Shakedown: A Novel of Crime …

November 10th, 2005

“Combine equal parts Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard, throw in a dash of George V. Higgins and a pinch of Donald E. Westlake and who do you get? Charlie Stella, that’s who. His compelling and authentic portrayal of the urban netherworld and the savages who inhabit it place his crime thrillers among the best in the genre, past or present.” — Robert Wade, San Diego Union Tribune

“Charlie Stella’s Shakedown (Pegasus Books), the latest novel from the man who has succeeded Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins as the master of the underworld thriller … Stella understands street-level crime and criminals better than anyone else currently writing in the genre, and that knowledge propels his always-enjoyable stories to the top of the heap. Combine that with his keen literary talent and you’ve got one of crime fiction’s unsung masters.” — David Montgomery, Chicago Sun-Times

Booklist Boxed *Starred* Review …

Retired New York bookie Bobby G is determined to leave his Mafia past behind. He has a nice girlfriend and a substantial retirement fund (so what if the money’s a little tainted?). But when a captain of the Vignieri crime family flips—and rats on his associates—Bobby once again finds himself deep in a world of thick-neck thugs. Stella, a rising star in the neo-noir thriller world, renders memorable characters who are every bit as bad as those in Scorcese’s GoodFellas.

There’s Joe Quack, proud of the physical endowment he’s affectionately dubbed “the hose”; neophyte Johnny Forzino, a former NFL prospect who handily bench-presses 400 pounds; and Tommy Agro, whose punishment of the English language is both cruel and unusual. (”It’s time to get down to brass taxes,” he tells an associate. “Put your nose to the limestone.”) Bobby G’s formidable former employers think they’re due at least 2 percent of his take, but Bobby, smart and a smart-ass (and a bit combative, too), is loath to give his enemies a penny, much less 50 grand, until the love of his life’s life is put in jeopardy by a nefarious Irish goon.

This is the fifth underworld thriller for Stella (following Cheapskates, 2005), and his deft plotting, acerbic humor, and knack for street talk will delight fans of Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard, whose patter-happy bad guys remain the genre’s gold standard.

Publishers Weekly says …

“In this smoothly compact and often funny crime thriller, Stella’s fifth novel (after 2005’sCheapskates ), New York City’s Feast of San Gennaro is only days away when Tommy Agro and John Forzino decide to shake an extra payoff out of Bobby Gennaro, a young ex-mob bookmaker. Determined to distance himself from the wiseguys and keep all the money he’s skimmed, Bobby is tough enough for the job but likable enough to appeal to most readers. The grief he gets from his fiancée, Lin Yao, is more than understandable, under the circumstances. Stella moves like a king cat through his usual New York-New Jersey Mafia milieu, though as Det. John DeNafria wryly observes, “Look at what’s become of the mob. They’re in tatters.” Tommy Agro, with his frequent misspeaking-”women were always his Italy’s heel”-is a special highlight this outing. Fans of the leaner, meaner novels of Elmore Leonard from 20 years ago have great reading waiting in every new Stella.”

“In this smoothly compact and often funny crime thriller … Stella moves like a king cat through his usual New York-New Jersey Mafia milieu … Fans of the leaner, meaner novels of Elmore Leonard from 20 years ago have great reading waiting in every new Stella.”

Kirkus *Starred* Review …

A star is assigned to books of unusual merit, determined by the editors of Kirkus Reviews.

Can a mob bookmaker have a wife and a family and be out for good? “Fuhgetaboutit,” say the wiseguys.

Bobby Genarro had at least a shot at escape until the untimely flipping of Nicky D’Angelo, an underboss with the Vignieri family, who when presented with limited options by the FBI chose the Witness Protection Program. Suddenly, Bobby’s position is ambiguous enough to require a hasty visit from a pair of Vignieri soldiers: If Nicky squealed, how can they be sure that Bobby, who worked for him, won’t? And by the way, it would show respect if he came up with $50,000. Annoyed not so much by the breakdown in logic—he knows full well the wiseguy way with a syllogism—as by the boldfaced attempt at extortion, he stonewalls. Bobby is one cool and resourceful customer, but he’s also vulnerable, as the Vignieris know full well. There’s a woman in his life, the adorable Chinese-American Lin Yao, for whom he would die in a Mafioso minute rather than leave her to their tender mercies. And so the dance along Mean Street begins, as complex as it is violent and brutal. Bobby will have to step lively to keep from paying the piper.

“With his fifth entertaining entry in the gangster follies (Cheapskates, 2005, etc.), Stella earns a place among the most readable writers in crime fiction.”

Library Journal Review …

Bobby Genarro made a comfortable living as a bookmaker for the mob in the Little Italy section of New York City, but when he decides to retire and go straight, his real troubles begin. With a substantial bankroll (skimmed from his former employers) and an engagement ring in his pocket, Bobby G. looks forward to beginning his second life with his soon-to-be fiancée, but a couple of thugs show up at his door with a different idea. They’re looking for a shakedown, or a “tax” as the mob calls it. When Bobby G. refuses, an assortment of underworld characters emerges, from Chinese gang bangers to crooked cops, all conspiring to turn the ex-bookie’s dream of a quiet life into a nightmare. Stella’s fifth underworld thriller (following Cheapskates) explores the shadowy world of gangsters and wiseguys and examines the inner workings of a dysfunctional mafia family. Extensive use of snappy dialog and caustic humor will resonate with fans of Elmore Leonard. Recommended for most crime fiction collections.—Ken Bolton, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

“Extensive use of snappy dialog and caustic humor will resonate with fans of Elmore Leonard. Recommended for most crime fiction collections.”—Library Journal

Coming in June ‘06 … from Pegasus

An insider wants out, in Charlie Stella’s edgy new mob-world thriller, but some Vignieri family wiseguys have got different ideas for Bobby G

Get married, have a kid—it’s not much to ask. Unless you’ve got to first divorce the mob. And Bobby Genarro only thinks he has, in this brutal, funny, shrewd new crime novel from Charlie Stella, “who,” says the Chicago Sun-Times, “may just be the best crime writer you’ve never read.”

