Monday, May 30, 2016

Five Points by Rocco Dormarunno

Anyone who recalls the 2002 Martin Scorses’s film, Gangs of New York or the BBC miniseries, Copper, about Irish immigrants to New York following the end of the Civil War, might enjoy the third piece of this puzzle.  New York was a near lawless and deadly place to live.  Corruption was rampant, with Boss Tweed running the city.  Police chased bank robbers and shot them dead.  They then confiscated the stolen money, destroyed the bodies, and distributed the cash.  The press said the criminals had escaped with all the money. 

A selection for my Book Club this year, Rocco Dormarunno’s short novel, The Five Points, will round out the story.  I was a bit suspicious about the book at first – it was self-published – but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality.  It was well-edited, and I saw only one glaring error.  Book One is titled “The Tramp: 1860,” while Book Two has the same date.  However, the first pages reveal the time is actually 1867.

Rocco describes the arrival of a stranger in New York.  he writes, “He jumped down from the train as it slowed into its final turn.  After regaining his composure, he gripped tightly the handle of his suitcase and hobbled east along 47th Street.  It was just after midnight, he judged, because he had stepped onto the train almost an hour earlier in Dobbs Ferry.  The grandfather clock in the house that he’d been in told him it was 10:55 when he left. […] // His name was Martine DelaCroix, a forty-two year old Canadian roamer.  He was wanted by the law on two charges of burglary in Toronto in 1855.  He was wanted on one charge of burglary and one charge of aggravated assault in Buffalo in 1856.  There was a warrant for his arrest in connection with a robbery and homicide in Oneonta in 1858.  In 1859, he was wanted on three charges of assault and battery and two charges of armed robbery in Wappinger Falls, and was wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of a school teacher in Suffern.  By the next morning, he would be wanted for the murders of a young widow and her two sons who had lived in the house in Dobbs Ferry” (1-2).  Nice guy.  Just what the city needed  He quickly sought out some of the more corrupt people in the city, and was hired as muscle for a storekeeper who used his business to traffic in stolen goods.

The novel does have some dark humor.  A pair of con artists ply their trade with a series of stings that seem improbable; however, they worked nearly every time.  Dormarunno also sketches the women and their difficulty surviving in the city.  One place mentioned several times was “The Suicide Hall,” where desperate women went to end their miserable lives.

Corruption is nothing new these days, and I would venture a guess that it is as bad – if not worse – today.  Martine heard all the rumors of New York, and he left a trail of victims from Toronto on his way to New York to continue his criminal endeavors in what he saw as the best place to hide and act as he would.  He ends up killing a prominent citizen and his family before robbing them, and this became too much for even the most corrupt individuals.  An exciting story about our past, might induce some to take a closer look at the state of our country today.  5 stars.

--Chiron, 5/21/16