The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight By Jimmy Breslin

What a hilarious and sad book. The character that I had the most empathy for was the Lion. And I really wanted to know what happened to the lion after they raided Kid Sal's place. I found this book to be as illuminating about the Cosa Nostra in NYC as Mario Puzo's book The Godfather. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight was raw and fun, an unlikely juxaposition that worked. To make a wacky book about vicious criminals takes talented writing and Mr. Breslin ably wrote a book of raucous violence. I'll have to reread this again. I look forward to reading more of Jimmy Breslin's writings. Jimmy Breslin GOOMBA-OLOGY 101

“…the Mafia originally became a national success during Prohibition, as evil everywhere flourishes under repression.” (p. 12)

In northern New Jersey in the early 1950s, where I lived at the time, there were only two types of people—especially in my fifth grade class—‘goombas’ and those who wanted to be ‘goombas’. And why not? They were the rock-stars of middle-school. They were the kids that knew how to dress, how to talk, and how to charm any little girl—and her mama—and to get away with practically anything, anywhere, anytime. They got all the respect.

What yankee-New England, WASP, kid wouldn’t have traded it all to be an Arthur Fonzarelli—‘The Fonz.’ Or a rock-star. Even before we had a Fonzarelli, or even had rock-’n-roll, for that matter.

Heck, we didn’t even have Jimmy Breslin’s delightful, madcap of a book, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (first published in 1969) to use as a guide. But, we would have loved it if we had. It would have been nice to know that Brooklyn was so much like northern Jersey. And that the wannabe wise-guys of Brooklyn, in Breslin’s novel, would all have been, intellectually, ‘right at home’ in the fifth-grade.

Recommendation: TGTCSS is a delightful romp through street-life in Brooklyn’s 1950s Marfia-land. You should read it for the laughs (if you don’t have too many qualms at laughing at the impaired).

A Novel Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 249 pages. Jimmy Breslin Some funny moments. But very uneven. Rambling and incoherent most of the time. Jimmy Breslin This book tells the story of a Mafia lieutenant who wants to become the big boss. So Kid Sally Palumbo gathers together his closest allies and tries to knock off Papa Baccala and take over his gang. As you can tell by the title, things don't go smoothly and there are a lot of funerals for the upstarts.

The most amazing thing about this book is just how well it captures the time it was written. It just reeks of 1960s New York, with bad cops, corrupt officials and Mafia dons. Breslin, of course, followed the maxim of write what you know and he knew this turf better than anyone. He had funny swipes at everyone, from the Mayor to newspapers. Every page just drips with small time corruption and grifters trying to grift.

Oh, and it is funny as hell. So many amazingly apt descriptions that make you smile or even break out in laughter. And I am as big a New York City hater as any Boston boy could be, but this was just a delightful read, even today. Jimmy Breslin Just couldn't get into it. Characters I really couldn't care about and the story was just so all over the place that every time I picked it up I had to remind myself what had happened before. Jimmy Breslin

It was a big bestseller when it was originally published in 1969. It became a major motion picture that provided Robert DeNiro with his first film role. Its title has entered into the language as a catch phrase. And it's terrific fun!

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight is the story of Papa Baccala, a Brooklyn Mafia boss, and Kid Sally Palumbo, a would-be capo who couldn't run a gas station at a profit even if he stole the customers' cars. There's also Kid Sally's grandmother, who will go to extravagant lengths to see her boy make his mark. A love interest? Sure. Kid Sally's sister tumbles for an artistic type who rides a bicycle and has recently arrived from Calabria...

The high adventure begins with a six-day bike race that is only partly responsible for a rash of obituary notices reading: Died. Suddenly. Eventually it all gets worked out in fine Sicilian fashion -- and, in the end, everybody gets his, in a manner of speaking. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

Not as funny as I thought it would be. It was a bit of a tough read, too....sort of runs on and doesn't always make sense. Glad I tried it, but wouldn't recommend it. Jimmy Breslin For some reason I found this book delightful. It's quirky, and I just love Jimmy Breslin's style. Fun, fun reading. Jimmy Breslin Kinda disappointed....can anyone suggest one of his books that was really great and put him on the map to read??? Or was he more held in high esteem for his reporting,and newspaper articles???? Jimmy Breslin Read the STOP SMILING interview with Jimmy Breslin



(This interview originally appeared in the 2nd annual STOP SMILING 20 Interviews Issue)

As luxury condos tower over the once-downtrodden Bowery and a billionaire tech mogul reigns over a robust tourist mecca (and toast of the Republican National Convention), the days of the government telling New York City to drop dead are but a footnote to this new, untested era of scorched-earth gentrification. Yet the inequities and injustices of old still persist, even while the voices of dissent in the media are ominously silent (or are preoccupied crafting clever quips in the blogosphere). Then there’s Jimmy Breslin, a torchbearer from the days of big-city print journalism, the quintessential constant in an ever-changing megalopolis. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for multiple outlets, among them the New York Daily News, the same paper responsible for that infamous “Drop Dead” headline in 1977, Breslin earned his readers’ trust — or raised ire — through a time-tested formula: First, the simple dissemination of facts. Then, “somewhere in the middle, rising on strong, steel legs, is an opinion.”

Read the interview...

Jimmy Breslin It's fiction, so what is the truth contained in the book? I don't know.

Breslin has a fair amount of close knowledge of the mob, and not too high an opinion of it. It's obvious in this fiction, which he says (by way of a recent NPR interview) accurately summarizes the laziness, imprecision, and crass motivations of folks involved in so-called 'organized crime'. If it's organized, according to him, it's organized according to rules of chaos.

The book is a one day read. If you like kind of silly crime novels, and appreciate the lexicon of a true Yankee, this would be a good book to read. In some ways, it's reminiscent of the Foxfire books for hillbillies in that it illustrates some characteristics of lower strata city dwellers and their street smarts.

The book doesn't leave a favorable impression for the mob, but probably paints a reasonably accurate sketch of the majority of its members... mostly average to below-average folks intent on making as easy a living as possible using violence, as necessary to make it happen, and without a lot of concern for the rule of law.

Again, this is a library checkout book, not one to own. Jimmy Breslin

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