From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. From the author of the short fiction collection Based on a True Story comes a vibrant, hilarious addition to the genre of mob tragicomedy. Twenty-year-old Russell Newhouse, a quick-witted scholar and skirt-chaser, has New York's organized crime scene thrust upon him by a man called Shushan "Shoeshine" Cats, who interrupts a meeting of a Brooklyn Jewish men's society where Russell is serving as secretary. Shushan is in need of a favor and promptly takes Russell under his wing. What ensues is a classic boy-meets-mob story: part noir, part comedy, part epic. Kestin's richly layered characters-a monstrously obese German organized crime attorney named Frit von Zeppelin, a Jewish Texan who speaks in malapropisms, a dentist who anglicizes or Yiddishizes his name depending on his mood-are straight out of Dickens; his vivid attention to the details of place, New York, and time, 1963, is like poetic journalism; and his snappy, concise prose and dialogue is on par with Raymond Chandler. Kestin zips through Russell's sexual trysts, dealings in back rooms of Little Italy restaurants, and encounters with historical events like the JFK assassination with unflagging humor and insight.
There are innumerable books about New York gangsters but I can guarantee you'll never have come across anything as wacky, witty and irreverent as Kestin's novel. Mail on Sunday 5* review Had Kurt Vonnegut written The Godfather, it would have read a lot like this. Irish Times Everything a good novel should be and more, THE IRON WILL OF SHOESHINE CATS is by turns hilarious, brutal, irreverent, thought-provoking, vexing and terrific fun. Declan Burke THE IRON WILL OF SHOESHINE CATS just may be the best book you never read. Think The Godfather on laughing gas, or Catch-22 with guns. It's also as good a novel about life in the 60s as you'll ever pick up. Witty, sexy, thrilling, and all story. You can't put the damn thing down. If you're still one of the blessed who reads for pleasure, get this book, because it's a pleasure to read. Stephen King A vibrant, hilarious addition to the genre of mob tragicomedy...his snappy, concise prose and dialogue is on par with Raymond Chandler. Publishers Weekly The best book I've read this year is out! Haven't read any good fiction lately? Go out and buy The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats, and don't blame me when you don't get anything done for two days. Jonathan Evison In this smart and surprisingly poignant gangster story, Hesh Kestin peppers the stew with an unusual blend that's part American Graffiti, part Sopranos and part The Chosen. Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and Hospital