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And while Barrett does an excellent job narrating Narrow’s Gate, the dialogue of this sweeping Mafia saga set in a New Jersey seaport literally and figuratively in the shadow of Manhattan springs to life thanks to actor Joe Pantoliano. Best known for The Sopranos and The Matrix, Pantoliano has long been a highly sought-after character actor, the kind of actor who completely disappears into a role. This unselfish approach to acting works perfectly in Narrow’s Gate since Pantoliano speaks for dozens of different characters and uses his entire vocal range. It also helps that Pantoliano grew up in Hoboken, NJ, and knows first-hand that piercing, aggressive, staccato tone made famous by many Jersey boys.
The characters in Narrow’s Gate cover a wide spectrum. There are the inseparable lifelong friends, Sal Benno and Leo Bell, who gradually take different paths in life with dramatic consequences. There’s also Bill “Bebe” Marsala, a singing sensation who sends girls into hysterics much like the real-life Hoboken crooner Frank Sinatra did decades ago. Everyone from the local Mafia to Bebe’s own power-hungry mother wants a piece of the crooner, and they use him for their own selfish needs.
Fans of classic Mafioso sagas like The Godfather will appreciate the epic sweep of Narrow’s Gate, and the thrilling performance by two accomplished actors working at the top of their game. And like many novelists who carefully craft fictionalized versions of the their hometowns, Fusilli knows the streets of his hometown of Hoboken like the back of his hand and makes you feel like you’re right there in the middle of all the pulse-racing action of Narrow’s Gate. —Ken Ross
A powerful epic novel in the spirit of The Godfather and On the Waterfront, Narrows Gate follows the lives of three men in the dangerous and seductive environment of a Mob-riddled New Jersey waterfront town before, during, and after World War II.
For Sal Benno, an errand here and a favor there draw him into the Mafia’s inner circle – and certain danger. His lifelong friend, Leo Bell, hides a deep secret as he informs on the Mob for the Feds – and desperately tries to protect Sal. Their fates become intertwined with that of a skinny crooner, Bill “Bebe” Marsala, who finds fame beyond his imagining – but who becomes an unwitting pawn in a Mob war.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Fusilli, the Pop and Rock Music Critic for the Wall Street Journal, is the author of the critically-acclaimed Terry Orr crime series, among other books. He was the project editor and a contributing writer for the Audible Original projects The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet. He was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, a place very much like Narrows Gate.
ABOUT THE NARRATORS:
Joe Pantoliano is best known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Ralph Cifaretto on The Sopranos and as Cypher in The Matrix. Joe is the founder of a non-profit organization, No Kidding, Me Too!, which works with the Hollywood community to educate the public about mental illness. He, too, grew up in Hoboken.
Joe Barrett’s memorable audiobook performances include John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By James on 12-10-10
Fusilli really brings the NY/NJ of the '30s to life. As a born and bred New Yorker, I really felt like I'd gone back in time. And the story's a great yarn full of texture... good guys, bad guys and tough guys. If you like the Sopranos, Mario Puzo or any writer of sagas who create a whole universe, you'll love this!
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
By F. Feelings on 12-19-10
Great Character-Driven Crime Epic
Those who have read Fusilli's Terry Orr books, are familiar with how he is able to create deep, compelling characters -- setting his mystery books apart from your average "pulp" stories. And with Narrows Gate's story covering such a long span of time, Fusilli is really at the top of his game in creating a credible and nuanced cast in this (audio)book.
The story certainly recalls some of the great, epic films set in New York City like "The Godfather" and Sergio Leone's fantastic "Once Upon a Time in America" (the original cut, not the American release). While Joey Pants's narrative can sometimes come off as "campy", especially for those that have watched him throughout his career, Joe Barrett keeps the story focused on the real drama including coming of age within the challenging moral fabric of mob-controlled Hoboken.
As a native New Yorker and an Italian-American, I generally approach novels like Narrows Gate very cautiously. While the drama inherent the Mafia construct attracts its share of writers, few can convincingly pull off the conflict without straying into your typical gangster trope. Fusilli, perhaps because he understands it personally, manages that delicate balance perfectly -- there's certainly enough Mafia action to keep you engaged, but it never turns into an over-the-top goombah fest.
I recommend the book for people looking for a compelling, well-written, character-driven crime epic.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful