Button Man

Andrew Gross, 1952-

Book - 2018

A stirring story of a Jewish family brought together in the dawn of the women's garment business and torn apart by the birth of organized crime in New York City in the 1930s.

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Biographical fiction
Historical fiction
Thrillers (Fiction)
Supense fiction
Domestic fiction
New York : Minotaur Books 2018.
First edition
Physical Description
371 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (page 370-371).
Main Author
Andrew Gross, 1952- (author)
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Gross' historical suspense novel delivers a gut-wrenching, noirish portrait of Jewish organized crime and labor unionism in 1930s New York. By personalizing key characters, the author immerses readers in a maze of labor racketeering and political and police corruption, upping the nail-biting suspense chapter by chapter. The narrative follows Morris and Sol, two Rabishevsky brothers striving to stay afloat in their garment business while fighting the pressure of union takeovers and price controlling by criminals and criminal organizations (Dutch Schultz and Murder, Inc.). Meanwhile, Harry, the other Rabishevsky brother, wastes his days consorting with button men (hired killers), hoping to find acceptance among them. These are characters you won't forget, as they exist in a complex nightmare brought on by the Depression, immigration, poverty, and greed. The surprise is that any good men rise to fight. Alternately frightful and fascinating, the story viscerally describes the era, exposing the motives and fears that drive each character and play out on the streets. Neil Kleid's graphic novel Brownsville (2006) also vividly portrays many of the same criminals, along with District Attorney Thomas Dewey, who fought them in court. Readers might also like the fast-paced Quinn mystery series by Michael Mayo for another perspective on the same period.--Jen Baker Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Bestseller Gross (The Saboteur) charts a gutsy kid's struggle to succeed in the garment industry in early 20th-century New York City in this formulaic crime thriller. In 1915, 12-year-old Morris Raab lands a job sweeping floors and making deliveries for a clothing manufacturer on the Lower East Side. His ambition and drive lead him to put in extra hours and to closely study the work of veteran marker maker Mr. Beck. Despite his youth and inexperience, Morris takes over from Beck after the marker maker announces his retirement. By the time he turns 20, Morris is basically running the business. In later years, he runs afoul of an organized crime group, whose leaders include the vicious Lepke Buchalter; marries the daughter of a big-shot lawyer; and aids mob-busting prosecutor Thomas Dewey in his investigations. Gross strains credulity at several points and fails to bring the mean streets of the Big Apple to life. Still, this Horatio Alger story will resonate with his many fans. 100,000-copy announced first printing; author tour. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Growing up poor on New York's Lower East Side, Morris Rabishevsky (later shortened to Raab) and his two brothers fend for themselves after their father's death. Morris drops out of school at 12 and goes to work in the garment industry, while Sol heads to accounting school. By the time Morris is in his 20s, he has his own company, where Sol also works. It's the 1930s and mobsters are taking over the unions and enforcing their will. Morris's childhood acquaintances now work for gangsters and his ne'er-do-well younger brother Harry associates with the likes of Dutch Schultz and Albert -Anastasia. By resisting the mob, Morris suffers the burning of his factory and the murder of a close friend. Another childhood friend, now a lawyer, finally convinces him to join Thomas Dewey in fighting the corruption and intimidation. Gross's third stand-alone historical thriller (after The One Man and The Saboteur) continues the theme of those earlier works by pitting an ordinary person with core morality against seemingly overwhelming forces of evil. VERDICT Neither thriller nor mystery, this is a big departure from Gross's past work and may strain the loyalty of his many fans. But historical fiction fans will be drawn in by the details of the author's own family history in the garment industry. [See Prepub Alert, 3/26/18.]-Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A businessman resists the mob in a novel that spans most of the 20th century.In 1915, Manhattan's Lower East Side is a tough place for 12-year-old Morris Rabishevsky and his siblings to grow up. He takes a job sweeping floors at the Majestic Garment Company, but his drive and ambition are obvious. The owner suggests he go by Morris Raabbecause Rabishevsky is "a mouthful for some people here"and he and his mother agree. But street punks try to shake him down on payday, and he has to fight tough guy Louis Buchalter to keep his money. Morris has "never backed down from anything" and is much tougher than his brothers, Sol and Harold. Every character's personal qualities factor strongly in this story. Morris' drive and intelligence lead to his running Majestic at age 20 when the owner retires. Later, he and Sol start their own garment manufacturer, Raab Brothers. Morris' brash approach wins business with a big chain store, and the company grows. Sol knows how to keep the books but doesn't know how to sell. Their other brother, Harold, is a likable screw-up who hangs out with the wrong crowd, even mobsters, and might well ruin what becomes the family business. Louis Buchalter grows up to be a cutthroat mobster, taking over garment unions and running Murder Incorporated. The mob has a way of breaking down resistance to the unions: They throw a man out an eighth-floor window, splash an owner with sulfuric acid, destroy his inventory. Of course, the Raab Brothers' success attracts Buchalter's attention, and the resulting conflict is one of life and death. New York Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey seeks Morris' cooperation in destroying the mob, but Morris and his business might perish in the process. At a funeral, a rabbi asks, "What does it mean to be a good man?" If it means standing up to evil, then Morris Raab qualifies.A highly satisfying story of family loyalty, persistence, courage, and crime. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.