I am happy to give my thoughts on The Bowery Slugger by Leopold Borstinski. Thank you to Emma at damppebbles Blog Tours for my spot on the tour, and for the publishers Sobriety Press for an ecopy of this book.
Read on to see what the book is about:
A turn-of-the-century Jewish boy punches his way into the gangs of New York.
When Alex Cohen arrives in 1915 America, he seized the land of opportunity with both hands and grabs it by the throat. But success breeds distrust and Alex must choose between controlling his gang and keeping his friend alive. What would you do if the person you trusted the most is setting you up to die at your enemies’ hands?
The first book in the Alex Cohen series is a violent historical novel, which rips through the early years of the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s gripping crime noir beats at the chest of every reader with a bloody fist.
This is the first novel I have read by Leopold Borstinski. I am not one to usually read history novels, but have recently found myself trying out some new genre’s and this is one and I have to say I am so glad that I did. I picked this up on Saturday morning and could not put it down, that is something I hadn’t expected, I’m not sure why, possibly as it’s not the type of book I would normally pick up and read. So it just goes to show it’s good to step out of your comfort zone occasionally and get a surprise.
1915, The Cohen family have left their home in the Ukraine, escaping the atrocities that Jewish families are being subjected to. It takes them a long 3 months to arrive on Ellis Island cramped in the lower deck of a ship with many more families. They are hoping to find gold in the streets of New York, live a better life, the problem is it’s not just them arriving it’s lots of other Jewish families, hoping and thinking of the American Dream. When they arrive they are asked what their names are, but not speaking a word of English they have no idea what the questions are, a Yiddish translator is found, but when they give their names to him, he gives some of the family different names, one of them is Alex Cohen, but his new name is Fabian Mustard, which he doesn’t really mind too much.
They soon manage to find accommodation but it’s not the best with just two bedrooms for the six of them in a tenement, which is the best they can afford. The bathroom is one floor down and is shared by many others. The conditions are appalling, but it is better than the troubles they have left behind. It’s heartbreaking to think that this would have been so true for so many families, during these years, and later.
The book mostly focuses on Alex/Fabian/slugger another name he picks up, so throughout he is called one of those names. It soon becomes apparent these streets are not filled with gold. Alex’s father is a tailor but so are a lot of the people who have arrived, work is very hard to come by. Alex is the one who ends up going out and supporting the family, keeping the roof over their heads initially.
But the work he is doing and what it entails isn’t the best. It involves the protection racket, loan sharks, gambling and anything else that may be a little shady. He initially gets a leg up from another young lad Sammy, who takes him on as part of his gang, although he is working for someone higher up than himself, he trusts Alex, after being given the task of delivering parcels to one destination or another, bringing something else back. Alex has soon proven himself, before long he has his own gang to run. Alex isn’t afraid to use his fists when necessary, despite being only 15 he is already very streetwise. He soon starts moving up the ladder being introduce to Waxey and Ira doing other jobs, that are a little more involved and need someone not afraid to use their hands.
I am still in two minds whether I like Alex or not, I have sat thinking about it before writing about him. It is the survival of the fittest especially in the game that Alex has found himself, most of the fighting is necessary, but there are a few times things he does weren’t absolutely necessary, he goes just a little bit too far. But then you see a softer side of him when he sees a young girl who lives on another floor in the tenements Rebecca. She wants to become a ballet dancer, and practices daily, but her parents want her to do something more practical, to get married and have children. Alex falls for her, he is a perfect gentleman. But will their relationship actually go anywhere? She has heard many rumours about Alex and what he does and whilst she ignores some, she doesn’t like others. She insists that they could never be together whilst he is doing what he is doing. But how can Alex escape this life? He is helping to support his family. This book covers roughly three years of Alex’s life from 1915 to 1918.
The writing flows beautifully despite some of the violence it is not written as a shock tactic, it’s written because that’s how it was back then for a Jewish family with no English to survive. I was surprised that even 3 years later Alex and his family still know very little English, but they are in an area that is mostly Jewish so there seems little need to pick up the language. The story keeps the reader engaged throughout, I literally could not put it down. As I stated at the beginning it’s not a book I would have thought to pick up and read, but I am so glad that I was offered the chance to join this book blog tour. It will be interesting to see how the next chapter in Alex’s life goes. Will he escape the work he is involved in? Will him and Rebecca actually get together, as throughout this part it was a will they won’t they. The story is fast paced, interesting, and gritty. This is New York before it became the New York we now know. The story ended at the right time and will be interesting to see how the next book picks it up.
I highly recommend this book and give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
About the Author
Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.
There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.
He lives near London and is married, with one child and no pets.
Be sure to check out the other stops on The Bowery Slugger blog tour!
Thank you for reading my post on this book blog tour. Check out of what some of the other book bloggers have to say about this book.