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Jimmy Bench-Press: A Novel Of Crime [Hardcover]

Charlie Stella
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 11 2002
Jimmy Mangino figures he's overdue. Already he's done two stretches in the joint. But he's back, and he's still a good earner for the family. You got a loser you need to lean on, Jimmy lends his strong arm, and he doesn't flinch at murder, not for the Vignieris. He also bench-presses four hundred pounds. Jimmy wants to be a made man. Alex Pavlik wants to take Jimmy down. Pavlik, the edgy Polish cop who tailed Eddie Senta in Charlie Stella's enthusiastically reviewed debut, Eddie's World, has been transferred to Organized Crime from Homicide, where his short temper, keen sense of justice, and too-ready prizefighter's fists have proved to be a volatile combination. Tough-talking, taut, and craftily plotted, Stella's second novel takes Pavlik and his new partner, another New York police detective, John DeNafria, into the shifty world of Jimmy Bench-Press when wannabe-mobster Larry Berra hires Mangino to collect on a bad loan to a sixty-three-year-old Italian barber with a Cuban girlfriend. Jimmy's got his fingers in any number of illegal pies, from extortion to murder, among purveyors of drugs and porn. Enough to get a man made, maybe. "Fresh, fast, and darkly funny."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Readers may be reminded ... of George V. Higgins's underworld thrillers.... Stella stacks up well against the master. "—San Diego Union Tribune

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Jimmy Mangino can bench-press 400 pounds or maybe more after spending time jerking iron in the pen, and now he's back on the streets and moving to establish himself in the New York-New Jersey turf in Stella's second fast-paced, brutal crime novel (after 2001's Eddie's World). Looking to become a made man with the local Mafia and to line his own pockets as quickly as possible, Jimmy gets in on various scams involving loans that are due and porn movies, leaving a wake of maimed and cooling bodies behind him. Cops Alex Pavlik and John DeNafria with Organized Crime know his history, but he's just another head buster as far as they're concerned. Anyway, they have their own problems: Pavlik, shuffled from department to department because he can't control his fists, haunted by images of the victims of a child-murderer he nabbed; DeNafria, caught up in a divorce he can't accept. To the cast add a would-be tough guy, the wannabe's beautiful girlfriend, some Russians and Koreans, swingers and porn stars and more. Stella moves confidently into territory staked out by Elmore Leonard, though he isn't quite as funny or as adept at interlacing his plot lines. Stripped down to essentials, the completely lean prose style-"She spit fragments of her front teeth onto her lap"-ought to do the job for fans of unrelenting underworld fiction, while the squeamish may wish to give this one a pass.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Stella follows his impressive debut (Eddie's World) with this second novel featuring hard-edged but likable cop Alex Pavlik. Recently transferred from Homicide to Organized Crime, Pavlik is trying to take down Jimmy Mangino, an enforcer and all-around bad guy. Mangino is a wannabe made man working for Larry Berra, a wannabe mobster. When Mangino is told to lean on a barber who owes Berra money, he quickly makes the situation work to his advantage. Mangino becomes involved in the businesses of sex and drugs, plays people against each other, and uses brute force, all in an attempt to become a made man. Pavlik spends most of his time retracing Jimmy's footsteps in an effort to bring him down while also trying to get accustomed to a new partner. This is a grittier effort than Stella's first and one with a much more subtle payoff than most crime novels. Recommended for public libraries where crime fiction is popular.
Craig L. Shufelt, Lane P.L., Oxford, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Kirkus Reviews Jimmy Bench Press Nov. 3 2002
By A Customer
From Kirkus Reviews

Born Jimmy Mangino, he's known these days, some 35 years later, as Jimmy Bench-Press, marking the time he lifted 402 pounds while marking time in the slammer. Now that he's released, Jimmy seeks suitable employment--mostly from the Vignieris, a New York City crime family frequently in need of no-nonsense persuaders like Jimmy. On being sent to collect a debt from a young woman foolishly inclined toward welshing, he offers her his patented facial in hopes of changing her mind. What's a facial? "I knocked her teeth out," he explains. Jimmy scares virtually everyone in his Soprano-esque universe--everyone but Detectives DeNafria and Pavlik, who detest him, regard him as the very embodiment of why they chose to be cops, and will not sleep until they succeed in locking him away again. But in addition to being brawny and beastly, Jimmy's also brainy in the ways of street thugs. He's immensely savvy about surveillance, about hidden wires, covert cameras, and what it takes to keep even skilled cops at bay. Moreover, DeNafria and Pavlik have to be circumspect, since both are saddled with checkered pasts. So while they stalk Jimmy, hoping for a misstep, others watch them for much the same reason. Stella's debut (Eddie's World, 2001) was dark and violent, but this ups the ante to rampant brutality. Still, the story of the two troubled cops--essentially honorable men in a society where principle has become excess baggage--is compelling. Almost redeeming.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rock em Sock em Great Read Feb. 7 2003
This take-no-prisoners follow up to Eddie's World takes you deep inside the life of street-level wise guys and the cops who chase them. Luckily, both sides of the justice equation get equal treatment in Stella's gritty prose.
When a loan goes south, a bit player with a big ego hires a couple of goons to shake down a hapless barber. This sets in motion the man's undoing, as Jimmy Bench-Press soon has the man's voluptuous girlfriend enthralled and double-crossing him. Meanwhile, the cops on the case, new to each other, recovering from bruises in their personal lives, set the wheels in motion that bring the roof down around the scam.
But this doesn't do justice to Stella's wickedly funny and blunt prose. This book is not for the faint of heart, but it will reward readers with a thirst to see an honest portrait of cops and robbers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down! Feb. 7 2003
By A Customer
I'm usually too busy to finish a book quickly, but I finished this one in two days -- I just couldn't put it down! Who cares if I didn't get much sleep?! It was well worth it. What impressed me most was Stella's ability to keep the reader reading, despite the late hour. He really gets you involved with his characters, anxious to find out what will happen to them next. I also gave this book to a few of my friends to read, and they all agree with me. I was so impressed with Stella's work that I purchased his first novel, Eddie's World. I feel the same way about Eddie's World as I do about Jimmy Bench Press; they're both great novels. This would be an excellent read for someone who truly enjoys Sopranos-like entertainment, or for someone who merely appreciates really good writing.
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