Rated 5.00/5 based on 5 reviews
Not many writers about the Mafia listened to the notorious Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, and Joey Adonis drinking marsala and chatting in a kitchen, but Djelloul Marbrook did and celebrates it with a poet’s ear in this haunting tale of redemption.

"Not just another run-of-the-mill Mafia novel."--Small Press Bookwatch More
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About Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers, Algeria, the son of an Algerian father and American mother. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip, and Manhattan, later working as a journalist for the Providence (RI) Journal, the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Washington Star, and daily newspapers in northeast Ohio and northern New Jersey. He is the author of eleven books of fiction and fourteen of poetry. His poetry and fiction have also been widely published in journals and anthologies. His writing has won the 2007 Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize for Far From Algiers (2008, Kent State University Press), the 2008 Literal Latté fiction award for “Artist’s Hill”—an excerpt from Crowds of One (2018, Leaky Boot Press), volume two of the Light Piercing Water trilogy, and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry. Djelloul maintains a popular and vibrant presence on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Now retired, but still very active as a writer, poet and photographer, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn, from where he also looks after the estates of his mother and aunt—both of whom were noted artists.

Learn more about Djelloul Marbrook

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Reviews of Saraceno by Djelloul Marbrook

Darya Miller reviewed on Nov. 16, 2010

The characters and their story stay with you long after you put the book down, which is very hard to do once you've started reading. The language is so beautiful that I found myself rereading passages for the beauty of the language.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Dan Baum reviewed on Nov. 16, 2010

Djelloul Marbrook has managed to take the oldest of tropes -- the Mafia hitman story -- and make it both fresh and literary. At first, Saraceno is reminiscent of the dialogue-dependent mob fiction of George V. Higgins. Its loopy dialogue is so stunningly realistic you realize how lame and formulaic most fiction dialogue really is. But Marbrook goes further, and makes you understand how the Mafia thug is the inheritor of an ancient -- oddly proud tradition -- that Orwell would have recognized as his "rough men." Violent men have been with us since prehistory, and in Marbrook's hands, theirs is an strangely noble profession. These are smart guys, for all their blunt manners and bloody knuckles, attached to their violent forbears by bonds they themselves only faintly understand. I loved this book, not only for the characters I cared about and dialogue that made me bounce in my chair, but for the fresh eyes it gave me not only for reading violent fiction but for understanding the violence that surrounds us. Truly remarkable, poetic fiction.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Tom Hester reviewed on Oct. 29, 2010

America has given the world three great literary/film genres: the cowboy six-shooter, the gangster story and the detective.

Two of the three are exhausted, like peelings from a squeezed orange. The third--the detective--is on a respirator.

How fascinating it is, then, to experience how a poet can transform the gangster story, being even more subtle and oblique than E.L. Doctorow in Billy Bathgate.

The ironies--a hit-man autodidact, absorbing civilization from a victim of Hitler's concentration camps, and a college educated member of the Altobene crime family staggering through an identity crisis--make Saraceno an intellectual puzzle.

That our hit man uses an exploding toilet to wreak revenge on an enemy and traces his Saracen roots on a map of Europe, while the author muses about a 16th century Italian heretic and the hit man's best friend, Matt, retains an artist who quotes Auden as he completes the heavenly engine on Matt's bedroom ceiling should keep any refugee from the Godfather and the Sopranos fully engaged.

Saraceno's mysteries are life's mysteries, but Saraceno's language does not wield life's worn words. "Luck has bad breath," the narrative begins. "She wasn't happy, but she was better than unhappy," it concludes about Billy's lover. "The good he did was soiled by circumstance," it concludes about the trapped Matt. Would that poets could tell all of our stories.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Patricia Divine reviewed on Oct. 28, 2010

Il Saraceno. That's what the Don called Billy: Menacing, enigmatic, and deadly; outcast and marauder; a man of the shadows. “He was the man you had to meet, desperately didn’t want to meet, or was the last man you did meet.” And yet…and yet. Deep inside this psychopathic killer is the prima materia for profound transformation forged in the fires of Hells Kitchen and the rooftop rose garden of Hettie Warshaw. Through Marbrook’s deft, alchemical hand, we enter into synchronicities that bring forth Billy’s extraordinary gifts for learning, honor, friendship, and finally love. Finding himself in the crosshairs of friendship, he risks all, as do Hettie Warshaw, Matthew Pieto, and Connie Larimer. Perhaps only those who see their shadow in the mirror can risk the vulnerability of intimacy and find redemption. In this beautifully crafted novella, magic happens in the space between moments when such decisions are made.
- Patricia Divine
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Craig Perkins reviewed on Oct. 26, 2010

First, I almost never read fiction. Call me a snob or a person who likes the real world. Whatever the reason, I do not read fiction. Boy, am I glad I made an exception for this book. I have known the author’s wonderful wife and the author. I read it out of respect for the Marbrooks. Again, I am so happy I did.

Del writes with the eye towards detail and with a gift for language. He paints a wonderful picture of the underbelly of New York and captures the “character” of his characters. The author flushes the people in the novel into multidimensional characters.

For me, the pleasure of this work is the relations (Billy & Matte; Billy & Hattie). It is fascinating to see how friendships act like iron sharpening and shaping iron. The friendships are a critical element in shaping Billy and Matte’s personality and worldview.

If you love novels that have character development over time, you will absolutely love this work. I certainly did.

Craig A. Perkins
(reviewed the day of purchase)
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