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Archive: Other Books > Button Man, by Andrew Gross; 4 Stars

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Hahtoolah | 422 comments Button Man, by Andrew Gross (2018)

Button Man is a historical family drama about organized crime and the garment industry in the 1920s and 30s. The novel opens in 1905 with the death of one of the young twin brothers from the Rabishevsky family. His death left a pall over the family and haunts Harry, his twin brother, for the rest of his life.

The Rabishevsky’s were Russian-Jews scraping by in their new environs. After the death of their father, a few years later, the children are forced to find work. The novel focuses on Morris, the youngest child. He finds work at 12 years old as an apprentice as a cutter in the garment factory. He is ambitious and soon learns the industry.

Jump forward to the 1920s, Morris has begun his own small garment company. He enlists his older brother, Sol, to be the company’s account. They call their company Raab Brothers. They try to get Harry into the business, but he is drawn to the seedier side of the city and has fallen in with some small-time criminals.

At first the Raab Brothers is too small to attract the interest of organized crime, which by the 1930s has infiltrated the garment industry by controlling its unions. Morris fought the unions, knowing that he was able to pay his employees higher wages, and didn’t want to pay the “protection” to the criminal syndicate.

The novel also focuses on some real-life criminals ~ Louis Buchalter, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Mendy Weiss, Dutch Schultz, Albert Anastasia and others. While reading this book, I periodically stopped to do some fact checking. Much of what was depicted in the novel was based on actual events.

I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read. The final confrontation between Morris and the criminal element in the last few pages, however, was a bit too far-fetched, in what otherwise was a very believable novel.

The novel was based on his only family saga. His grandfather was in the garment industry and had first-hand experience in dealing with the so-called union organizers. This made the book especially poignant.

A Button Man is a hired killer. The title, thus, is a double entendre: It can refer to both a hired killer or the garment industry itself.

message 2: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy | 8542 comments Hatoolah, I am reading this right now! 35% through! Great review!

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