Jimmy Bench-Press: A Novel Of Crime Hardcover – Nov 11 2002
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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.
Top Customer 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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
400 pounds is good, but doesn't inspire any fear from me: I've battled guys who push much more weight than that. Read morePublished on March 17 2003 by "Yukikaze"
I read Eddie's World by Charlie Stella and was looking forward to more of his work -- I wasn't disappointed. Read morePublished on Feb. 7 2003