Book Review: Falling Into The Mob

Jan 4, 2017

It’s blustery cold, gets dark early, and has been a challenging political season – a perfect storm that suggests it just might be the time to settle in with good escapist fiction. Falling Into the Mob more than qualifies. It’ll make you laugh and hold your attention as you try to figure out how its skillful author will resolve the absurdities and threats surrounding his unlikely hero. Written by veteran journalist and corporate speechwriter Steve Zousmer, Falling Into the Mob is sure to restore your spirits and at the same time get you thinking about life at the top – the political top and the top of a major New York crime family.

When we meet Phillip Vail, a 59-year old divorced, mild-mannered guy living alone in Westchester, he’s out of breath, and out of ideas of what to do with his life. He’s been thinking about retirement or as he calls it the “transition to geezerdom,” even though his one remaining speechwriting client may declare for the presidency of the United States. For sure, Phil doesn’t want to exercise or go overseas on bus tours, but so far nothing grabs his interest. He’s feeling, he says, “superfluous, marginalized, pushed to the sidelines.” Then fate intervenes. Doesn’t it always. 

Late one night going home from the city and thinking he’s too old to run for a train, he does. And makes it just as the door closes and he’s lurched into an aisle seat, almost tumbling into the woman sitting next to him. Later, about to exit the train he finds himself suddenly thrust into a violent situation, as a group of thugs intent on trouble, start beating him up. And then decide to gang rape the woman. From what resources he doesn’t know, but Phil refuses to get off at his stop and leave the woman alone. In short order, he will discover she can protect herself. The daughter of a dying Mafioso boss who loves to quote Shakespeare, she’s called her mob-brothers who rush to the train in their pajamas and, well, take care of the thugs. 

The Mafia boss insists on thanking Phil in person. And that in turn leads to Phil’s being made an offer he CAN refuse but…doesn’t. What ensues is wildly entertaining and inordinately clever as plot complication. The Mafiosi here have studied The Godfather, and one baddy obsesses reverently over Putin as a role model. For all the wackiness, however, the narrative rings true as an insider look at good bad guys and bad good guys in law enforcement and organized crime.

Told in smart-alecky prose and filled with wit, humor and farcical flair, including an all-out fist and bullet fight in a high end East Side restaurant, Falling Into the Mob has enough blood and gore and political cynicism to make it seem plausible. If truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction, fiction can sometimes be more powerful than facts. As Phil says, “Why lose credibility by telling the truth?” Fall Into the Mob is a lot of fun.