It was quite a surprise to see it in our local library – I came upon it by accident and as a landlocked mermaid myself being born and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey – I was interested in reading the book.
The book is a coming of age novel of a young man in Atlantic City, New Jersey during 1939. The young man, (Jack) is confronted with neighborhood bullies, entering high school, having a crush on a young girl his age that appears to be more mature with than he is – and sometimes does not give him the time of day.
During the Summer of 1939 – The United States was still in the Great Depression, on the brink of entering World War II – and a few of the characters in the book were veterans of World War I. Jack’s best friends have to go out of town to work in different family businesses. One on a family farm in Ohio and the other in a family owned diner in North Jersey. Jack acquires a job working on the boardwalk – behind the scenes of a pitchman’s stand which sells kitchen gadgets. He meets an arrangement of characters such as an Artist, a waitress, a charismatic and worldly Pitchman who is also a womanizer, a Fortune teller, and a loner who supports himself with real estate deals and the stock market.
Circumstances bring Jack accidentally in the path of a Crime Boss. Jack spends his time leading a precarious double life – one in which he attends school, works a part time job – and another where he runs errands for a crime boss – and getting some grown up lessons along the way. Friendships are forged in the most unlikely places – a group of misfits become bonded together – the glue being secrets, business deals - organized crime – murder – redemption – genius – and most important love and loyalty.
Mr. J. Louis Yampolsky not only tells a story of pre World War II Atlantic City (the World’s finest playground) – but tells a story laced historically describing the clothes, homes and furnishings of the area – he writes about the finances of the character Jack’s father in the book – he writes about how much the average person made then – and how much things cost. Yampolsky writes about the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the piers, the High School and the neighborhood in intimate detail as if he were a family member telling you “how it was in the old days”. He writes about how the inhabitants of Atlantic City both love and need the tourists – and yet tire of them when the summer season is over. This is because the tourists during the summer are the area’s lifeblood. The book is written as an older man talking about what had happened to him when he was young. He writes with the wisdom of an older person – but tells the story with excitement and danger looming at the end of every page – forcing you to continue turning the page – to “find out what happens next”. (I read the book in two nights – and found myself crying and wanting more).
I personally loved the book because the story takes place in the area where I grew up in. I knew the neighborhood and its people personally. I recognized the characters in the book so well – And although I did not arrive in the world until 24 years later – in my own personal experience coming of age in pre casino Atlantic City – (the people being the same with different names) not much had changed save a few different stores the make and models of cars and fashion.
I thought this book was well written. If you liked “Boardwalk Empire” – you would love this. I think it would make a wonderful movie. I myself would like to play the part of the Tarot Card Reader. (Just putting this out there)!!
With this I leave you to enjoy the book if you get the chance.
AKA - Queen Daisy from Belgium
P.S. The Artwork on the cover on the front and back of the book was created by an artist who lives in Margate – (A town south of Atlantic City). My apologies to the Artist that I don’t have his name on hand to post it. I would like to tell you that the artwork is beautiful.