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Roscoe Paperback – November 26, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142001732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001738
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #839,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Insubstantial but charming, William Kennedy's Roscoe seems to unintentionally resemble many of the politicians it depicts. The seventh novel in Kennedy's Albany series, Roscoe follows Roscoe Conway, a quick-witted, charismatic lawyer-politician who has devoted much of his life to helping his Democratic Party cohorts achieve and maintain political power in 1930s and ‘40s Albany, New York. It's 1945, and Roscoe has decided to retire from politics, but a series of deaths and scandals forces him to stay and confront his past. Kennedy takes the reader on an intricate, whirlwind tour of (mostly) fictional Albany in the first half of the 20th century. He presents a mythologized, tabloid version of history, leaving no stone unturned: a multitude of gangsters, bookies, thieves, and hookers mingle with politicians, cops, and lawyers. In the middle of it all is Roscoe, the kind of behind-the-scenes, wisecracking, truth-bending man of the people who makes everything happen--or at least it's fun to think so. Kennedy shows an obvious affection for his book's colorful characters and historic Albany, and he describes both with loving specificity. Though the book often works as light comedy, its clichéd plot developments and stereotypical characters undermine its serious concerns with truth, history, and honor. "You've never met a politician like Roscoe Conway," promises the book's jacket blurb. But we have, through his different roles in countless films and TV series. As with its notoriously deceitful hero, Roscoe is likeable as long as you don't take it too seriously. --Ross Doll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Roscoe Owens Conway presided at Albany Democratic Party headquarters, on the eleventh floor of the State Bank building, the main stop for Democrats on the way to heaven." Thus begins Kennedy's first novel in five years, the seventh installment in his Albany cycle, which includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ironweed. He continues to display the insider's confident mastery of fact, the sharp-edged irony that contrasts appearance and reality and the vision of the outcomes to which his characters are fated. Roscoe is fixer for Albany, N.Y., and on V-J Day, 1945, the Democratic machine is under threat. The external enemy is New York's Republican governor, gathering evidence of the widespread corruption gambling, prostitution, violence that hallmarks Democratic leader Patsy McCall's rule. The mysterious suicide of Elisha Fitzgibbon, the machine's moneyman, sets the events in motion. Internally, the machine is strife ridden: Roscoe must patch up the hostility between McCall and his brother over a cockfight; he must deal with the conflict between police lieutenant and McCall gunsel Jeremiah "Mac" McEvoy and Roscoe's brother, O.B., the chief of police; and he must secure the mayoral re-election of Alex, Elisha's son. Meanwhile, Roscoe seems near a lifelong goal: marrying Veronica, Elisha's widow. As in all of Kennedy's Albany novels, the town is rendered with a hallucinatory, three-dimensional density. The seams of the past from politics to business to crime are split open, but Roscoe's job is to keep Albany's secret history secret. A good man at heart, he is corrupted by his means (blackmail, lies and faked testimony) until his dearest goals are thwarted. This is an engrossing, comic vision of the dark side of politics as the "art of the possible." Readers who were disappointed by the thinness of The Flaming Corsage, the Albany novel that preceded this one, will rejoice at the arrival of the full-blooded Roscoe. 10-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The plot has some interesting twists and fun-to-read-about characters.
Elizabeth Hendry
The cast of characters is big and the novel's scope is vast but Kennedy engages the reader with his own fascination for history and ambitious, unscrupulous men.
Lynn Harnett
That weakness aside, I couldn't wait to get back to the story to find out where it would take me, often surprised and uncomfortable but not disappointed.
"curtcow"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on February 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Roscoe Conway, a fixture of the Albany political machine for 26 years, from post-World War I through the Depression and Prohibition and World War II, wants out. As the country celebrates V-J Day and the end of the war, Roscoe finds himself weary of wheeling and dealing. Unmarried and still pining after his first love, who married his best friend, Elisha Fitzgibbon, Roscoe questions the meaning of it all.
"I have to change my life, do something that engages my soul before I die," Roscoe tells Elisha, who observes that Roscoe has kept his discontent hidden. Roscoe explains, "I have no choice. I have no choice in most things. All the repetitions, the goddamn investigations that never end, another election coming and now Patsy wants a third candidate to dilute the Republican vote. We'll humiliate the Governor. On top of that, Cutie LaRue told me this afternoon George Scully has increased his surveillance on me. They're probably doubling their watch on you, too. You'd make a handsome trophy."
This statement establishes William Kennedy's mid-century Albany in the seventh book of his Albany cycle - a city run by a small, closed circle whose primary function is to maintain power, constantly besieged by similar cabals whose goal is to grab that power for themselves. The weapon of choice is the scandal, of which there are plenty to go around, real or manufactured. And the best defense is a ferocious boomerang of a spin, at which Roscoe excels. The reasons he wants to retire are the same reasons why he can't. Roscoe's life is inextricably entwined with the Democratic Albany machine and both Roscoe and his city are ailing.
Albany is run by a triumvirate of boyhood friends - Roscoe, Elisha Fitzgibbon and Patsy McCall, none of whom hold office.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Roscoe is the seventh novel in Kennedy's "Albany" cycle, the most notable other book of which is the excellent Ironweed, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. It's the only other book by Kennedy I've read, but I liked it well enough to want to pick up the new one, and for the most part am glad I did.

Ironweed is one of those rare novels that translated well to the Big Screen--I thought the adaptation, with Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Tom Waits was terrific. Much of the reason why is perhaps that Kennedy is among the most "cinematic" of "literary" novelists, a quality in evidence with the present book, too--in a way that somehow reminds me of D.H. Lawrence, Kennedy is capable of vivid lyrical flights which never detract from an otherwise conventional narrative, and which evoke an overtly visual panoramic landscape. As in Ironweed, Kennedy weaves the surreal in with the realism of the prose, creating a convincing and often brilliant effect where the reader is able to step into the actual conciousness of a character--"hearing" dead people "speak", for example--without missing a beat of the forward motion of the plot.

But that is where the novel becomes a little weighty. Much of the motion of the book is slow and cumbersome, and at times a bit predictable, as we enter the lives of a post-WW II Albany small-time polititian and his world of other politicians, complete with the lack of character one might expect from such characters.

Not that we're supposed to especially like Roscoe, the man, but one never really gets a very clear sense of him or of any of the many other characters in this novel.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on April 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Of all the reviews I've ever written for amazon, this has to be one of the most difficult. I completed the latest novel in William Kennedy's Albany cycle two weeks ago and I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. This is hardly meant as a negative comment. Most books I read rarely linger in the memory past one or two days after I turn the final page. However, Roscoe is a book that has haunted my mind. If, while reading the book, I was occasionally frustrated by the feeling that -- as skillfull a writer as the author obviously is -- Kennedy had just missed the chance to create something great, I must also say that many of the darkly humorous, somewhat disturbing images that Kennedy paints have continued to haunt my mind. I have always felt that the sign of a true work of art isn't how much it might entertain while you're experiencing it but how it affects the way you see your own reality once the initial experience is complete. A great work of art for me is one that literally infects the world around you. Roscoe is that type of art. I'm not giving this book four stars because I feel its flawless but because its mysteries have stayed with me even after I expected them to be forgotten.
Impishly mixing fact and fantasy, Roscoe tells the story of the infamous Albany political machine of the early 20th century. It was a machine that produced some great men while building its foundations on the actions of some very bad men and it is this juxtaposition that Kennedy gleefully juggles over the course of his narrative.
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