Friday, August 23, 2019

Stool Pigeon (aka Shakedown Strip)

Author Louis Malley (1922-1962) was raised in the Bronx, Harlem and the Little Italy neighborhoods of New York City. Malley authored four gritty crime novels that paralleled his own life. As a former gang member, the books are written with a sense of authenticity. This is clearly evident with the author's 1953 novel “Stool Pigeon,” which was reprinted in 1960 as “Shakedown Strip.” In July 2019, Stark House Press reprinted the novel as the 21st paperback under their Black Gat imprint.

The book's protagonist is Vincent Milazzo, a Detective First-Grade investigating the murder of criminal heavyweight, Tony Statella. As a native of Little Italy, everyone knows Milazzo and his family, an aspect that has both advantages and disadvantages in his line of work. As a police procedural, the author weaves portions of Milazzo's personal history into the narrative. Milazzo's father was a shop keeper and often tangled with the mob. His uncle ran a factory and may have had ties to the city's underworld. His ex-girlfriend Gina was often close company for one of the city's biggest criminals, Rocky Tosco. Milazzo carries some heavy baggage with the badge.

Milazzo's focus is interviewing Statella's colleagues and cohorts, ranging from the higher echelons like Tosco to the gutter pigeons that talk for a nickel. With his partner Whiteman, the duo begins piecing together a dark web of pornography, prostitution and money laundering that seemingly connects to Tosco. However, Tosco won't talk and Milazzo starts to feel the pressure from his Chief. When Statella's murder suspect is revealed, it has a close connection to Milazzo's past and creates a fun plot twist for the reader.

“Stool Pigeon” is a good crime-fiction novel. While it bears similarities to the greats – Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) and David Goodis, it never quite reaches that skill-level. I think it is a fair assessment considering few authors could achieve that remarkable storytelling. The personal conflicts in Milazzo's life – the shedding of his wholesome identity – is probably the richest vein to explore. The blending of the character's inner turmoil with the investigation and media frenzy was a well-calculated mix that I enjoyed. Overall, you can do much worse than Louis Malley.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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