Billy Bathgate: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

To open this book is to enter the perilous, thrilling world of Billy Bathgate, the brazen boy who is accepted into the inner circle of the notorious Dutch Schultz gang. Like an urban Tom Sawyer, Billy takes us along on his fateful adventures as he becomes good-luck charm, apprentice, and finally protégé to one of the great murdering gangsters of the Depression-era underworld in New York City. The luminous transformation of fact into fiction that is E. L. Doctorow’s trademark comes to triumphant fruition in Billy ...
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Billy Bathgate: A Novel

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Overview

To open this book is to enter the perilous, thrilling world of Billy Bathgate, the brazen boy who is accepted into the inner circle of the notorious Dutch Schultz gang. Like an urban Tom Sawyer, Billy takes us along on his fateful adventures as he becomes good-luck charm, apprentice, and finally protégé to one of the great murdering gangsters of the Depression-era underworld in New York City. The luminous transformation of fact into fiction that is E. L. Doctorow’s trademark comes to triumphant fruition in Billy Bathgate, a peerless coming-of-age tale and one of Doctorow’s boldest and most beloved bestsellers.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

"Riveting...mesmerizing...incandescent ...unforgettable."--Time "Simply marvelous..."--Chicago Sun-Times

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the poorest part of the Bronx, in the depths of the Depression, a teenage, fatherless street kid who will adopt the name Billy Bathgate comes to the attention of his idol, master gangster Dutch Schultz. Resourceful, brash, daring and brave, the narrator understands that morality will have no influence in lifting him from his poverty; by hitching his wagon to the mobster's star he can hope to provide his gentle, mad mother and himself with a way to rise out of their desolate existence.

The astonishing story of Billy's apprenticeship to Shultz and his education at the hands of the mobster's minions is related by Doctorow with masterful skill, grace and lucidity of prose, inspired inventiveness of scene and true-voiced dialogue. Equally a rollicking adventure and a cautionary tale, both parable of the prodigal son and poignant coming-of-age story, it is mesmerizing reading that soars from the shocking first scene of a gangland execution through episodes of horror, hilarity and sudden, deepening insights. In his odyssey, Billy will learn about human nature as well as extortion and policy rackets; he will travel to the upstate rural community of Onandaga where Schultz will be brought to trial by special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey; he will be exposed to the world of Park Avenue socialites; he will acquire a gun and better manners; he will discover that the "glamor and class'' of a big-time racketeer is achieved through good business methods as well as violence; he will comprehend the seamy relationship between criminals and politicians, and he will fall in love.

Perhaps the most affecting example of the dichotomy that rules his life occurs when, after having witnessed the most vicious brutalities, he returns to the Bronx and goes shopping with his mother for his first suit. In this stunning, lyrical novel, Doctorow has perfected the narrative voice of a lower-class boy encountering the world (surpassing those of the protagonists of Ragtime, Loon Lake and World's Fair ). He falters only in a sentimental, almost fairytale ending that belies the harsh realities by which the narrative is propelled. But so fine and convincing is this story that the reader accepts in its entirety Doctorow's mythical vision, a dark version of the Horatio Alger fable related with a brilliant twist.

Library Journal
Having grown up poor but ambitious on the Bronx's Bathgate Avenue during the Depression, young Billy is now being educated in the ways of the world. But his is no ordinary education, for Billy is a gangster-in-training employed by the notorious Dutch Schultz. As the story moves fluidly from the violent underworld of New York City to the playgrounds of the rich, Billy falls for "the Dutchman's'' latest lady -- a beauty named Drew Preston who eventually reciprocates his youthful passion. Soon Billy is questioning the actions of the mob he was so eager to join as he seeks to protect Drew from its vengeance. Though at times 15-year-old Billy seems far too precocious, even for a streetwise punk, ultimately we are made to feel his apprehension of the world: that "large, empty resounding adulthood booming with terror.''

