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Though this novel contains blunt and riveting depictions of the very darkest crimes, it's also a powerful work of literary fiction. And just as Crime And Punishment's an astounding story of criminality and murder, its absolutely stunning effect is also built on much more than that. And so is the often breathtaking impact of Savage Days Haunted Nights, which recreates searing life and death struggles fought out on the meanest streets of Chicago and New York. Yet an even greater struggle's raging here too throughout this book, a moral one troubling and deep and the possible loss of a great love, that grips the soul of the main character, never letting him go.
Savage Days Haunted Nights, this novel’s arresting title, is no exaggeration. It accurately describes the story’s unyielding intensity, which seizes us immediately from the first page till the last through unflinching action and it's spellbinding emotion. Every word you’ll find here’s utterly realistic needing no fantasy or melodrama to carry the reader to the highest levels of excitement any book can attain anywhere.The main character, Dorian, is an intriguing personality from his earliest childhood, who’s soon tested brutally in fierce encounters throughout his youth on the threatening streets of Chicago’s old West Side, still known as Capone territory. Then after desperately fleeing at last to the distant safety of New York, leaving that violence firmly behind him, he finds a dynamic new life elevated by the soaring imagination of the art world and a fiery love affair in Greenwich Village until suddenly, years later, a series of harrowing events descend, driving, Dorian into a terrifying vortex again of life and death savagery, this time, though, accompanied by a haunting moral agony threatening the loss of a profound love. Poets, mafiosi, prostitutes, professors, socialites, dock workers and plain, ordinary people portrayed here vividly animate every chapter of this book, creating a penetrating vision of contemporary society caught in that eternal battle between good and evil, which brings us at the end to some startling conclusions. Be prepared then for a rare and gripping experience.
SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS, a novel by Bennett Kremen, is now available on Kindle and at Amazon.com as well. Richard Lingeman, senior editor at The Nation and former editor of The New York Times Sunday Book Review calls this book, "A tough, gripping phantasmagoria of violence and redemption."
HOW CAN I DO IT? As much as Dorian tries to banish gruesome images of Frankie D. lying slaughtered in the street, they return again and again, only more bloody. A steady rain's been falling for days, and getting out safely over the rooftops without being spotted is impossible, leaving him lost hour after hour in these tormented thoughts. I'M NO FREAKEN KILLER! But even having to reassure himself of this is overwhelming him with disgust. HA. COULD I EVEN DO IT? Going to jail, despite its horror, doesn't scare him. His hatred's propelled him beyond that. Nor would he stop himself in fear of God's punishment. SORRY, DON'T BELIEVE IN THAT, OR THE TOOTH FAIRY EITHER. No all that's making him hesitate is his unflinching disgust at actually doing such unspeakable savagery. Yet unrelenting questions won't stop plaguing him: DO I HAVE THE GUTS ANYMORE? CAN I DO IT? OR--AH THAT'S THE BIG ONE--SHOULD I?
Tense adventure, colorful characters, January 26, 2009
"Savage Days Haunted Nights" is tense and often harrowing. The hero, Dorian, is living through a life-threatening nightmare and the reader gets to live it with him.
The novel also evokes images from an era that's past, but not forgotten. For example, you enjoy a glimpse of the action at The Lion's Head, a long gone "writer's bar."
You also get a taste of the bleak life of a pipe cutter on the Alaskan North Slope. And you'll deal with a cast of credible characters who range from petty loan sharks and made Mafiosi to a stuffy college professor.
Savage Days, Haunted Nights is an exciting and fast-moving read. Well worth ordering.
By Peter Hochstein "The New York Crank [Http:The... (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
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Reader Reviews for "Savage Days Haunted Nights"
|Reviewed by Tom Lyons
|SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS by Bennett Kremen, Arnone Press(Available through Amazon.com). Review by Tom Wallace Lyons.
Imagine the closed-in feeling of a roach under a descending shoe. That's life for Dorian Karkoff as the mob closes in on him. Dorian's problem is a spiraling "vig"(interest) driven fifteen thousand dollar debt. This problem gets very dangerous very fast when Dorian publicly tough talks the lender, a vicious, small-time New York hood called Frankie D.
But the run in with Frankie D is only the latest installment on a dangerous odyssey begun as a young Chicago tough in a novel that is not entirely linear. Fever paced and strongly plotted, the bulk of SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS is set in New York with deftly interwoven scenes from a dangerous, troubled youth.
