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Billy Bathgate Hardcover – January 1, 1989


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Hardcover, January 1, 1989
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: RANDOM HOUSE @ TRADE; 3rd ptg edition (1989)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SNJNPM
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By An admirer of Saul on April 11, 2011
Its 1930's New York, at the height of gangsterdom,and young Billy with his pals from the Bronx hang out around Dutch Schultz's beer depot,hoping to get a glimpse of the big time mobster and dreaming of becoming part of the gang.Idly juggling,Billy catches the attention and good humour of Dutch who gives him a ten dollar bill for the entertainment.From then on,Billy starts ingratiating himself with the gang.He becomes a good luck symbol and gets to know their inner workings and murders.But Dutch is on the slide, and when he and his gang's power is erroded by crusading DA's and the competition,no one knows where Dutch hid his cash....except perhaps Billy Bathgate.
A hugely rich tale where anything and everything is described in poetic detail-from a negro chef at Dutch's night spot,who smokes and drops ash on the steaks he is cooking(his one and only appearance!) to Bo Weinberg being given a pair of concrete slippers and thrown from the stern of a boat-all in the unmistakable voice of our narrator, Billy Bathgate.
Doctorow captures the corruption and lawlessness that was mob ridden New York and how it spreads its influence in every walk of life.Doctorow's New York is packed with memorable characters from the hoods Lulu,Irving and Mr Berman to Billy's friend Arnold Garbage.
Packed full of prose,this is a book to take time out with to fully enjoy.I tried a few pages when I was tired out after work and wasn't getting that joyous impact that I got when fully relaxed with time to read.So I waited so I could build up in my mind Doctorow's wonderful images of 30's New York. Doctorow is easily one of America's great writers.
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Like Nabokov, stunning in its prose. I could easily read it again. Passages so well written, and of such power, it just takes your breath away. I do not remember that about "Ragtime", which I also read. How does one come to write like that? I think it's a gift, pure and simple.

About gangsters in 1935 New York City. From the viewpoint of a 15-year-old boy, Billy Bathgate. "Death staying his hand a moment in incredulity of our arrogance, that we actually believed ourselves to consequentially exist, as if we were something that did not snuff out from one instant to the next, leaving nothing of ourselves as considerable as a thread of smoke, or the resolved silence at the end of a song. . . . . . or as if all we are made of is words and when we die the soul of speech decants itself into the universe." Makes me want to weep, such prose. Of course, no real 15-year-old could have such thoughts, be so prescient, at least I don't think so. The insights, the wisdom here, into life and death and people. Each character so indelibly draw, Schultz, Drew Preston, Bo, Lulu, Irving, Berman, physically and otherwise. Am soooo sorry to have finished it. One of the great ones.
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I just finished reading this fantastic novel today and I would rate it as one the best on the topic of american gangsterism circa the 1930's. Billy Bathgate is a story about a young, yet street smart Irish kid from the rough and tumble streets of the Bronx, NY and is discovered by the notorious mobster Ducth Schultz while juggling in front of one the Dutchman's beer warehouses.From there, Billy finds a way to insinuate himself into the Dutch Schultz mob,A.K.A "The Kosher Nostra". E.L Doctorow does a great job of making the reader feel as if you were actually living in that time period. The character Billy Bathgate goes from leaving the slums of the Bronx to living in and visiting opulent hotels,riding in classy packards,dining in fancy restaurants and hanging out in cool late night Jazz clubs while smoking pot,as first an apprentice, and finally protege of the mob. He also gets to meet the powerful people in this world such as the mobsters in the Schultz crew:Bo Weinberg the hitman,Otto Berman the accountant, and Lulu Rosenkrantz the faithful bodyguard.It doesn't end there,the architect of organized crime Lucky Luciano, the cunning Tammany leader Jimmy Hines,and Dutch Schultz's lawyer, the infamous Dixie Davis also make appearances as well. Of course, no novel about gangsters would be complete without the violence that these hardened criminals lived in,and Doctorow does an adequate job of writing about this side of one the worst killers in mob history.I thought that the writer should have been much more graphic in this area however. Some readers thought that the ending was predictable,but I don't agree. Although, Doctorow's style of writing left me a little confused at times,I really enjoyed reading this book and found it hard to put down from the first day that I started. I also think that with the right director, and casting this novel would make a much better film than the original with Dustin Hoffman. Highly recommended.
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This intense novel covers a Depression-era lad who becomes an associate of New York's Dutch Schultz mob in the 1930's. At just 15 Billy Bathgate is street smart and as poor as everbody else from his run-down neighborhood in the Bronx. By a combination of luck and pluck he hooks on with the Dutch Shultz mob. Billy starts out by sweeping up and fetching coffee, then slowly graduates to more important tasks. Along the way he is mentored by Otto Berman, the gang's numbers genius, and meets many interesting characters like Lulu, Irving, district leader Hines, and stylish hitman Bo Weinberg. Billy quickly learns about numbers runners, protection rackets, municipal corruption & payoffs, and the disappearance of Weinberg. Soon Billy accompanies the gang to upstate New York for Dutch Schultz's upcoming trial on tax evasion charges. While in the small town Billy runs errands, helps cover up another mob killing, and keeps Dutch's beautiful moll (mistress) Drew Preston occupied. The latter task ends up with the two romantically attached, an exercise as thrilling as it is dangerous. Finally, the mob and Billy return to the big city (or nearby New Jersey) in the throes of continued trouble from district attorney Thomas Dewey (future Governor and Presidential candidate) and with danger lurking from rival gangs led by Lucky Luciano.

Author E. D. Doctorow provides flowing prose that makes readers feel as if they are young Billy running with mobsters and tending to Dutch's gorgeous moll, but never directly engaging in mob violence. I'd prefer more direct dialog and fewer long paragraphs and sentences - I sometimes skimmed these and missed something key. Still, this is an excellent novel, one adapted into pretty decent movie with Dustin Hoffman (Shultz), Loren Dean (Billy), and Nicole Kidman (Drew).
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