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Thick As Thieves: A Brother, a Sister--a True Story of Two Turbulent Lives Hardcover – May 1, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his bold memoir, Geng takes readers on a wild ride through low-life Paris, Miami and above all, New York City. The brother of New Yorker writer Veronica Geng (who died of a brain tumor in 1997), Geng enjoyed a lucrative career as a petty criminal—and hardcore junkie—while his sister climbed the masthead of the New Yorker. The chronicle of Geng's misadventures includes prison stints, an HIV diagnosis in the early 1980s and murder attempts by not one but two girlfriends, the second one drugging Geng before setting him on fire. It's amazing that Geng is still alive and a miracle that a man who didn't pick up a pen until he was in his 50s writes with such vigor and joy. "Record Steve," as he was known for his LP shoplifting skills, draws vivid scenes of Parisian brothels, South Beach stints on Miami Vice and the hipster underworld of 1960s and '70s Greenwich Village. Geng tells of meeting such celebrities as Don Johnson, Debbie Harry and Leroi Jones (who told Geng that heroin was keeping Gengyoung), but his finest descriptions are of his fellow hustlers. Although his sister's rarely involved in Geng's hijinks, she hovers throughout the narrative as a puzzle, goad and guardian angel. (May)
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Review

"The only man more honest than a man without sin is a man without shame. In Thick as Thieves, Steve Geng explores his tumultuous life and poetic relationship with his sister with a hard won clarity and a resigned grace. Candidly unsentimental but powerfully moving, Geng's tribute to his sister is one of the most frank and insightful depictions of familial devotion-- and failings--that I've ever read."--Josh Kilmer Purcell, author of I Am Not Myself Today
 
"You'll never forget your vicarious joyride through Steve Geng's world, where jail, junk, jazz, larceny and sex are the dominant themes, and art and love are the variations.  Geng has committed and survived any number of crimes, but his thirst for life, lively prose and clear-eyed analysis of his own story will have you rooting for him, no matter what."--Elizabeth Gaffney, author of Metropolis
 
"Along with ample evidence of Stephan Geng's honesty, clarity, and courage--and, let's not forget, occasional depravity--Thick as Thieves demonstrates that there were two writers growing up in the same household with pitch-perfect senses of the absurd."--Mark Singer, author of Somewhere in America
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080568
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,355,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read a few pages of "Thieves" in the bookstore and was gripped, which hasn't happened to me in years. The story isn't "about" a drug-addicted alcoholic bum and his jail & travails; it's about turns not taken, words left unsaid, connections lost out of ignorance ... and the redemption, at least partial, that's available as long as there's life. Geng tells his tale with a near-total lack of sentimentality, the kind that can crack the heart. The book is also a sweet, achingly distanced portrait of his gifted sister, Veronica. I just finished reading it last night. I think I'll start again.
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Format: Paperback
An absolutely riveting memoir--one of the best I've read in years. The author is bold and original with a sad, sad story to tell. I'm hoping he has another book in the works. Steve, I'm ready to be heartbroken!
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Format: Hardcover
Wonderful writing by an apparently reformed drug/booze addict who survived on shoplifting for many years while idolizing his sister, a well known New Yorker humorist who died at 56 while the author was unaware of her condition. This is a brother-sister tale with superbly drawn portraits of childhood, dysfunctional parents and young adulthood struggles. The author managed to land some acting roles in the Miami Vice TV series in the 80s, then very late in life, after an AIDS diagnosis, turned to this memoir, which is an amazing display of literary talent. In between, the reader relives Geng's various misadventures, jail sentences, near fatal beatings, failed love affairs and relationships with a colorful cast of New York and Florida losers. It's beautiful writing, a work which the sister would envy and be completely proud of, all at once. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.
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Format: Hardcover
Steve Geng's wasted future may have been written in his DNA. Geng grew up in Philadelphia in the 1940's and early 50's. Before he was ten he was stealing and smoking and quaffing beers on the sly and setting things on fire. He spent his adolescence whoring and sliming around jazz clubs in Paris. (Geng's father, a colonel in the Quartermaster Corps, was stationed in Europe for six years beginning in the mid-50's.) With adulthood came addictions to heroin and alcohol, numerous arrests for shoplifting and stints in prison, estrangement from his family, an AIDS diagnosis, and relationships that ended with him being attacked with a claw hammer and set on fire.

There were a couple bright spots in Geng's life: a period in the 80's during which he was drug-free and enjoyed some success as an actor; a relationship with a woman who might have saved him from himself if his health hadn't got in the way. But throughout his life, Geng nearly always made the wrong choices, opting for the easy fix, easy women, and easy money. What's incredible about his story is that he lived long enough to tell it. Clean now since the late 90's and living in New York, Geng has discovered a purpose in helping other addicts in recovery.

Geng isn't the only author in his family. His older sister was Veronica Geng, a longtime writer and editor for the New Yorker, who died of a brain tumor in 1997. Geng's book is in part a love letter to Veronica, whom he'd put on a pedestal since they were children. In following the trajectory of his own life, he always brings the story around to her--what she was doing at the time, how he craved her approval--though very often, given the long periods they spent apart, he is unable to tell us much.
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Format: Paperback
I couldn't put this book down. And that is saying a lot because I have the attention span of a gnat. I own so many books that I started and couldn't get into. This one grabbed me in the first line. What a story. It is amazing that Steve Geng is alive to tell this tale. Boy, talk about a cautionary tale!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am floored by Geng's ability to admit his faults and shortcomings. He is able to embrace his flawed family and tried to learn from the pain he caused others. A powerful read. You can almost feel his pain when he suffers loss and knows he has harmed loved ones. I hope I can read more of his work.
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Format: Hardcover
After the fiasco of James Frey's book, Million Little Pieces, one tends to be skeptical of the memoir genre. We read these books with a part of us wondering if the tales of the writer's drug addiction are true.

Thick as Thieves in many ways is no different but it doesn't seem to be as important. There are other plot lines in this well-written novel that matter more. This is a story of an older sister, Veronica Geng, the well-known New Yorker writer, and her younger brother Steve Geng. Children of a colonel in the Quartermaster Corps and a stay-at-home military mother, Veronica takes a path to success and Steve takes a path of self- destruction.

Steve Geng chronicles his life as a beatnik, jazz enthusiast, criminal, actor and junkie. He does so with passion and a certain rawness that makes you feel both empathy and rage.

Thick as Thieves answers the question: How do two children growing up in the same family turn out so different? They both had the same set of parents with the same set of opportunities. Veronica graduated from an Ivy League school while Steve Geng received his education from the streets of Paris and New York City. Veronica went on to become a successful writer for a well-known publication, and Steve Geng went on to be a career criminal spending time in jail and in rehab.

Ironically enough Steve outlived his sister. The fact that he lost touch with her in her final year of her life haunts him to this day. So to repair the damage he caused his family, he goes back to AA and becomes an active member of the recovery community in Manhattan. He did so in his fifties, the time of his life when he wrote this novel.

Mr. Geng includes an author's note at the end of this book. I suggest he move it to the beginning to take away the skepticism of the potential reader who was damaged by James Frey.

Armchair Interviews says: A family story without a happy ending.
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