A failed escape? Or a Mob hit arranged by crime boss Meyer Lansky to silence him and save Lepke Buchalter, Bugsy Siegel and Albert Anastasia from the electric chair? A question never answered. Either way, Murder Incorporated hit man turned major crime snitch Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, known as the pigeon that could sing but not fly, encountered the one law he could not evade: The Law of Gravity.
Thirty years later, it's the early 1970s, and someone is talking. When Big Moe Levine is forced into abrupt retirement in Florida to avoid questions about the demise of his old friend, Reles, his son Larry takes over at Public Auto Parts, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Larry knows something of his father's link to the Mob, but not nearly enough, as he is left to face a relentless police detective, John Mannion, who wants answers and an equally relentless Mob boss, Carmine, who wants cooperation.
Larry tries to protect his father, end Mob sway at Public Parts, cope with Laurie, his dissatisfied wife, and Ann Riordan, his new, beautiful, and enigmatic young assistant, but complications mount until one night a tragic fire destroys all that Larry had worked for.
While dealing with his insurance company Larry is indicted for arson and other crimes, and arrested. At trial he is defended by Brownsville's own Harvard trained Bernie the Attorney. Once a renowned Mob mouthpiece, now turned Orthodox Rabbi, Bernie's time has long past.
Ultimately, Larry's fate is in the hands of Ann Riordan. Her reluctant testimony about the extent of their relationship and where they were on the night of the fire could save Larry from prison but could also destroy her engagement and his marriage.
The book is a black comedy of corruption and error cloaking a classic tale of love and betrayal, death and redemption; a might-be-true legend of its time and place, and Larry is the last man able to tell the tale.
Praise for PUBLIC PARTS…
"The writing throughout is good-to-better-than-good."
- Richard Marek, former President and Publisher, E P Dutton Co
- Stefan Kanfer, former Book Editor, Time Magazine
Self-published 2015 by XLIBRIS. Book available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com in hardcover, trade paperback and ebook formats.
A Kirkus Starred Review:
"In Harris's debut novel, a dutiful son wants to make an honest success of his father's auto parts business – but the mob may still be pulling the strings behind the scenes."
"Thirty-something Larry Levine has worked at his dad Big Moe's Public Auto Parts in New York City since he was in college. All of a sudden, Big Moe decides to retire to Florida, leaving Larry holding a mostly empty bag. His dad not only left with most of the company's funds-he also left a lot of questions unanswered. For example, Larry wonders about the mob's connection to Public Parts when a sinister gentlemen named Carmine lets Larry know that he's not his own man, but an owned man. Moreover, Larry finds out about the supposedly accidental death of mobster Abe Reles 30 years before; the man fell to his death, just as he was to rat out several other criminals. Does that fact have something to do with why Moe decamped so hastily? What's in the wind all these years later? Although Larry is desperate for answers, the old man is as cagey as ever. Then Larry meets Ann Riordan, with whom he falls instantly and hopelessly in love-even though he's a semi-happily married man. Despite the turmoil caused by their relationship, Ann is also, as Larry's executive assistant, the best thing that ever happened to Public Parts. The climax of the book is Larry's trial after he's framed for arson, receiving stolen goods, and other crimes. How did he get into such a mess? Eventually, Big Moe – a widower whose health is fading fast – comes clean, to a degree, about what happened way back in 1941."
"This is a very impressive debut, and although its nearly 600-page length may be daunting to some, it is, in fact, a brisk and straightforward read. The book doesn't focus on a huge cast – just Larry, the narrator, trying to reform Public Parts while dealing with his feelings for Ann, and hers for him. These are, for the most part, well-rounded characters, precisely because Harris takes the time to develop them. Ann is shown to be competent, enigmatic, and eerily perceptive; Big Moe could have been a one-note character, but his love and care for his only son show him to have some depth. Larry's wife, Laurie, is a study in exasperation, but she's also there when the chips are down. The dialogue is crackling and sly, and the long trial section, featuring the colorful Bernie "the Attorney" Schwartz, is priceless. The novel also offers an intriguing hybrid of real and fictional characters. Reles, Meyer Lansky, Lepke Buchalter, and others, are actual mob figures, but their stories mesh well with those of invented characters, including the Levines; Ann; the perky Dawn Sanders, who helps Ann out around the office; and the vengeful Detective John Mannion. Indeed, by the end of the novel, readers will find that the made-up characters feel like living, breathing people, as well."
"An entertaining literary work with realistic characters."