’t quite do justice to the rich history it portrays. (Aug.)