Rise & Fall of a NYC Mafioso

Image result for I mobster gold medal bookTitle: I, Mobster:
The Confession of a Crime Czar
Author: Anonymous (Joseph Hilton Smyth)
Genre: Crime/Noir, Historical Fiction
Pages: 160
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Mafia tropes, historical references, and self-justification abound in this fictional memoir. It’s all pretty straightforward; no high action or dramatic plot twists, just a matter-of-fact description of the rise and fall of a New York City mafioso in the 1930’s-40’s. Our protagonist/narrator, Tony (what other name would you give a fictional Italian mobster?), interacts with real-life mobsters like Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Louis “Lepke” Buchalter during the events leading up to and following the formation of “The Commission” and Thomas E. Dewey’s time as prosecutor and DA of NYC.

Throughout the book we are treated to Tony’s view of the absolute corruption of “law and order,” justification for his own actions (and the existence of the mafia), pride in his cleverness and accomplishments, and feelings of being trapped and forced into this life. It reminded me a bit of a much less literary version of Robert Graves’ I Claudius and Claudius the God (just with the mob instead of the Roman Empire). It’s worth a read if you’re into crime/noir.

Crime on the Moon

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Rating: 3 of 5
Upcoming Publication Date: November 14, 2017 – thanks to NetGalley for an eARC!

Like many (most?) people interested in this book, I decided to read it because I enjoyed the author’s The Martian. I think that any author’s next work after a wildly popular book (especially if it is not a sequel) has a hard time living up to the hype, and that is certainly the case with Artemis. The adventures of a petty criminal drawn into dangerous intrigue in the only city on the moon has its good points, but it didn’t wow me.

The edge-of-your-seat pacing of the criminal plots that drive the story was excellent and is what kept me reading. The pace only lets up when the author/characters describe the science behind what is going on (whether everyday life in the moon colony or the most recent criminal shenanigans). Personally, I love this aspect of Weir’s style, but those who aren’t into science might find it annoying.

Most chapters ended in a cliff-hanger way where you could almost hear *dun-dunDUN* suspense music, which was maybe a bit cheesy but kept me interested anyway. Some of the action, especially during the final crime and its aftermath, ranges into the unbelievable, but that’s par for the course in a criminal caper kind of book so it didn’t bother me.

What did bother me was the characterization. The protagonist/narrator was just not a pleasant person. She is an immature, angry, foul-mouthed, self-loathing petty criminal with a huge chip on her shoulder. Even though she is 26 she interacts with everyone as if she were a sullen teenager and continually makes monumentally foolish decisions even though she is probably a mechanical genius and apparently a criminal mastermind. Most of the other characters are pretty flat, and the way most people react to the final caper once the dust settles is not very believable.

Overall, this is probably worth reading if you like Weir’s style (and don’t mind quite a bit of profanity), but don’t expect the same quality as The Martian.