Stories of Vigilantism, Stolen Art, and Family Life: Three Works from Upper West Side Writers
Speculation about the number of writers who live on the Upper West Side sounds like the premise of a skit Garrison Keillor might present on “A Prairie Home Companion.” There may be no way to find the answer, but from the famous to the unknown, there’s clearly no dearth of writing talent in our neck of the woods. Here are a few titles by current or former Upper West Siders that have come across my desk in the past year or so.
Dr. Vigilante, by Alberto Hazan, MD, provides wish fulfillment for law-abiding citizens everywhere: a super-hero doctor who treats patients by day and roams the city at night punishing the worst criminal element—those that prey on defenseless women and children. But Dr. Hazan’s novel is more than just a revenge fantasy, it also raises important ethical questions about retribution and whether meeting violence with violence is ever justified. A compelling romance between a fictional St. Luke’s-Roosevelt social worker, Sharon Reade, and the eponymous doctor, helps move the story along to the memorable—and ambiguous—ending. Dr. Vigilante is available on Amazon and barnesandnoble.com
Our Lady of West 74th Street, by Harry Steven Ackley, spans the ages from 42 A.D. in Ephesus to present-day New York, with stops along the way in Mount Athos, Greece, Vermont, England and the Adriatic Sea. Mixing elements of the spiritual, the supernatural and the technological—the early days of the Internet provides an important plot point—Mr. Ackley tells a complicated story of the loss and recovery of precious artwork saved from the Nazis and hidden in the walls of a brownstone on W. 74th Street. The attractive cover art—a photograph of the snow-covered angel atop Bethesda fountain—hints at just one evocative moment in the novel. Our Lady of West 74th Street is available on Amazon.
Blaustein’s Kiss by Judith Felsenfeld is a collection of short stories primarily about adults in mid-life and later, dealing with pleasures and problems that cross ethnic and religious lines, including infidelity, divorce, disease, complicated relationships with adult children and ex-spouses, aging parents, and intimations of mortality. Blaustein’s Kiss, the story for which the collection is named, is particularly well written. Told in alternating sections that reflect the point-of-view of the two main characters, the story recounts an incident in which Blaustein, who is grieving over the loss of his fellow nursing home resident (and lover) Ceil, makes a sexual overture toward Meryl, Ceil’s daughter. Both repulsed by, and sympathetic to, the man’s yearning to connect, grieving Meryl struggles with her feelings and how to put the incident in context. A full review of the collection is here at westsiderag.com. Blaustein’s Kiss is published by Epigraph Books and is available on Amazon.
Photo by JM.