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  Library Journal Review

Having grown up poor but ambitious on the Bronx's Bathgate Avenue during the Depression, young Billy is now being educated in the ways of the world. But his is no ordinary education, for Billy is a gangster-in-training employed by the notorious Dutch Schultz. As the story moves fluidly from the violent underworld of New York City to the playgrounds of the rich, Billy falls for ``the Dutchman's'' latest lady--a beauty named Drew Preston who eventually reciprocates his youthful passion. Soon Billy is questioning the actions of the mob he was so eager to join as he seeks to protect Drew from its vengeance. Though at times 15-year-old Billy seems far too precocious, even for a streetwise punk, ultimately we are made to feel his apprehension of the world: that ``large, empty resounding adulthood booming with terror.'' An engrossing tale that successfully re-creates worlds gone by in loving and meticulous detail.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal'' (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

The story of the downfall of notorious gangster Dutch Schultz as told from the keen perspective of 15-year-old Billy Behan. In masterfully tapping into the seductive allure of crime, America's romance with the bad guy, and our perverse fascination with grisly deeds, Doctorow evokes the era of the 1930s, if not as it actually was, then as it should have been.

  Kirkus Review

As in World's Fair, Doctorow returns once again to his impeccably rendered 1930's. but this time in order to chronicle, with a detail and color and immediacy that make celluloid seem almost clumsy and unnecessary, the decline and fall of the legendary New York gangster Dutch Schultz. Billy Behan, a fatherless Irish-Jewish kid from the East Bronx, is 15 when he first has the luck one day to see Schultz in the flesh--and the greater luck briefly to catch the illustrious mobster's attention. Determined that he'll somehow infiltrate his way into the inner sanctums of the gang (""whatever my life was going to be in this world it would have something to do with Mr. Schultz""), Billy reveals an ingenuity and Oliver-Twist-like daring that accomplish his ends. In the next few months of his life he will graduate from lowly coffee-fetcher for the hoodlums (there's Schultz, his brains Abba-dabba Berman, his hit-man Lulu Rosenkrantz, his driver Mickey, his faithful aide Irving) to pickup man, to trusted lookout and information-getter, and finally--just before the gang is killed the following October in a surprise shootout in a bar in Newark-to full-fledged and salaried member of the Schultz mob. On the way to that bloody night (in 1935) in a dingy back room, plenty will happen to this American-Dickensian Billy Behan (a.k.a. Billy Bathgate) and around him--he'll see a man sent into the deep Atlantic with his feet in a tub of cement, there will be a long waiting period in an upstate hotel, a rigged trial for tax evasion, more murders, and even a dangerous, passionate liaison between young Billy and Schultz's current (and very rich) moll, complete with a few days in horse-crazy Saratoga in August. Back in the city, the gang finds itself under mounting pressures (not only are other gangs, but so is special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey moving in on them), and when the dreadful shootout comes, only Billy, Ishmael-like, lives to tell the tale--and to provide a denoument that may or may not convince every reader. What could have been merely another round of nostalgia-drenched mobster romancing earns a claim, by end, to a genuine depth, and, formed by the magical skill of Doctorow's incomparable past-painting hands, the book simply pulls and pulls and pulls. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
Young Billy Bathgate witnesses atrocities of the crime world in his introduction to a brutal and unsparing life that takes him through the heart of the city and the rural underworld in Depression-era America.
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