Billy Bathgate, by EL Doctorow *****

I have to admit, E.L. Doctorow is one of those writers whose work is a sure fire hit for me. I love historical fiction, and I admire great word-smithery. Doctorow is skilled with both.

This one is a period piece, a look at a hard time and the ugly risks that some folks took from desperation and perhaps a misplaced idea of what greatness might look like. To be sure, the government wasn’t exactly setting a good example; those who searched for less-than-conventional means were, in my view, right to reject the American Dream as a lot of smoke and mist. But organized crime is another form of corruption. Doctorow shows that pretty well too.

All told, it isn’t the moral I seek in a book like this, so much as a good story. Doctorow is a master storyteller, and the reader will always get his or her money’s worth.

I buy a lot of books used, but for this man, I pay full cover price and am glad it’s available. A treasure.

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