Novel Revisits WW2 New York When Mob's Power Reached Pinnacle

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Yes, Montagna part two and a lot of other things in the works -- just saw this, thought it might interest some of you. Good historical Mafia fiction is hard to find....

"War makes patriots of us all — even Mafia capos. Albert Anastasia, a big deal in Murder Inc., enlisted in the Army. Joseph (Socks) Lanza, who controlled the rackets at the Fulton Fish Market, let naval officers work undercover on his fleet. And Long Island mobsters were said to have helped capture saboteurs who came ashore from a German submarine. These and other real-life gangsters appear in THE LETTER WRITER (Knopf, $26.95), Dan Fesperman’s dynamic novel set in New York during World War II."

The New York Times today includes a story about this fictional book that takes place during WW2 and includes real Mafia figures among its characters.

Among them is Meyer Lansky, "who arranged for Mafia dons to coordinate their war efforts with Frank Hogan, the New York district attorney, and Charles (Red) Haffenden, from Naval Intelligence. This irregular alliance provides a learning experience for Fesperman’s fictional sleuth, Detective Sergeant Woodrow Cain, a transplant from rural North Carolina. On his first day on the job, he’s assigned to fish a murder victim out of the Hudson River, the ninth floater that week and one of some 700 a year. What better introduction could the city offer?"

"Seeing New York through Cain’s eyes gives us a bracing new perspective as his efforts to identify the corpse take him from the German enclave of Yorkville in Upper Manhattan to the tenements of the Lower East Side, where a mysterious man called Maximilian Danziger performs a unique service. Old and frail but vibrantly alive in Fesperman’s penetrating portrait, Danziger charges a modest fee to write letters for illiterate clients frantic for news of their relatives back in Eastern Europe. “He’s the last link to everything they’ve left behind,” a friend says. “Their families. Their pasts. If he disappears, so will all of that.”

"Fesperman’s prose is almost photographic, creating vignettes saturated with color and humming with life. It puts us on the scene at Longchamps, where dapper mobsters dine in style; then down on the Bowery, where hard-luck cases live in sad hotels like the Sunshine; then on to the morning bustle of the markets, where the city greets the dawn."

Praise for The Letter Writer“Intelligent . . . Fesperman shows a skilled hand at creating the detail of wartime New York—the vitality of the German Yorkville section, the hysteria following the bombing of the luxury liner the Normandie, the influence of mobster Meyer Lansky. . . . The likable and well-drawn [protagonist] will go over well with readers, especially those fond of historicals.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Fesperman’s troop of characters, historic and fictional, makes New York come alive with conspiracy and mystery. . . . A Sherlock-like creation . . . the story kicks into thriller overdrive. Fesperman gives us a well-crafted novel steeped in the politics and street life of the 1940s New York, and in the letter writer, he’s created a character who will stay with you long after the last shot is fired.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The WWII alliance between the Mafia and the U.S. government has been explored in crime fiction before . . . but never in such compelling fashion as Fesperman does here. . . . What makes this novel shine is the way Fesperman combines it with the mobsters-as-patriots angle and with the rich character of the letter writer. A multifaceted mix of mystery and historical fiction.”
—Bill Ott, Booklist

“Fesperman [is] one of the most talented of the new generation of American spy writers. . . . The future of the spy novel is in safe hands.”
—Geoffrey Wansell, The Daily Mail

“You come away from a Fesperman novel not only abuzz with the exhilaration of the chase, but also aware that you’ve absorbed something of the complexity of the world’s conflicts.”
—Charles Matthews, San Francisco Chronicle

“Oh, Mr. Fesperman—put journalism behind you. You’re too good a [novel] writer.”
—Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Fesperman is a skillful, unpretentious writer who deftly incorporates his extensive knowledge of the period.”
—Anna Mundow, Boston Globe

“Mr. Fesperman is honing the genre of intelligent political thrillers. Foreign correspondents should note: they now have some new standards to match.”
—The Economist

“Fesperman is the most dependably entertaining, politically engaged writer you may never have heard of.”
—Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch