HOLLYWOOD VIA ORCHARD STREET is the story of an aspiring young writer who finds himself mixed up with mob bosses in Depression-era New York City. The novel feels like a film produced during that time, right down to the OG slang and love-at-first-sight love story.
Charles Czerny desperately wants to break out of his humble abode on Orchard Street on New York City’s Lower East Side. Once the controlling old ladies in his life die off, Charlie goes from newspaper seller to star journalist, with the help of an Irish mob boss. But when the boss’s girlfriend becomes a “damsel in distress,” Charlie seeks protection from the Chinese mob. Charlie lacks the confidence to compete in the high-profile, hard-knock world of Broadway scandals and gangster bullets, so he creates a tough, street-savvy alter ego named Bulldog. But, despite a series of unbelievably lucky breaks, Charlie’s life isn’t complete until he unites Bulldog and Charlie as one.
Wayne Clark does an amazing job of conjuring the feel of Golden Age films. Charlie idolizes James Cagney and Walter Winchell, and the ghosts of Tinseltown permeate this novel. But the problem with some old movies is a lack of realism, thin characters, and improbable plot twists. HOLLYWOOD VIA ORCHARD STREET suffers from some of the same problems. An unfortunately named sidekick, “Thugsy”, is supposed to be mean mob muscle, but we never see him as more than doughy comic relief. The big, bad mob boss is foiled by a bad night at the casino and a long walk home, then placated with a “replacement dame” that both diminishes the role of Charlie’s love interest, Shawny Vox, and the female gender as a whole. And why does Charlie hate his mother so much?
Don’t worry about it. HOLLYWOOD VIA ORCHARD STREET doesn’t get deep. Wayne Clark does an amazing job of conjuring the feel of Golden Age films and, like an old movie day on the couch, there’s a quaint comfort when the real world waits outside and a breezy tale of dangerous guys and delicate dolls sweeps you away.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader