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The Rackets Kindle Edition

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Length: 336 pages

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, June 2001: It has been nearly four years since Thomas Kelly's first novel, Payback, was published. Although the wait has been long, it has been worth it. Kelly is meticulous in his depictions of how New York works politically, whether he's describing the labor unions, contractors, or the machinations of Gracie Mansion. And, as a former construction worker and Teamster who once worked for the mayor of New York, he knows what he's talking about.

The Rackets begins with Jimmy Dolan, the advance man for New York's mayor, knocking down Teamster boss Frankie Keefe at Gracie Mansion. Jimmy's dad, Mike, is running against Keefe for the union's top job, and when Keefe makes a smart remark about that, Jimmy can't help himself. The Mayor, who seems to resemble the present mayor of New York City, fires Jimmy, who finds himself returning to his roots in working class Inwood, where he is reunited with an old girlfriend, police officer Tara O'Neil, and an old high school friend, Liam, a veteran of the Gulf War. Jimmy is soon back in the life he thought he had left behind, trying to help his father break the grip that organized crime has on the union.

While working for the mayor, Jimmy has been able to convince himself that his life has changed, that his hands are clean and his collar white, but back in Inwood he realizes that crime and corruption reach high into the administration, and when tragedy strikes he will once again be in the union halls and skyscrapers of Manhattan, sharing space with the racketeers, mobsters, and killers who affect the city's political life.

A spot-on picture of how a great city works, coupled with great writing, make reading Kelly a pleasure. --Otto Penzler

From Publishers Weekly

Written by a former construction worker and Teamster who worked his way through Fordham and Harvard to become "director of advance," a chief aide and troubleshooter for the mayor of New York City, this rugged, straight-shooting novel (following Kelly's well-reviewed debut, Payback) is shaped by intimate firsthand knowledge. Jimmy Dolan, the Director of Advance for the Republican mayor of New York, is fired after his hotheaded exchange with Frankie Keefe the Mafia-connected president of the local Teamsters who is running for reelection against Jimmy's father, Mike makes front-page headlines. Overnight a political pariah, Jimmy seeks refuge among his old friends in a formerly Irish neighborhood on the northern tip of Manhattan. Reunited with his old girlfriend Tara O'Neil, now an NYPD cop, and Liam Brady, an ex-paratrooper construction worker with an active commerce in illegal arms, Jimmy ends up back in construction. On the job, he witnesses the cold-blooded assassination of his father, who is becoming too much of a threat to Keefe. Vowing to avenge the death, Jimmy decides to run in his father's place. His own life and his friends' lives are soon threatened in what is revealed to be an uneven battle: Keefe is an informer, under government protection. Fighting deceit and betrayal, Jimmy prevails against all odds in this damning indictment of the clandestine interplay between big government and the criminal underground. Despite minor lapses into overlong, melodramatic introspection, the suspense holds to the end, and the novel draws readers deep into a gritty, wholly convincing world of late-20th-century union halls and construction sites. (June)Forecast: The chips are stacked in Kelly's favor here. His unusual history should attract plenty of attention, and a feature film of Payback, adapted by David Mamet, is on its way. This is a strong second effort, and a jump in sales may safely be expected.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
From Salon.com 7/16/01:
Set in the Giuliani era, "The Rackets" takes you behind the scenes of New York politics to reveal a city rich in simmering cultural conflicts. It's got everything you could want in a quick urban crime read: engaging characters from both sides of the tracks running classic scams and struggling not to get taken down by an endemic corruption. Kelly invokes dozens of classic portrayals of the same turf -- everything from "The Godfather" through "Donnie Brasco" -- in this story of people chasing their lost immigrant roots.
Set during mayoral and union elections, "The Rackets" begins as the mayor's advance man, Jimmy Dolan, gets in a dust-up with Frank Keefe, the head of the local Teamsters. Jimmy's given his walking papers and is forced to return to Inwood, his old neighborhood on the northern tip of Manhattan. Since Jimmy pisses off Keefe and Jimmy's dad, Mike, is running against Keefe to lead the union, there's plenty of tension between the two men, and it only gets worse when a local mafioso, Franky Magic, enters the scene. He's afraid that Keefe will lose the Teamsters election and figures a return to the old code of violence would be a necessary -- and exciting -- way to get everyone back in line. From there on out, it's two trains screaming toward a collision.
The plot line is clear within the first 20 pages, but Kelly makes the book an engaging read by developing a varied cast of characters who transcend the typical crime novel figures. The pages he devotes to each major player's passing thoughts and emotional quirks gives you glimpses into every corner of a New York constantly preoccupied with power, class and personal legitimacy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Having grown up in Inwood, where the majority of Kelly's book takes place, I am awed by how accurately he is able to re-create the essence of the neighborhood and the attitude of the people. Some critics of his book claim that Kelly is overly Irish-centric. Come spend a day in Inwood, even now, and you can see those ideas mirrored in the personalities of the old timers still living there. Rather than being criticized for being narrow minded in his views, Kelly should be lauded for so perfectly nailing a particular way of life. In addition to how real his characters seem, his descriptive writing is at times breath-taking. Thank you Thomas Kelly, for taking me back to the old neighborhood.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ron Frankl on September 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Frankly, I was disappointed by "The Rackets". Thomas Kelly is an engaging writer with a fairly unique view of New York City and its social components, with an easy-to-read style and a healthy sense of social commentary. Unfortunately, he has major difficulty in resolving his plotlines; Kelly's means of wrapping things up is to start eliminating major characters, and not peacefully, either. This "last man standing" approach to writing was also evident in his previous work "Payback", another engrossing novel that falls apart towards the end.
Kelly is clearly an ambitious novelist, and we could sorely use a great urban novel for our time. "The Rackets" is not that book. One hopes that Kelly continues to grow as a writer because he certainly possesses an interesting voice. He seems to know and understand the world of which he writes, and his characters are engaging and believable. If only he could figure out where to take them in his stories.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on February 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After having enjoyed most of "Payback", I was eagerly looking forward to reading Thomas Kelly's "The Rackets". Although Kelly is a good writer with an excellent eye and ear for the sights and sounds of Irish-American New York City, especially Inwood, his plot and characterizations border perilously close to generic crime novel fiction. Unfortunately, as in "Payback", Kelly shows a tendency of trying to wrap up plot elements too neatly by eliminating major characters through means most foul. Yet not enough of the plot is tied up neatly here, leaving ample space for a sequel. If you're interested in reading novels which truly live and breath New York City in their pages and are first class examples of literary art, then I have to recommend either Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire Of The Vanities" or Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn". Unfortunately, "The Rackets" doesn't quite come close.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Tom Kelly's characters are so real I expected them to jump off the pages of The Rackets and stick a gun to my head - or at least ask for my vote. I picked up the book after a long trip at ten o'clock one recent morning. I didn't put it down until I was finished reading it twelve hours later. And I didn't want it to end - the ultimate sign of a great story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bookworm7 on August 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thomas Kelly never fails to gift the reader with his powerful stories. The Rackets was an exciting couldn't put down novel from start to finish. If you like a fast moving story with plenty of action, greed and corruption don't pass this one up.
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By J. Robert Ewbank on April 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a different type of novel from the normal mystery. This story is about unions, union halls, taverns and the wars between those who want truth and honesty in the unions and those who represent organized crime.

It is an interesting story and plot and is a good read, a fine read, in fact.

I will read other books by this author.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
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