Jersey Leo is the quintessential outsider--an albino of mixed race. Known as "Snowball" on the street, he makes a living as the bartender at a mob-run speakeasy in Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen. Being neither black nor white, he has no group to call his own. His own mother abandoned him as a baby. And his father-a former boxing champ with his own secrets-disapproves of Jersey's work at a dive owned by one of New York's most notorious gangsters. So when he inadvertently purchases counterfeit moonshine ("sugar pop moon") with his boss's money-a potentially fatal mistake-he must go undercover to track down the bootlegger who took him in. The clues lead to Philadelphia, where he runs into a cleaver-swinging madman out for his femurs and a cold-blooded gangster holed up on a Christmas-tree farm. Now with a price on his head in two cities, Jersey seeks help from the only man he can trust, his father. As the two delve into the origins of the mysterious sugar pop moon, stunning secrets about Jersey's past come to light. To ensure his future, Jersey must face his past, even if it means that life will never return to normal.
Bang.......and I’m floored by another fantastic book, worthy of another 5 star rating, which is the 3rd this month. (4th to follow next!)
Author John Florio’s debut novel introduces an interesting bunch of characters to us; Jersey Leo and his father Ernie, plus an assortment of friends, associates and acquaintances; in a story spanning two time frames – 1930 and 1906.
1930, opens with Jersey or Snowball as he’s known working for Jimmy McCullough. McCullough, a businessman is Jersey’s employer. He’s also a criminal as his business selling booze happens to be illegal. (Prohibition ran in the US from 1920 to 1933.) Jersey’s father Ernie disapproves of his son’s choice of career and there are some difficulties between the two and a degree of estrangement as a consequence. Jersey is smart, intelligent and eager, if not a little bit naive in nature. With Jimmy out of town, Jersey tries to impress him by cutting a deal for some quality shine – 80 cases of Sugar Pop Moon. Soon after the deal is concluded, Jersey realises he’s been taken and has maybe 96 hours to recover the near $5k of Jimmy’s money he’s shelled out before his boss is back in town and our albino bar-keep sees the explosive side of Jimmy’s nature. His head’s on the block.
The 1906 time frame has us interested in Ernie and his struggles as a black boxer, trying to secure the New Jersey title and more importantly the $20 prize that goes with it. Ernie doesn’t just have to overcome his opponents in the ring; there are major difficulties to be surmounted outside, as Edward Albright another “businessman” has his own designs on boxing’s bigger prize for his fighter Higgins. Eddie can step aside gracefully or perhaps Albright might need some stronger means of persuasion. Either way he doesn’t intend to settle for no, if Higgins is to become a world champion. Ernie’s on his own......... or perhaps he has a couple of allies in Dorothy Albright and newspaper journalist, Walter Wilkins?
In parallel narratives we fluctuate between stories as we discover more about Ernie and Albright, whilst Jersey goes after his conman-bootlegger with the help of his father and friends. Crossing paths with some occultists with peculiar ideas as to healing powers of Albino bones, throws Jersey another set of problems to solve.
From start to finish Florio had me hooked.........moonshine, prohibition, speak-easies, bootleggers, albinos, occultists, boxing, fight-fixing, corruption, cops, newspapermen, religion, New York, Philadelphia, love, family, race, separation, secrets, loyalty, principles and decency....... with a smattering of bingo and Christmas tree farms thrown in.
5 from 5
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this from the author.
August 2014 sees the publication of Florio’s second Jersey Leo novel, Blind Moon Alley. By then I hope to have dented the TBR mountain sufficiently to add the next outing onto the library shelves.