The Dogs of Brownsville by Stan Weisleder

I have enjoyed reading The Dogs of Brownsville, a book that charts the story of a group of people, mainly boys, from Brownsville in New York from their childhood together into their adult life and careers. Whilst different paths are taken, some converge again under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

One thing that I will say about Stan Weisleder’s narrative is that it is well plotted, from the initial pages where characters are introduced and back stories are told, to the later years; there is clear linear direction here and I was never in doubt as to where the action was headed.

There are a lot of characters in this book and the presenting of them at the beginning does much to help individualise them in terms of who they are and where they have come from as well as how they are known to their friends with their nicknames. You really do get a vivid picture of a neighbourhood with its hangouts and all of the dynamics between its residents. There are all walks of life here from shady mobsters to more recent European immigrants; from shop owners to rabbis and then, as the story progresses within and beyond Brownsville, you have billionaires and madams and down-and-outs and pilots.

This evocation of place is true of Vegas too – you get a real sense of it in its Rat Pack heyday; the glamour, the shows, the money, the parties, the competing for control.

Weisleder’s knowledge means the book is full of history and information, which provides important context although sometimes, I felt like this could be to the detriment of the book’s flow where too much discussion was given to a subject which could have been mentioned more succinctly, for example, ERISA and details of planes.

As mentioned, there are a lot of characters in this book and Weisleder does well to incorporate them all so that they form a part of the story in one way or another but this also has its drawbacks; one character who was focal at the start fades into ignominy and I, as a reader, would have liked to know more of his struggle. I think that generally, he balances the narrative between them well as their development is not superficial, their characters coming out in the dialogue.

All in all, as a coming-of-age gangster novel, Weisleder’s book is well worth reading.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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