An engrossing tale that successfully re-creates worlds gone by in loving and meticulous detail. -- Barbara Hoffert

Library Journal
Having grown up poor but ambitious on the Bronx's Bathgate Avenue during the Depression, young Billy is now being educated in the ways of the world. But his is no ordinary education, for Billy is a gangster-in-training employed by the notorious Dutch Schultz. As the story moves fluidly from the violent underworld of New York City to the playgrounds of the rich, Billy falls for "the Dutchman's'' latest lady -- a beauty named Drew Preston who eventually reciprocates his youthful passion. Soon Billy is questioning the actions of the mob he was so eager to join as he seeks to protect Drew from its vengeance. Though at times 15-year-old Billy seems far too precocious, even for a streetwise punk, ultimately we are made to feel his apprehension of the world: that "large, empty resounding adulthood booming with terror.''

An engrossing tale that successfully re-creates worlds gone by in loving and meticulous detail. -- Barbara Hoffert

New York Times Books of the Century
...E.L. Doctorow's shapeliest novel....packed with complex and oddly beautiful street scenes, filled with grime and color.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307767387
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 193,573
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

E. L. Doctorow
E. L. Doctorow’s novels include The March, City of God, The Waterworks, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, Lives of the Poets, World’s Fair, and Billy Bathgate. His work has been published in thirty-two languages. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. E. L. Doctorow lives in New York.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Biography

E. L. Doctorow, one of America's preeminent authors, has received the National Book Critics Circle Award (twice), the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation For Fiction, and the William Dean Howells medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has also published a volume of selected essays Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution, and a play, Drinks Before Dinner, which was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival. He resides in New Rochelle, New York.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

Good To Know

Doctorow began his career as a reader for Columbia Pictures. He went on to work as an editor for New American Library in the early 1960s, and then served as chief editor at Dial Press from 1964 to 1969.

Critics assailed Doctorow for delivering a commencement address critical of President George W. Bush at Hofstra University in May 2004.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (full name; named for Edgar Allan Poe)
      Edgar Laurence Doctorow
    2. Hometown:
      Sag Harbor, New York, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 6, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      A.B., Kenyon College, 1952; postgraduate study, Columbia University, 1952-53
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2002

    excellent story

    I've only read two of Doctorow's books, this one and _The Book of Daniel_, and this novel is about as far from daniel as you can get (though both are excellent). It's an excellent story about a boy coming of age in the 20s and 30s as a sort of member of Dutch Shultz's gang. He learns lifes lessons from these men. Doctorow's prose is lyrical, a sort of irony when you put the beautiful language Doctorow uses with the violence and moral ambiguity of the characters. This is a great culmination of Doctorow's work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2001

    Fine Historical Fiction Set in the Early 20th Century

    An excellent tale of an aspiring young street tough's initiation into the dangers and excitment of the gangster life, circa the 1930's, this book captures its era and the personalities it portrays with an astonishing verve and veracity. The tone and 'voice' feel right, speeding along brilliantly, while the tale, of a young fellow's awakening from gawking naivete to a certain street-smart cynicism, rings remarkably true. If there is a reason for reading fiction today, BILLY BATHGATE offers the perfect example: it is a means for carrying us into places and times now long gone which still may resonate in the contemporary soul. While the hero is a trifle too cloying for my tastes and seems rather more inured to the moral chaos he sees around him than his apparent sensibility suggests he should be, this is, finally, a small fault to find with such a deflty turned tale. Progressing from a 15-year old loner on street corners to mascot of the Dutch Schultz gang, as they hurtle down the spiral of their final decline, the self-named Billy Bathgate insinuates himself into the precarious confidences of this remakably unstable crew. Schultz, himself, the erratic gang leader, has already slipped into a dangerous condition of paranoia and isolation and his hangers-on live from moment to moment in fearful unease, unable to check the excesses of their leader or to separate themselves from him. Billy finds their life oddly mesmerizing as he gets sucked into witnessing outbursts of murder and coldly planned gangland executions, until his role brings him into the orbit of a flighty, if beautiful, society doll. Then a burgeoning adolescent crush seems to awaken him to what he has done and, as in a dream, he begins to seek a way out. The ending comes swiftly and will surprise those who have not yet seen the movie (which captures much, but not all, of the written tale). And yet the wrap-up is a little bit of a let-down (rather too pat, actually) and I longed to know more of who and what this Billy turned out to be. Yet, on balance, this was a fine novel and evidence, indeed, for the solid reputation Doctorow has earned.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2009

    The finest American novel I have ever read

    A brilliant, mesmerizing tour de force.

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