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Mafia Summer: A Novel Hardcover – May 12, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hell's Kitchen in the summer of 1950 offers a ripe setting for a rousing crime novel, but Vincent's debut is stilted and amateurish compared to category classics. Against the backdrop of a mob war between real-life gangsters Frank Costello and his challenger, Vito Genovese, we meet 18-year-old protagonist Vinny Vesta, leader of the Icemen, a street-gang of "five Sicilians, one black, and an Irishman." With the blessing of Vinny's father, Gino, a caporegime in the Mangano family, the boys embark on a string of minor capers. Soon, they're double-crossed by troublemaker Gee-gee Petrone, and fatalities result when the Icemen attempt to turn the tables. (Vinny's steamy affair with a gorgeous 29-year-old hatcheck girl ends abruptly when she winds up dead in a Dumpster.) To flesh out Vinny's sensitive, intellectual side, Vincent also hangs the story on the narrator's friendship with his Jewish neighbor Sidney Butcher, a sickly bookworm who improbably tutors Vinny in art and literature and even takes him to synagogue. Though TV writer and producer Vincent has researched his crime history, the novel's awkwardly shifting point of view, anachronisms and cartoonish violence make for a frustrating read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Based loosely on events from his own life, veteran TV producer Vincent's novel is set in the summer of 1950, at the dawn of a new age of organized crime in the U.S. A Mob boss has hatched a plan to install himself as the new capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) of the New York crime families, and a deadly gang war results. The story is told from the perspective of two friends, Vinny Vesta, a young Sicilian mobster on the way up, and an Orthodox Jewish boy, the bookish Sidney Butcher. This unlikely duo lands in the middle of the gang struggle. The author, known for such melodramatic TV fare as Melrose Place, turns out to be a talented novelist. Vincent uses his memories and experiences to give us plenty of you-are-there atmosphere. By placing his two central characters on the periphery of the gang war, caught up in something much bigger than they are, he adroitly avoids direct comparisons to The Godfather. Still, fans of that classic will find much to enjoy here. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582345007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582345000
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,572,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By bobbewig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mafia Summer is a memorable story that takes hold of your gut and doesn't let go until the very end. It primarily is a tale of the friendship between two unlikely teens -- a tough Sicilian head of a street gang, the other a sickly, brilliant Jewish boy -- that are caught in the turmoil between the various Mafia families that ruled NY during the hot, steamy summer in the section of NYC called Hell's Kitchen in 1950. Vincent writes in such a way that I felt I was right there with all of the well-developed and interesting characters experiencing the strong firendships, loyalties, betrayals and full-scale crime war that took place on the rough streets of NY. Mafia Summer, E. Duke Vincent's first book, is one of the better fictional books about the Mafia that I've read in many years. While it's not on the level of the classic, The Godfather, it's not very far below -- which, to me, is very high praise. Mafia Summer is much more than an excellent book about the Mob. It's an excellent book -- period!. Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
Chances are that if you've turned on a television set during prime time in the last three decades you have encountered the work of E. Duke Vincent. Vincent has been involved in the creation and/or production of television series ranging from "Dynasty" and "Vegas" to "Melrose Place" and "Charmed," among others. MAFIA SUMMER is his first attempt at a novel, but he brings to it the same assured and steady hand that has made so many television shows with which he has been involved compulsory and compulsive viewing.

While ostensibly a work of historical fiction, there is so much that rings true to life here that it has more of a biographical feel to it than a work of the imagination. Indeed, Vincent notes in his acknowledgments that this is a story that he has been turning over in his mind for some 40 years. If Vincent was not a participant to at least some of the events in MAFIA SUMMER, he was no doubt a close observer; the narrative's main strength is that it puts the reader in that position as well.

The events in MAFIA SUMMER take place over the course of a week at the end of August 1950. New York City is caught in a heat wave, which serves as a metaphorical backdrop for the Five Families of the New York City underworld, the members of which are the subject of Federal scrutiny that came to be known as the Kefauver hearings. 18-year-old Vinny Vesta, the son of Mangano family caporegime Dino Vesta, himself has a street gang that is on the bottom tier of the gangland hierarchy. The Vesta family maintains a low profile, living in a modest Hell's Kitchen apartment during the week as a front while spending their weekends at a luxurious farm outside the city.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a story that has been told again and again and again. I have read most of them and just can't resist them. This one is set in New York in the 1950's and includes every cliché in the book about the Mafia. The main character is Vinny, an 18 year old with a father who is connected. Vinny is smart and streetwise and romances a slightly older hatcheck girl who works at the Copa. Vinny also befriends a young sickly Orthodox Jewish boy who introduces Vinny to the world of good books and the New York Library.

There's a long laundry list of gangsters in this book, so many that they soon lose their distinctions and blend into the all the stereotypes that I have been reading about for many years. There's not a single surprise or unique point of view and even though it was well told and I couldn't put it down, I just can give it a high rating. That's because this story has been told too many times to make it seem fresh and because, it spite of its continual violence, I was often bored.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was a joy to read. I found myself savoring every word, envisioning every nook and cranny I was taken to. I felt I didn't want to read it too fast, yet not wanting to put it down. I always know when I have read a great book.....after I am done, I have this sense that the journey has ended and I am left wanting more.
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MAFIA SUMMER, based on true events, is the tale of a pivotal summer in the history of the Mafia and in the life of Vinnie Vesta who runs a small gang in New York City. His father is a member of the Magnano crime family.

I'm a fan of organized crime novels and hoped for the best with this one. Unfortunately, there are many problems with MAFIA SUMMER. There are too many gangsters, none of whom become fascinating enough for the reader to care about or differentiate from the other gangsters in the book. You've seen one enforcer; you've seen them all. Vinnie's gang of high-school-age thugs are all interchangeable.

The story is narrated by Vinnie but often switches to the third-person as Vinnie describes events he does not take part in. But switching viewpoints in a novel is a difficult task. Some writers can pull it off. Mr. Vincent can't. The shifts were jarring and made it difficult to follow the plot and keep straight who was who and who was in what family.

This major problem led me to notice all the minor stylistic issues. Early in the book every character is described with specific height and weight as if Vinnie were carrying a tape measure and scale with him. Some characters talk in annoying dialect and slang. Dialect should be used sparingly. Too much dialect tells the reader that the character is cardboard and the writer hopes dialect will make him seem real. It doesn't. The relationship between Vinnie and Sydney, his Jewish neighbor, which opens the book leading one to believe it is an important relationship, fizzles out, as does his fling with Terry, the showgirl.

Normally I can ignore stylistic issues if it is a compelling story. This one, overloaded with too many interchangeable gangsters, was not a compelling story.
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