For three months now, ex-bookmaker Bobby G has been heading down the straight and narrow. He’s got the girl—pretty, and willful, Lin Yao, a video-grapher with a black belt in karate—and he’s bought the ring. He’s also safely stashed away a tidy, slightly tainted retirement fund. Then his old boss, a captain with the Vignieri crime family, flips and rats on his Mafioso associates. And Bobby’s past begins catching up with him.

“To get down to brass taxes,” as the phrase-twisting enforcer Tommy Agro puts it, the family figures it’s due, say, two percent of Bobby’s take. Intelligent, combative, a bit of a smart-ass, and stubborn, Bobby resists persuasion, even when he’s facing Agro’s muscle, a former offensive lineman who bench-presses five hundred pounds. Soon, though, Lin Yao is facing an Irish goon freelancing for the Vignieris, and before you can say the Mott Street Shadows the wiseguys’ shakedown is escalating as fast as Stella’s rapid-fire dialogue into warfare with a Chinese gang in the heart of Little Italy.

Bobby G has got trouble.

Jimmy Bench-Press and Charlie Opera have been sold to Halebooks in the United Kingdom. Jimmy Bench-Press will be published in June 2006.

Also available:

Cheapskates: A Novel of Crime
Charlie Opera: A Novel of Crime
Jimmy Bench-Press: A Novel of Crime
Eddie’s World: A Novel of Crime

Also coming in 2006 … short stories that appear in the following:

Plots with Guns Anthology, edited by Anthony Neil Smith: Young Tommy Burns (Dennis McMillan)* Available now.

Dublin Noir, edited by Ken Bruen: Tainted Goods (Akashic Books, March 2006)* Available Now

Hardboiled Brooklyn, edited by Reed Farrel Coleman: Waiting for Gallo (Bleakhouse, May 2006)* Available Now

Highlights include Charlie Stella’s “Waiting for Gallo.” Stella, a dialogue master, records the repartee and underlying tensions between two enforcers about to clip an acquaintance — a guy who has picked the wrong woman for a fling. (”We used to go to the movies together, me and this guy … We used to do everything together, Charlie and me. Here he is a piece of work now. And for what, some cop?”) —ThisWeek

A couple of standouts for me were Charlie Stella’s Waiting for Gallo …”—Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

Baltimore Noir, edited by Laura Lippman: Ode to the O’s (Akashic Books, May 2006)* Available Now

Charlie Stella’s on-target dialog spotlights mob efficiency in “Ode to the O’s.” Library Journal

Charlie Stella’s mob story, “Ode to the O’s,” is brutally directPublisher’s Weekly

Charlie Stella’s excellent “Ode to the O’s” may not evoke Baltimore particularly strongly, but it’s a fine piece of crime writing. —Chicago Sun Times

Damn Near Dead, edited by Duane Swierczynski: Geezer Tricks (Busted Flush Press, May, 2006)

Charlie Stella’s “Geezer Trick’s” is the quintessential example of why not to mess with a clan of older women whose need to survive runs pace with their ability to extract vengeance. —CrimeSpree Magazine

The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories! (edited by Ed Gorman & Martin Greenburg): Father Diodorus (Carroll & Graf)* Available now.

Charlie Stella’s ‘’Father Diodorus” is a raunchy, sexually explicit examination of love and betrayal between two priests. This unsettling story is strong stuff, possibly too strong for the average reader of this kind of collection. —Hallie Ephron, the Boston Globe

Bloodlines: An Anthology of Horse Racing, edited by Maggie Estepp & Jason Starr: The Cynical Breed (Vintage, Fall 2006)

Fountain Avenue … a screenplay.

This year I was very fortunate to be asked to co-write a screenplay (along with and for Danny Provenzano) about the most notorious crew in all of mob history–Roy DeMeo’s murderous Canarsie crew.

Back in the mid 1970’s and early 1980’s, while some in law enforcement pursued John Gotti with a tunnel vision that defies logic, a few exits east on the Belt Parkway (where I grew up), Roy DeMeo’s Canarsie crew was running a criminal empire that rivaled even the likes of Albert Anastasia’s Murder Inc. By NYPD estimates, DeMeo and his crew were responsible for close to 200 murders.

Although Roy and his crew were involved in everything from drugs to extortion to pornography to contract killings (sometimes for as little as $5,000.00 a hit), their main source of revenue came from stealing cars. At one point during their reign of terror, Roy and his crew were shipping hundreds of stolen cars a month to places like Kuwait, Iran and Iraq. After partnering up with Jimmy Coonan and the Westies, the body counts became staggering.

Even with the “Get Gotti” attitude of most Law Enforcement agencies at the time, the number of auto thefts and missing bodies in East New York did not go totally unnoticed. While a few diligent cops and an FBI agent did their best to raise a red flag, their individual efforts too often suffered the frustrations born of bureaucracy. Nearly ten years would pass before the body count could no longer be denied. While law enforcement still concentrated their efforts on John Gotti’s crew in Howard Beach, Roy DeMeo’s Canarsie crew had become a virtual killing machine.

The Danny Provenzano Film “Fountain Avenue” tells the story of the most vicious and feared crew in all mob history. It is a story that will transcend logic and leave you with nightmares for a long time to come.

Go to Provenzano Films