Saturday, April 18, 2015

Suzanne Corso’s ‘Brooklyn Story’ is a so-so book, but a decent premise for a 3-star mob movie

Guest Contributor

People love stories about the Mafia. People may love movies about the Mafia even more. Suzanne Corso is a screenwriter and it shows. In her debut novel, BROOKLYN STORY, for which she also wrote the screenplay, there are parts for the innocent ingénue, the spunky sidekick, the Italian stud, the drug-addled mother, and the grandmotherly character actress – to say nothing of all those Italian Mafiosi extras.

Set in the late 1970s in Bensonhurst, BROOKLYN STORY is drawn from Corso’s own experience and narrated in Runyonesque tones. (Kirkus Review, 12/28/10). While the dialogue is not always believable, Corso
captures the Brooklyn dialect to perfection. Early on, the narrator says, “Some people lived in the real world and others lived in Brooklyn.”

In this somewhat typical coming-of-age story, fifteen year old Samantha Bonti is the beautiful half-Jewish, half-Italian daughter of a bitter mother, Joan, who is physically destroyed by her lifestyle, drugs and booze. Her husband, Samantha’s father, is long gone, leaving her without financial support.

Samantha’s best friend, Janice, introduces her to Tony Kroon, a local Mafia wannabe who shares the mob’s ideas of how a girlfriend should be treated. He’s a half Italian blond hunk, all muscles and small waist. He relieves Samantha of her cherished virginity and yes, for those who dig sexual details, you will not be disappointed with her graphic description of the event or of Tony’s body. When she detailed the size of his penis, I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or be envious.

When Tony becomes abusive, Samantha struggles with whether to stay with her first love or pursue her dream of crossing the Brooklyn Bridge for classes at NYU and a new life as a writer.

“You’d better write yourself out of this story and into a new one fast.”

The most lovable character in the novel is Grandma Ruth, who is forgiving and understanding and supports Samantha every step of the way. She wants her granddaughter to find a nice Jewish boy and is not happy with Tony Kroon but thinks Samantha is too smart to repeat Joan’s mistakes. The best line in the book may belong to Grandma Ruth when she tells Samantha, “You’d better write yourself out of this story and into a new one fast.”

Then there is Father Rinaldi who happens to be around when Samantha drops into the church from time to time for spiritual guidance. Father Rinaldi tries to guide Samantha away from the wrong crowd.

Finally, there is Mr. Wainwright, the writing teacher in her school, who unfailingly praises her articles. He promises to introduce her to a publisher when she is ready, and actually does, according to Corso, improbable as that may seem.

With the encouragement of her grandmother, her priest and her teacher, she chooses to break the cycle of abuse but then discovers that she is pregnant, even though we are told that she has had sex with Tony only once. It is difficult not to sympathize with her decision to have an abortion.

Corso would have us believe that Samantha does break the tie with Tony, but cheats a bit when, close to the end of the book, she gives us a four-page summary of how Tony felt about losing Samantha. Corso uses Janice to tell Samantha what Tony felt, even though there is no explanation of how she knows this since Janice, we have been told, no longer runs with the mob crowd either. It appears that this was an afterthought, not a part of the plot.

Clearly, Corso intended the book to be raw and gritty, but it is predictable and riddled with stereotypes and one-dimensional characters. It is not well written and often repetitious. There are constant references to crossing the bridge (meaning from Brooklyn to Manhattan, the real world), repeated far too many times. I got it early in the story.

In all fairness to Corzo, BROOKLYN STORY does have its fans. It has many more five stars on Amazon than two star ratings.

BROOKLYN STORY is not a terrible book, nor a great one, but is good fodder for a movie. Let’s hope the movie takes out most of the references to “crossing the bridge.” I expect we can count on more Mafia violence than Corso has in the book to feed the public’s insatiable appetite for violence. In my opinion, movies seldom do justice to a really good book. Just put me down as one who is looking forward to the movie for improvement over this one.

BROOKLYN STORY (2011) is the first book in a trilogy, along with THE SUITE LIFE (2013) and HELLO HOLLYWOOD, which will be released later this year. According to Corso’s website, she is currently developing several shows for television.

Mary Law Meinelt is a published writer, actress, and “Sunday artist.” She has an MFA in Theater from UNC-G. She is presently writing a memoir as well as short fiction pieces.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished reading the three books in Suzanne Corso's trilogy - Brooklyn Story, the Suite Life, Hello, Hollywood. The books are not particularly well written. The characters are predictable, stereotypical and one-dimensional. The plot is contrived and the timing of many events is just too convenient. Yet, this author has received so much attention and has made a name for herself. I suppose it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time or maybe, it's whom you know. The author has a lot of connections for a small time Brooklyn girl. I'm still trying to figure this whole thing out since the talent has obvious limits but the results have a far reaching ripple effect.