The Bookworm: Moving on and moving up
“Should I Still Wish: A Memoir”
By John W. Evans
c. 2017, University of Nebraska Press
$19.95, $29.95 Canada, 139 pages
One foot in front of the other. That’s best for moving forward: one foot, then the next, baby steps or great big strides, slow and steady or as fast as you can. It may help you run from something or, as in the new book “Should I Still Wish” by John W. Evans, it could move you toward something, too.
Widower. In the months after his wife, Katie, died violently, John Evans hated that word. He told people that it was not “distinguished,” but the truth was that the word indicated a finality he wasn’t ready to accept.
And yet, there he was, just over a year after Katie’s death, finally on his way from Indiana to Montana where he’d rendezvous with Cait, whom he’d met at the same time he’d met Katie years before. They were going to California and he was nervous, but hopeful; moving on with life, but not quite solid.
He knew he needed a new beginning, but he couldn’t stop remembering. Cait had known Katie; they’d all been friends once. She’d been at Katie’s funeral. Would that matter? Was she someone who could “welcome my grief and look also with me” past whatever pain remained?
Old haunts haunted him on the trip – but so did coincidences that couldn’t be ignored, ones that seemed Katie-sent. As he and Cait listened to Katie’s music up the mountains and down, they made their own memories.
They talked, fell in love, later married, later became parents. Katie stayed close.
“[W]hat place exactly was I keeping for her in this newly remarried life?” Evans asks. How was it that he could remember little things, but not the sound of her voice? Would Katie like his children, or the person he’d become? What would she be like now, if she’d lived? As each anniversary of her death passed, he wondered if he would ever get over the feeling of “uncertain” loss ...
Imagine hands clasp in prayer, fingers intertwined and pointing every which way, forward and backward and both at the same time.
That’s grief – and that’s what it’s like to read “Should I Still Wish.”
Don’t expect a linear s
tory, in other words: author John W. Evans makes this tale circular and brief, swirling and perfectly capturing the shaky-ground feelings that lie alongside loss, deftly portraying the guilt that comes from healing-but-not-quite, and wondering if moving on is possible or if lingering is right. Yes, we eventually do get closure but it comes, like clasped fingers, in a melding of right and left, old life and new.
This book is somewhat of a sequel and seems to presume that readers have read the previous book. If you haven’t, there’s missing information that’s integral to the story (specifically: how Katie died) and it would have been nice to know sooner, rather than at the end of the tale. Look it up or wait for it, but don’t let it deter you from reading this beautiful book. Start “Should I Still Wish,” and you’ll find it very moving.
“Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City, Was Extorted Out of Millions by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia informants in FBI History”
By Michael D. Blutrich
c. 2017, BenBella Books
$26.95, $37.50 Canada; 328 pages
“I’m telling!” If you were ever a child, that whine is familiar to you. It indicated a tattletale nearby, a secret spilled to mom, and somebody about to be in trouble.
Whatever. Annoying as it was, “I’m telling” never hurt much more than your pride then. Today, as in the new book “Scores” by Michael D. Blutrich, serious snitching could get a guy killed.
How does it happen that a gay man would own a mainstream strip club? It was, says Michael Blutrich, a long story that started after he opened his law firm and, in search of an investment, purchased an L.A. nightclub. Believing that the success of his California business could transfer to New York, he recalled the excitement of a private banker who claimed he’d always wanted to own an upscale strip club.
Being a closeted gay man, that wasn’t exactly Blutrich’s dream but the idea niggled at his brain. Partnering with the banker and others, they began looking for a building and batting ideas around.
Scores was born, with a planned opening on Halloween night, 1991.
“And then the mafia arrived.”
In order to operate, the partners were told, they would need “protection,” which would involve some of New York’s biggest mafia families in a sort of symbiotic relationship, plus a grand-a-week kickback. It would also involve skirting Big Apple laws for as long as possible, because Scores would be the city’s “first and most notorious upscale gentlemen’s club” and there were rules against what a customer would find inside those Upper East Side doors.
Because of the novelty and the entertainment it offered, Scores was successful – more successful than Blutrich had ever thought. He rode a wave that made him a rich and semi-famous man – at least, until the FBI caught up with him and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse …
And, of course, that’s far from the end of the tale. What’s left to say about “Scores” involves rompishness, humor, surprisingly heart-pounding chapters, a little “Goodfellas,” a little “Boogie Nights,” and quite a bit of fun.
That last appeal comes in the form of overgrown tales, courtesy of author Michael D. Blutrich’s memories of what happened inside his gentlemen’s club every evening for nearly five years. Readers who remember the most infamous discos of the ‘70s will find something familiar in that, updated to the 1990s but no less outrageous.
But this book isn’t all party: Blutrich delightfully drops names, including many you’ll recognize, but he’s deadly serious when he switches his tale from wild to wired, from dancing to danger. Indeed, though you know the risk has largely passed – he wrote a book, after all, right? – the whole of the story is one you’ve got to read.
There’s an amazingly
small amount of profanity and prurience inside this book; it’s there, but not as much as you’d think there’d be, given the subject matter. That restraint uniquely serves to enhance this book, and heightens the story’s value. And that makes “Scores” a book you’ll want to tell everyone about.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.