by Lorenzo Carcaterra

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345404114
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/1996
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 186,746
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Lorenzo Carcaterra is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Sleepers, A Safe Place, Apaches, Gangster, Street Boys, Paradise City, Chasers, Midnight Angels, and The Wolf. He is a former writer/producer for Law & Order and has written for National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Details, and Maxim. He lives in New York City with Gus, his Olde English Bulldogge, and is at work on his next novel.

Read an Excerpt

Summer 1963
LABOR DAY WEEKEND always signaled the annual go-cart race across the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, the mid-Manhattan neighborhood where I was born in 1954 and lived until 1969.
Preparations for the race began during the last two weeks of August, when my three best friends and I would hide away inside our basement clubhouse, in a far corner of a run-down 49th Street tenement, constructing, painting, and naming our racer, which we put together from lifted lumber and stolen parts. A dozen carts and their teams were scheduled to assemble early on Labor Day morning at the corner of 50th Street and Tenth Avenue, each looking to collect the $15 first-prize money that would be presented to the winner by a local loan shark.
In keeping with Hell’s Kitchen traditions, the race was run without rules.
It never lasted more than twenty minutes and covered four side streets and two avenues, coming to a finish on the 12th Avenue end of the West Side Highway. Each go-cart had a four-man team attached, one inside and three out. The three pushed for as long and as hard as they could, fighting off the hand swipes and blade swings of the opponents who came close. The pushing stopped at the top of the 50th Street hill, leaving the rest of the race to the driver. Winners and losers crossed the finish clothesline scraped and bloody, go-carts often in pieces, driver’s hands burned by ropes. Few of us wore gloves or helmets, and there was never money for knee or elbow pads. We kept full plastic water bottles tied to the sides of our carts, the fastest way to cool off hot feet and burning wheels.
The runt of the litter among my team, I always drove.
JOHN REILLY AND Tommy Marcano were spreading black paint onto thick slabs of dirty wood with color-by-number brushes.
John was eleven years old, a dark-haired, dark-eyed charmer with an Irishman’s knack for the verbal hit-and-run. His clear baby face was marred by a six-inch scar above his right eye and a smaller, half-moon scar below the chin line, both the results of playground falls and homemade stitches. John always seemed to be on the verge of a smile and was the first among my friends to bring in the latest joke off the street. He was a poor student but an avid reader, a mediocre athlete with a penchant for remembering the batting and fielding statistics of even the most obscure ballplayers. He loved Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello movies and went to any western that played the neighborhood circuit. If the mood hit him the right way, John would prowl the streets of Hell’s Kitchen talking and walking as if he were Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners, proclaiming “Hiya, pal,” to all the neighborhood vendors. Sometimes, in return for his performance, we would each be given free pieces of fruit. He was born with a small hole in his heart that required regular doses of a medication his mother often could not afford to buy. The illness, coupled with a frail frame, left him with a palpable air of vulnerability.
Tommy Marcano, also eleven, was John’s physical opposite. He had his Irish mother’s carrot-colored hair and his father’s ruddy, southern Italian complexion. Short and flabby around the waist and thighs, Tommy loved sports, action movies, Marvel comics, and adventure novels. Above all else, Tommy loved to eat—meatball heroes, buttered rolls, hard cherry candy barrels. He collected and traded baseball cards, storing each year’s set in team order inside a half-dozen Kinney shoeboxes sealed with rubber bands. He had a natural aptitude for math and built model ships and planes out of raw wood with skill and patience. He had a sensitive nature and a feel for the underdog, always cheering on teams and athletes that were destined to lose. He was quick to laugh and needed prodding to loosen the grip on his temper. A botched surgical procedure when he was an infant forced him occasionally to wear a pad and brace around his right leg. On those days Tommy chose to wear a black eye patch and tie a red handkerchief around his head.
Michael Sullivan, at twelve the oldest of my friends, was quietly hammering nails into a sawed-down Dr. Brown’s soda crate.
The best student among us, Michael was a smooth blend of book smarts and street savvy. His Black Irish eyes bore holes through their targets, but his manner was softened by a wide, expansive smile. He kept his thick, dark hair short on the sides and long on top. He was never without a piece of gum in his mouth and read all the tabloids of the day, the only one among us to move beyond the sports pages to the front page. He was also never without a book, usually a rumpled paperback shoved inside the rear pocket of his jeans. Where we still favored the tales of Alexandre Dumas, Jack London, and Robert Louis Stevenson, Michael had graduated to the darker domain of Edgar Allan Poe and the chivalry and romance of Sir Walter Scott. He initiated most of our pranks and had a Cutting sense of humor that was doused with a wise man’s instinct for fair play. He was our unofficial leader, a position he valued but never flaunted and one that required him to care for and maintain our collection of Classics Illustrated comics.
I was busily applying biker’s grease onto two stroller wheels taken off a baby carriage I’d found abandoned on 12th Avenue.
“We need a better name this year,” I said. “Somethin’ that sticks in people’s heads.”
“What was it last year?” Tommy asked. “I forget.”
“The Sea Hawk,” I reminded him. “Like the movie.”
“Seaweed woulda been more like it,” Michael said. That was his subtle way of reminding us that we hadn’t done so well in the previous race, finishing next to last.
“Let’s name it after the Count of Monte Cristo,” John said.
“Nah,” I said, shaking my head. “Let’s name it after one of the Musketeers.”
“Which one?” Tommy asked.
“D’Artagnan,” I said immediately.
“To start with, he’s not a made Musketeer,” Michael said. “He just hangs with them.”
“And he’s only cool ’cause he’s got three other guys with him all the time,” Tommy said to me. “Just like you. Alone, we’re talkin’ dead man. Just like you. Besides, we’ll be the only ones with a French guy’s name on the side of our cart.”
“That oughta be good enough to get our ass kicked by somebody,” Michael observed.
“Go with the Count,” John said. “He’s my hero.”
“Wolf Larsen’s my hero,” Tommy said. “You don’t see me bustin’ balls about gettin’ his name on the cart.”
“Wolf Larsen from The Sea Wolf?” I asked. “That’s your hero?”
“Yeah,” Tommy said. “I think he’s a real stand-up guy.”
“The guy’s a total scumbag.” Michael was incredulous. “He treats people like shit.”
“Come onnn, he ain’t got a choice,” Tommy insisted. “Look at who he deals with.”
“Scumbag or not,” Michael said. “Wolf’s name would look better on the cart.”
“They’ll think we named the friggin’ cart after our dog,” John muttered.
“We don’t got a dog,” Tommy said.
“Okay, it’s settled,” I told everybody. “We name the cart Wolf. I think it’ll bring us luck.”
“We’re gonna need more than luck to beat Russell’s crew,” John said.
“We may lose this race,” Michael announced. “But we ain’t gonna lose it to Russell.”
“He’s always there at the end, Mikey,” I said.
“We always look to block him at the end,” Michael said. “That’s our mistake.”
“He stays away till then,” Tommy said.
“He’s no dope. He knows what to do.”
“Maybe,” Michael said. “But this time we go and get him outta the race early. With him out, nobody comes near beatin’ us.”
“How early?” I asked.
“Right after Tony Lungs drops the flag,” Michael said. “Near the hill.”
“Don’t worry,” Michael said. “I got a plan.”
“I always worry when you say that,” I said.
“Relax,” Tommy said, putting the final paint strokes on the wood. “What could happen?”

Customer Reviews

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Sleepers 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot get this book out of my head. It has touched me to my core. As a mother it has shaken the trust you put in others who have authority. These were just innocent little boys making the best of a life they were dealt... then all of a sudden they had their innocence brutally stolen and were forced into understanding the cruelties of the human being long before their times. There really isn't a word to describe how this book affected me. Absolutely awestruck.
gambinfamily More than 1 year ago
I watched the movie before I knew there was a book, and the movie was so good I searched for the book. Sleepers was both a great movie and book. Fact or Fiction Sleepers is the realization of how the innocence of children is taken way everyday, sad and true fact.
rafalweb More than 1 year ago
The book is powerful, fascinating and disturbing. Very hard to put down. Recommended, with one word of warning: Don't take this as a pristine work of non-fiction. After reading it for a while, I had the nagging feeling that, at the least, some "creative" license was taken with events that the author claims to have occurred. The events in the book just didn't strike me as realistic enough to be blindly trusted as documentary. I did research, and eventually found that numerous facts in the book never happened, or happened very differently. For instance, there is no record, anywhere, of any murder which resembled the killing of Sean Nokes, nor is there any record of the trial described in the book. So, if it did happen, the records have been well hidden away somewhere. So my advice to readers is, read the book, b/c it will hold your interest, but don't fully trust the author's assertion that it is true. Too many questions have been raised about it. Enjoy it as a possible work of "partial" fiction. Recommended with the aforementioned reservation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. It was amazing, but so sad to know that stuff like that happens. Even more sad that the kids are too scared and ashamed to say anything. Unrelated but still worth mentioning..... Some people have been saying that this story isnt true, even thought it is listed as true crime because there is no evidence that anything like that occured in the places where he said it, and there is no record of that in those places.... well for those who obviously didnt know, he tells you that he changed people's names and the places to protect the people in his book. Just trying to explain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. It's very well written and put together well, with rich detail and it definitely portrays the life, tragedy, freedom and victory of what life can deal to someone. I highly this book. Enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. A great book on friendship, survival and their enemies. I cried, laughed and cheered for them.
t1bnotown on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This was the book that members of my ninth grade English class in my group for "coming of age" project chose. It was certainly interesting, though not something I would have chosen (it has more action/adventure than I go for). It did probably broaden my worldview at the time.
raggedtig on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Very disturbing story based on Carcaterra's life while attending Catholic school. Apparently the sexual abuse has been going on for quite some time. The movie does this book no justice at all. A must read!!!
CarlaR on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I have to say that I liked this book. It was not one of those books where I know everything that's going to happen before it does. A pretty good "coming of age" story about growing up in Hell's Kitchen, and how those with the same life experience while growing up can turn out to be vastly different adults. Not only did I like the book, but I also enjoyed the movie, and even have a copy in my own video library.
Anonymous 9 months ago
So very powerful, extremely emotional but overall enlightening.
WorldReader1111 More than 1 year ago
I liked 'Sleepers,' for the most part. The book is easy to read, with a simple, straightforward narrative that doesn't get in the way of things. In addition to poignant descriptions and an engaging format, some good, witty humor is threaded through the text, as to lend a bit of flare. Though, there is one thing I didn't like about the writing: some parts are so dramatized, with obvious "liberties" taken (or so I read it, at least), that I had a hard time reading it as nonfiction. Consequently, rather than taking 'Sleepers' as a purely factual account, I found myself regarding it more as a subjective, "editorialized" version of the events in question (perhaps reflecting the author's own personal perceptions, to degrees unknown). This proved to be not too big a problem, but, with my desiring a strictly objective recounting of things when reading nonfiction, I did draw less from the book than I would have otherwise. (Of course, if you're looking for something more along the lines of entertainment, such a writing style would be a plus, given its improved readability and sensational element.) However, its subjectivity notwithstanding, 'Sleepers' still manages to be a satisfying and valuable read, and on multiple levels. The book is, first, a gripping, well-rounded illustration of mid-century urban America, from its biographical profile of the life and times of a man growing up in this challenging environment, to mapping the complicated social- and political ecology that governed West Side NYC at the time, to the even rockier depths of survival in a juvenile facility. Furthermore, we are allowed a rare glimpse into the raw, elusive underbelly that lay beneath these existential territories, touching on the subtle, hidden-in-plain-sight savagery that so often inhabits the skin of the "civilized world." There is much to be learned from this aspect of the book alone, from a human perspective as much as anthropological one. Additionally, 'Sleepers' presents an equally rich psychological study. Again, much is touched upon: the mechanics of our social charades, from dominance and power struggles to manipulation and the leveraging of sex for control; the complicated motives of social loyalties, geographical bias, and other perplexing behavior; the traumatized mentality, and how it acts as an originator of need; the fallacy of one-sided thinking, and the self-contradiction that often results. Along the way, we are forced to confront the deep, fundamental flaws which undermine our present-day justice system; namely, that agenda, opportunism, and other psychological prejudices can tip Justice's scales, as to subvert even the most legitimate-seeming trial. But, if nothing else, 'Sleepers' is highly valuable as an object lesson: in the consequences of disregarding the Golden Rule of "Do Unto Others." Here, we are shown the many problems that can arise from acting on self-interest and blind loyalty rather than principle, unconditional equality, and compassion (or, at least, that's how the book came off to me). All in all, 'Sleepers' has much to offer, from education to insight to heartfelt storytelling (as well as some sobering forays into the grittier regions of the soul). Upon finishing it, I felt enriched, knowing the world and my fellow man a little better (and, myself). My sincere thanks goes out to this book's author, subjects, and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work and service.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad topic but good story. Hopefully these places do not exist today. All these boys lost their youth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To down load garbage' perverts seem to have a larger book budget than the average nook reader who is selective but often misled by nook blurbs as to contents and length. M.A.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dduck More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down. To the previous review...I work in a residential home directly with kids with significant trauma histories and yes stuff like that happens, only with family members and people the kids know. Regardless of how the boys lives turned, I was rooting for them all they way. Friendship is about looking deep into some ones soul and seeing who they really are, regardless if their actions and this book let me see that. Whether it's fake or "fluffed up" I really enjoyed each of the characters. If you are in social work or social services this is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book i have read so far this year and i have read a lot of book some parts hard to read never seen the movie planning to watch it soon but the book is always better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This may be one of my all-time top five books. I'm not naive enough to believe that it's true, but I don't really care: it's written in a beautiful, lyrical style completely enchanted me. The story is interesting enough in itself to make the book worth reading as a fictions piece, but the author's prose is captivating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough about this book ! I am a very voracious reader so am therefore somewhat jaded. I consider this to be one of the best books that I have ever read. I would recommend it to anyone that has a heart. It is very well written as well as being on a subject that desperately needed to be exposed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept me interested the whole time! I highly recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had seen the movie when it first came out and just finished reading the book. I cannot imagine what these boys went through. Mr. Carcaterra did a fantastic job telling this story. Like alot of other people, I believe this story to be 100% true. It was truly brilliant how they were able to get justice. I highly recommend reading this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really touched me.. what these boys went through.. i feel they did nothing wrong. Well written. Bn