Now a PBS documentary, this astonishing memoir of growing up in rough-and-tumble Jersey City “will steal your heart” (People) With deadpan humor and obvious affection, Five-Finger Discount recounts the story of an unforgettable New Jersey family of swindlers, bookies, embezzlers, and mobster-wannabes. In the memoir Mary Karr calls “a page-turner,” Helene Stapinski ingeniously weaves the checkered history of her hometown of Jersey City—a place known for its political corruption and industrial blight—with the tales that have swirled around her relatives for decades. Navigating a childhood of toxic waste and tough love, Stapinski tells an extraordinary tale at once heartbreaking and hysterically funny. Praise for Five-Finger Discount “By turns hilarious and alarming, [Helene Stapinski’s] book reads on the surface like something by Damon Runyon and Elmore Leonard, with a dark undertow of real-life pain and disillusion.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times “It’s a brilliant book, a darling book. It is the blessedly modest chronicle of a magical consciousness that seems to have been born pulling diamonds out of the muck, hearing angels’ voices in the fiercest thunder. . . . I adored every word of this wondrous book. Get it. Read it.”—Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun “In the tradition of . . . Rita Mae Brown and Amy Tan, Ms. Stapinski is an exciting writer, unabashedly candid, and at the same time unashamedly self-contained. Five-Finger Discount is a must-read.”—Victoria Gotti, The New York Observer “What [Frank] McCourt did for Limerick, Ireland, Helene Stapinski does for Jersey City.”—The Star-Ledger “Hugely entertaining.”—The Sunday Times (London)
A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy
Author: Helene Stapinski
Category: Biography & Autobiography
“A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies…Murder in Matera is a gem.” — San Francisco Chronicle "Tantalizing" — NPR “A thrilling detective story… Stapinski pursues the study of her family’s criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results.” — Library Journal A writer goes deep into the heart of Italy to unravel a century-old family mystery in this spellbinding memoir that blends the suspenseful twists of Making a Murderer and the emotional insight of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Since childhood, Helene Stapinski heard lurid tales about her great-great-grandmother, Vita. In Southern Italy, she was a loose woman who had murdered someone. Immigrating to America with three children, she lost one along the way. Helene’s youthful obsession with Vita deepened as she grew up, eventually propelling the journalist to Italy, where, with her own children in tow, she pursued the story, determined to set the record straight. Finding answers would take Helene ten years and numerous trips to Basilicata, the rural "instep" of Italy’s boot—a mountainous land rife with criminals, superstitions, old-world customs, and desperate poverty. Though false leads sent her down blind alleys, Helene’s dogged search, aided by a few lucky—even miraculous—breaks and a group of colorful local characters, led her to the truth. Yes, the family tales she’d heard were true: There had been a murder in Helene’s family, a killing that roiled 1870s Italy. But the identities of the killer and victim weren’t who she thought they were. In revisiting events that happened more than a century before, Helene came to another stunning realization—she wasn’t who she thought she was, either. Weaving Helene’s own story of discovery with the tragic tale of Vita’s life, Murder in Matera is a literary whodunit and a moving tale of self-discovery that brings into focus a long ago tragedy in a little-known region remarkable for its stunning sunny beauty and dark buried secrets.
The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York
Author: James T. Fisher
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Site of the world's busiest and most lucrative harbor throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the Port of New York was also the historic preserve of Irish American gangsters, politicians, longshoremen's union leaders, and powerful Roman Catholic pastors. This is the demimonde depicted to stunning effect in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) and into which James T. Fisher takes readers in this remarkable and engaging historical account of the classic film's backstory. Fisher introduces readers to the real "Father Pete Barry" featured in On the Waterfront, John M. "Pete" Corridan, a crusading priest committed to winning union democracy and social justice for the port's dockworkers and their families. A Jesuit labor school instructor, not a parish priest, Corridan was on but not of Manhattan's West Side Irish waterfront. His ferocious advocacy was resisted by the very men he sought to rescue from the violence and criminality that rendered the port "a jungle, an outlaw frontier," in the words of investigative reporter Malcolm Johnson. Driven off the waterfront, Corridan forged creative and spiritual alliances with men like Johnson and Budd Schulberg, the screenwriter who worked with Corridan for five years to turn Johnson's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1948 newspaper exposé into a movie. Fisher's detailed account of the waterfront priest's central role in the film's creation challenges standard views of the film as a post facto justification for Kazan and Schulberg's testimony as ex-communists before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. On the Irish Waterfront is also a detailed social history of the New York/New Jersey waterfront, from the rise of Irish American entrepreneurs and political bosses during the World War I era to the mid-1950s, when the emergence of a revolutionary new mode of cargo-shipping signaled a radical reorganization of the port. This book explores the conflicts experienced and accommodations made by an insular Irish-Catholic community forced to adapt its economic, political, and religious lives to powerful forces of change both local and global in scope.
A Tale of Ring Fixes, Race, and Murder in the 1920s
Author: Peter Benson
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Battling Siki (1887-1925) was one of the four or five most recognizable black men in the world and was written about by a host of great writers, including George Bernard Shaw, Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, Janet Flanner, and Ernest Hemingway. Peter Benson's lively biography of the first African to win a world championship in boxing delves into the complex world of sports, race, colonialism, and the cult of personality in the early twentieth century, beautifully capturing Siki's amazing boxing career and shedding new light on the scandal surrounding him. Book jacket.