Written by Nick Santora – Creative writing courses consistently tell their charges to write what you know. Nick Santora used to be a lawyer. Hopefully he’s never been a Mafioso, but after a career change he became a screenwriter on shows like The Sopranos and Prison Break. So his first novel, about a lawyer who gets entangled in the mob, certainly deals with subjects he knows.
Rob Principe is the protagonist. With a degree from Columbia, the prestigious university in New York, rather than going into a legal department on Wall Street he decides to set up in Bensonhurst, a working class district of Brooklyn. Principe is nothing if not principled. His practise fights the corner of the common people – those who slip in the supermarket, fall from scaffolding, or die too soon because of medical negligence.
Far from the six figures his Ive League classmates are earning, he’s three months behind on his mortgage, his wife is expecting, and his sister’s on hard times. His second cousin Jackie Masalla is a bagman for local mobster Big Lou Turro (BLT), and Principe hatches a scheme. Instead of Jackie whacking people who don’t pay their debts to BLT, why don’t they fake injuries on mob-run building sites then clean up in damages against the construction companies.
It works well but Rob Principe gets cold feet. Jackie, BLT, and the rest of the crew don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. As the story continues Principe is in a fight for his life against these deadly foes, and wrestling with the guilt of lying to his wife and family to boot.
The book reads very well – perfect for the plane or beach – and the story moves quickly. Santora’s dialogue is clear and direct, and with Principe narrating his story there’s plenty of clever observation and humour. He touches on themes like familial relationships, and the Italian American experience. At one point Principe’s buddy talks about how his grandfather changed his name so as not to be lumped in with the mobsters, whose names all end in a vowel.
That’s about as deep as it goes, unfortunately. Slip & Fall is entertaining and has the right amount of action and violence. However, it’s also rather predictable. The gangsters are a touch clichéd, and the narrative uses exaggeration and superlatives all the way through. He totally loves his wife, is as low as it’s possible to be, and 100 per cent hates what he’s done. It jars after a while.
Released in the States in 2007 Slip & Fall was Santora’s first novel and has been published in the UK by Mulholland this year.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars