Billy Bathgate

  • by E. L. Doctorow
  • Narrated by Mark Deakins
  • 11 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

To listen to this audiobook 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 best sellers.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material: Fred Ahlert Music Corporation and Henderson Music Company: Excerpts from the lyrics to "Bye Bye Blackbird", lyrics by Mort Dixon, music by Ray Henderson. Copyright 1926. Copyright renewed 1953. All rights for the extended term administered by Fred Ahlert Music Corporation for Olde Clover Leaf Music and Henderson Music Company, c/o William
Krasilovsky, Feinman and Krasilovsky. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Bourne Co./New York Music Publishers: Excerpt from the lyrics to "Me and My Shadow", words by Billy Rose, music by Al Jolson and Dave Dreyer. Copyright 1927 Borune Co. Copyright renewed, International Copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
The Songwriters Guild of America and CPP Belwin, Inc.: Excerpt from the lyrics to "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else", by Gus Kahn and Isham Jones. Copyright 1924. U.S. rights renewed 1980 Gilbert Keyes Music and Bantam Music.
Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.: Excerpt from the lyrics to "Limehouse Blues", by Philip Braham and Douglas Furber. Copyright 1922 Warner Bros. Inc. (Renewed). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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What the Critics Say

“A wonderful addition to the ranks of American boy heroes . . . Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer with more poetry, Holden Caulfield with more zest and spirit . . . The kind of book you find yourself finishing at three in the morning after promising at midnight that you’ll stop at the next page.”—New York Times Book Review
 
“A modern American masterpiece . . . Doctorow takes up the legacies of Fitzgerald and Cheever and adds to them a savage and erotic splendor of his own.”—John le Carré

“Indelible in its fierce energy, its relentless irony, its rawness.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Riveting . . . mesmerizing . . . unforgettable.”—Time
 
“Enthralling.”—Los Angeles Times
 
 

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Gangster story. Beautiful prose. The best

Would you consider the audio edition of Billy Bathgate to be better than the print version?

Yes - definitely.. I read several reviews of the print version on Amazon before getting this. It appears the print novel lacks punctuation in places, making it difficult to read. The narrator M. Deakins helps us out by interpreting the prose and making it easier to hear the story than to read it. Sometimes a novelist uses missing punctuation or excessive run on sentences to set the mood for the reader. Well, I don't want to be driven crazy by reading a book and trying to guess where a pause should be inserted.

Sometimes - like with Billy Bathgate, the Narrator helps us enjoy the book more than if we were faced with reading it and getting frustrated by having to decipher the prose.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Otto Berman is my favorite character in this story. He appears to take a true interest in educating Billy in the knowledge of being a gang member, tutoring him, but not taking advantage of him. Kind of a Fagin father figure.


What does Mark Deakins bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Oh yes. Definitely - see my response to the audio version being better than the print version above. Plus Mark Deakins is able to change Billy's voice at times, properly representing not only his mood, but also his maturity. For example, just the way Deakins has Billy say the word "Yes". It sounds silly, but in just the way Deakins has Billy say that one word he is able to convey innocence and immaturity.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Doctrow does a great job with the erotic scenes between Billy and Lola/Drew.

Also the final scene with Dutch and the mob with Billy is particularly graphic and well written - so much so - I could see it happen in my mind.


Any additional comments?

This is the first time I've gone back and re-listened to the book after finishing it the first time. I'm glad I did. Doctrow is a master of prose - and is able to convey hidden meanings in the verbiage that does not detract from the story telling - but like a great painting - you have to sometimes know where to look or how to look at a section to understand (or think you understand).

I leave you with one haunting question....Was Hines Billy's father? And did Dutch know it - and if so, when did he know it?

I'm sorry for one thing - that Doctrow has a limited number of novels, and I've almost gone through them all. :(

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- BarelyAudible "Texas"

Great prose

Doctorow died in July 2015, so I checked my records to see what books of his I had read and was surprised to find the only book I had read was “Ragtime”. It is a funny feeling; I could have sworn I had read “Billy Bathgate”. Now I have another reading project, which is to read all of Doctorow’s books.

“Billy Bathgate” is Doctorow’s eighth novel (1989). The story won the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction in 1990 and the National Book Critics Award in 1989.

The book takes place in the 1930s New York. Billy is a 15 year old high school dropout living by his wits in the Bronx. Billy is athletic and adept at juggling. He worked his way into the Dutch Schultz gang and is eventually taken on as a protégé by Dutch and his bookkeeper Berman. The story takes place during the decline of Dutch Schultz and his gang after the repeal of prohibition. As a horse person I enjoyed the part when they went to the races and horse action at Saratoga Springs.

The book is well written. It is in the first person narrative of Billy. Doctorow sent me to the dictionary a few times. The book is a historical novel. I had forgotten what a gift of language Doctorow had. Mark Beakins narrated the book.
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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-04-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio