The Alex Cohen Boxset by Leopold Borstinski

Today, to celebrate the recent release of the Alex Cohen series boxset, Mandie is resharing her reviews of the three books, The Bowery Slugger, Eastside Hustler and Midtown Huckster. Thanks to Emma Welton of damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting Mandie to take part. Here’s a roundup of what the books are all about:

About the Book

Three decades in the life of Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen, as he arrives in the US and forges a life for himself and his family using the blood, sweat and tears of those who stand in his way. 

This digital box set contains the first three books in the saga of Alex Cohen’s life: 

The Bowery Slugger: When Alex Cohen arrives in 1915 America, he seizes the land of opportunity with both hands and grabs it by the throat. But success breeds distrust and Alex must choose between controlling his gang and keeping his friend alive. What would you do if the person you trusted most is setting you up to die at your enemies’ hands?

East Side Hustler: Alex returns from the Great War almost destroyed by the horrors he has experienced. When he is plucked from certain death by an old friend, he commits to making so much money he’ll never know that agony again. But the route to the top is filled with danger and every time he helps one of his powerful friends like Al Capone, he acquires more enemies who want to see him dead. The turmoil caused by the death of organised crime financier, Arnold Rothstein means Alex must once more fight for his life. How far would you go to seize the American dream? And could you protect your family along the way from the fellas who want to see you dead?|

Midtown Huckster: Alex runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends. If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?

Mandie’s Thoughts

The Bowery Slugger is the first book in the Alex Cohen series and although I absolutely love historical fiction, I will admit that this is not my normal read in this genre. I found that I flew through the book and I was hooked from the beginning. Alex Cohen is a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine and he immediately falls in with the gangs of the Bowery, working his way up the chain quite quickly. Never sure who he can trust often it is a case of do unto them before they do it to you.

Alex is quite a complex character as he is trying to support his family in the only way he knows how, whilst shielding them from what he is involved in to achieve this. Despite not being able to really speak anything other than his own language, Alex finds that hard work and his temper soon get him in a position of some standing within the gang. He has a problem squaring away what he does for a living with his feelings for a girl in the same tenement as him. I think he really wants to be with her but as he finds it harder and harder to escape the life he has made for himself, there seems little chance of them finding happiness.

The Bowery Slugger does not shy away from the violence that was almost normal during that time, but I would not say that Borstinski depicts this in any kind of gratuitous way. He has created characters that have a depth and attitude that make them seem real and you certainly get the feeling for life in New York in the early 1900’s and how hard it was to forge any kind of living if you were an immigrant with little command of the language of your adoptive country and where so many people with the same skill set were housed in a condensed area.

East Side Hustler see Ales returning from fighting in WW1 and struggling to adjust back into civilian life he is taken back in by his old boss Waxey Gordon and at the same time reconnecting with Sarah, a woman who he had started to form a relationship with prior to his departure. It is not long before he is back with his old crew and once again helping to run all the gambling and prostitution rings within the Bowery.

Alex has returned from the war haunted by what he saw and experienced and a little bit disillusioned with his reasons for fighting in the first place. As he slowly gets back to normal his ambitions surface once again and it is not long before he comes to the attention of some of the big players in the area. His talents are called upon both in Canada and Detroit as he helps to set up and maintain the alcohol smuggling rings that try to outsmart the prohibition officers and he rubs shoulders with the likes of Al Capone. It’s only when his family are threatened that Alex takes stock of his life…but is it all too late?

With the action taking place in the early 20’s we are now in the era or Prohibition and all that it brought with it regarding business in New York both legitimate and illegitimate. Like with The Bowery Slugger, East Side Hustler does not shy away from the gruesome gang violence around at the time, so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the book just wouldn’t be right without it.

Midtown Huckster follows Alex as he tries to try to stay ahead of the game in 1930’s New York. The story picks up just as prohibition is ending so Alex and the syndicate are looking to find new ways to ensure that their income does not diminish.

With his personal life going nowhere Alex now has more time to devote to his business interests, including being an integral part of the Murder Corporation, a group of thugs for hire that take on contracts to get rid of anyone that goes against the Syndicate. If this wasn’t taking up enough of his time, he also has to deal with the threat of Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey who has made it his mission to take down all of them one by one. This is one threat that Alex is not going to be able to deal with in his usual style.

About the Author

Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

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