In Chicago Dorian a.k.a "DUMB DORRY" is academically sidelined by dyslexia. This drives him into the arms of Little Tommy Sorrentino, "another eighth grade scholar unable to read." The younger brother of a Chicago mobster, Tommy initiates Dorian into the vicious, predatory life of a wannabee gang member. Dorian rises to the occasion of a deadly gang fight, the first step toward a mean, don't mess with me reputation; a status which guarantees that "not a soul nowadays, near or far, would ever dare laugh at him again for staring blankly at a newspaper hardly able to read it." But Dorian can only go so far. Tommy ratchets the viciousness into unacceptable terrain when he asks Dorian to help torch some buildings that house newly arrived African Americans, an effort to check the historic and permanent alteration of the West Side neighborhood that resulted from the last century's northward migration. Dorian manages both to save lives and to square it with his gang. But he parts company with Tommy and the Chicago boys after he refuses to stab one of their own who has broken the gang rule against drug dealing, a rule that has a lot less to do with morality than with fear of the Feds. Dorian has to leave town.
On the bus to New York, Dorian is assaulted by a sudden determination to become a writer, to tell his story. This determination drives him through months of manic effort with books, dictionary and typewriter, efforts subsidized by ill-gotten gains from Chicago. And he frequents the restaurant cum writer salon that was once the Lion's Head in Sheridan Square. Finally, with much trepidation, Dorian approaches an editor with a heavily labored-on book review. His free-lance career takes off. But free-lance work doesn't pay much. And Dorian is afraid to accept offers of full-time work because he believes his only somewhat cured dyslexia would destroy his ability to meet office deadlines. Hence the debt driven tough talk; hence the thugs waiting on the street by his apartment.
Down on the street the thugs beat up two of Dorian's friends in the local bodega. Later they burn the bodega. They viciously harass his girlfriend Ana. Dorian avoids his street when he hops from roof to roof in search of work as a paper hauler. But the word's out that he's not to be hired. People are scared. Dorian's mad. Still the Chicago tough, Dorian decides to get a pistol to personally deal with Frankie D and his thugs. Efforts to obtain a pistol and track down Frankie D involve a Jamaican genja dealer, a pimp and a prostitute, characters who spring to life on the page as do other characters roped into Dorian's struggle to escape his nemesis.
SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS throbs with RAGING BULL intensity, cinematic immediacy in an apparently authentic depiction of an era circa mid-Twentieth Century. I am in no position to vouch for the authenticity of this Runyonesque tour. But, like THE GODFATHER, it has that feel. As with HUCKLEBERRY FINN, SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS is brought to life not just by its story line; rather it is the rich, evocative dialogue through which Kremen releases his characters.
Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano is one person who should definitely read SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS. This Gambino crime family member told THE NEW YORK TIMES that, prior to seeing THE GODFATHER, he'd only racked up one murder. He credits THE GODFATHER as the inspiration for nineteen subsequent murders. Gravano also claims he borrowed two Godfather phrases: "If you have an enemy, that enemy becomes my enemy." "I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse."
Gravano may feel that his verbal repertoire has grown a bit stale. For color and authenticity he might turn to Kremen's Nickie Torracelli, who says, "These stupid wise-guy movies are strictly bullshit with shrinks all over the place. If any of our guys ever went to one of 'em, we'd whack him and the fucken doctor too. Nobody's gonna know our business."
Nickie Torracelli is a man "everybody knows, who'd scare the balls off the bleedin' Devil himself. Frankie'd have a bloody stroke hearing his name." The words come from Danny Riordan, a generous spirited, upbeat, endlessly resourceful Irishman who safely negotiates the likes of Torracelli because he asks "no favors. I only do'em. You can romance the devil himself that way and never get burned." And sometimes "terrific things" can result. The terrific thing for Dorian is that Torracelli may call Frankie D off his case. But Dorian must also do something for Torracelli. And he had better deliver. It would be unfair to reveal the rest of the book. Suffice it to say that the final scene brings together some very disparate people who have no more use for each other than Frankie D has for Dorian.
SAVAGE DAYS HAUNTED NIGHTS has enough gang violence, suspense and excitement to set off a bidding war among film producers. But accommodation of novelistic narrative to cinema will pose a challenge. It will take top notch actors, top notch direction and a top notch script to preserve the fast pace and the feel for time, place and people. The conversion could easily flop. Or it could become an Oscar nominee.