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

"Not just another run-of-the-mill Mafia novel."--Small Press Bookwatch

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About Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook’s first book of poems, Far From Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008), won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize in 2007. It has been widely reviewed. A second book, Brushstrokes and Glances, poems about paintings and painters, is forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions. His short story, “Artists Hill,” adapted from an unpublished novel, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, The Ledge, The Same, Orbis (UK), poemeleon, Reed, Oberon and other journals. Ten of his poems and comments about writing poetry may be heard online at From The Fishouse, An Audio Archive of Emerging Poets.

About his novella, SARACENO:
In its first hardcover edition, review copies were sent out, warm reviews were written, but the book was never distributed because the small press that issued it failed. These rare copies are traded actively on the web, often at much higher prices than the original issue. It is now reborn as an ebook here at Smashwords.

See this Reader Views interview about the hardcover edition:

Here is what some reviewers had to say:

• "Saraceno is an electric tone-poem straight from a world we only think we understand. An heir to George V. Higgins and David Mamet, Djelloul Marbrook writes dialogue that not only entertains with an intoxicating clickety-clack, but also packs a truth about low-life mob culture The Sopranos only hints at. You can practically smell the anisette and filling-station coffee." —Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death and Life in New Orleans (Spiegel & Grau, 2009)

• "…a good ear for crackling dialogue… I love Marbrook’s crude, raw music of the streets. The notes are authentic and on target…"
—Sam Coale, The Providence (RI) Journal

• "Strongly recommended as a remarkably crafted tale."
—Midwest Book Review

• "This lyrical and violent, funny and sad, hot and cool novella haunts us. Try it.” —Ann LaFarge, Taconic Weekend

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Learn more about Djelloul Marbrook

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Darya Miller reviewed on 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 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 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 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 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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