Friday, October 10, 2008

'The Starker' on the streets

Last Sunday a release party for The Starker was held at the Bowery Hotel on the Lower East Side.

If you haven't stayed at this unforgettable oasis of vintage character and modern elegance, I strongly suggest that you do so. Stepping into the lobby is the closest I have ever come to stepping back in time: the potted palms, dim lighting, dark wicker lounge chairs, and intricately tiled floors are all throwbacks to the grand hotels of 1912. The suite that I booked for the party had factory windows that presented a dazzling view of Manhattan. All told, it was a perfect setting for the celebration of a book covering the time period that the hotel emulated so beautifully.

October 5, 2008 was also the 96th anniversary of Zelig's death. Among the scheduled attendees were members of the Lefkowitz family, who had provided research assistance and moral support while The Starker was being written. My book gave them previously unknown insights into the life of a relative who'd been spoken about only in whispers, if at all.

Zelig's parents and eight siblings had clearly mourned his memory. They sat shiva for him. Then a wall of silence fell between that generation and the successive ones. I have concluded that there were two reasons for this. The first is that although he was a beloved brother and son, he also threw a faint shadow over the name of an accomplished and altruistic family: his father Frank helped found an association that assisted disadvantaged Jews with interest-free loans, and his brother Herman died after gangrene set into a wound received while participating in a rescue effort. The second is that Zelig's older nephews came of age when Jewish gangsters achieved unprecedented prominence in organized crime. Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Lepke Buchalter, and their associates would have looked favorably on a new recruit with blood ties to the legendary Big Jack Zelig, should one of the boys have been tempted enough by money and his uncle's glory to approach them.

The party went extremely well: members of the local media showed up, and Monk Eastman and Lollie Meyers even made a grand appearance! (Not really, but webisode guru Franklin Abrams donned a dark suit and hat to recreate a menacing Monk, while his steel-eyed buddy Ryan, who is also an accomplished hip-hop artist, turned heads as Lollie.) Cartoonist Nancy Beiman provided a caricature of Big Jack that was an instant hit, so much so that I could not resist reproducing it at the top of this entry. Well done, Nancy- I had the picture framed and it's hanging on my office wall as I type this.

In addition to throwing the party at the Bowery Hotel, I joined author Pat Downey in hurrying all over the city, visiting every Borders and Barnes & Noble that we came across and signing all copies of our books that each location had in stock. One assistant manager even came to the party for awhile!

If the time and resources are available, I strongly encourage any author to host a launch party for their newly released book. It's like throwing a rock into a pond: the actual splash is over quickly, but the ripples go on and on. I'm not just indulging in wordplay here: on Wednesday I received an email from a happy customer who bought The Starker on the recommendation of Diane, the B&N assistant manager who showed up. This person purchased the book on Monday, finished it in two days, and assured me that he was going to encourage everyone he knew to pick it up. Music to my ears that will translate into coins in the piggy bank. If I have to advance funds to host a party that has this kind of aftermath, then in the words of Mike Meyers, "Party on, Garth!"

No comments: