We gave it an A
In his seventh Albany-set novel, William Kennedy combines Falstaff with Willie Stark of ”All the King’s Men” to create a truly memorable protagonist: Roscoe Conway, corpulent consigliere for the 1945 Democratic machine in the New York capital. In addition to a palpitating ticker, Roscoe is coping with an imminent mayoral election, a Republican-led inquiry into his party’s various rackets, and the sudden, suspicious death of his old crony Elisha Fitzgibbon. Not to mention a lawsuit by his ex-wife against her sister, Elisha’s widow and the unrequited love of Roscoe’s life. A 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner for ”Ironweed,” Kennedy is a natural storyteller whose zippy dialogue is worthy of Raymond Chandler. The fifth ace in this winning hand: rich local color, including cameos from historical figures like local gangster Jack ”Legs” Diamond and presidential wannabe Al Smith. As Kennedy writes, ”truth is in the details, even when you invent the details.” Start to finish, Roscoe rings true.