Reviews for Low Light (1st Edition)
Low Light sparkles!
As a history buff who has spent a good chunk of time in Atlantic City I couldn’t pass up a book about the birth of organized crime in New Jersey’s most famous resort. I am certainly glad that I did.
Low Light is an amazing tale that moves from Philadelphia to Atlantic City as photographer Al Rubin becomes “innocently” involved in getting the goods on a young J. Edgar Hoover. His opportunity appears to be an open door to a very desirable studio location on the famous Steel Pier. But the real benefit of Al’s activity is to Atlantic City’s politically connected power-broker, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson.
I must admit, I bought this new novel because of my interest in New Jersey and Atlantic City history. What I discovered was a well written and meticulously researched work that is a wonderfully delightful mix of very real people, some plucked from history and others created in the author’s imagination.
Reading Low Light was an experience akin to reading E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, Kevin Baker’s Paradise Alley, or Caleb Carr’s The Alienist – putting literature into an historical context seemingly lifted from the pages of old newspapers – delivering the “feel of an era” that most history texts simply don’t capture. The tale begun in Low Light (which promises to be the first of a trilogy) by Stan Cutler, captures the 1930s perfectly, and promises much more to come as Al and Ida Rubin and their daughters begin a new, more prosperous life in Atlantic City and to footing gained by Nucky Johnson in forming the future of Atlantic City.
Great read!- a page turner with interesting well-fleshed out characters. I particularly like the author’s handling of dialogue. These characters sound like real people. Cutler is obviously a historian at heart. He does a masterful job of setting the historical context for the events that unfold in Atlantic City circa 1929 when political bosses/racketeers ran everything in the city. Detailed, lively descriptions of life on the boardwalk provide a sense of place, with historical figures like J. Edgar Hoover and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson figuring prominently in the plot. If you are looking forward to seeing the HBO miniseries “Boardwalk Empire”, reading this book will whet your appetite!
Low Light is a fast-paced, well-constructed novel inhabited by interesting characters, brought to life in masterful style by author Stanley J. Cutler. Other reviewers have gone into the plot line at length, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that the story is compelling, and the era is captured beautifully, in a way that invites the reader into the world of 1929 Atlantic City and makes the visit feel authentic. After being introduced to Al and Ida Rubin and their family and getting to know more about the historical figures Hoover, Johnson, and Lansky through Cutler’s eyes, I’m looking forward to the next installment with great anticipation.
Low Light provides high entertainment.
I read “Low Light” after listening to a number of audio books and found reading it was like hearing a radio show. The characters are clear and distinguishable, each with their own voice, and the clarity of exposition is static-free. This is a novel that breathes life into our historical experience with a first-hand, well-visualized story.
If you can imagine playing poker where the chips are pieces of your own life then you’ll enjoy the rising stakes for the lead character. I like best that he is an ordinary guy who runs considerable risks and manages to overcome the odds surprisingly well. “Low Light” describes how a decent family man with mainstream morals develops when exposed to unexpected and dangerous outcomes. You’ll wish Cutler had written even more – which is the best indicator of a thumbs-up experience.
A fun read.
Low Light is a very entertaining and educational book. Stanley Cutler delivers a wonderful work of historical fiction that tells a great story about Prohibition era America. I love the characters and the storyline – Mobsters, immigrants and J Edgar Hoover in a dress! Awesome!
Low Light’s low life.
As a current part time resident of the Atlantic City area, knowing the history of how it came to be what it is (and was) has drawn my interest. Scalawags, corrupt officials, decadence, you name it, make a most enjoyable story and look at an era in a city I spent innumerable summers growing up in. Stanley Cutlers book touches on it all and lends a view of the history albeit through fiction with a cast of dysfunctional characters both fictional and real who you can only imagine turning the history into what the city has become today. Read it and enjoy.
By Erica B
A very enjoyable read. The story is set in a pivotal era in US history, both politically and socially and Cutler takes full advantage of the historical figures of the time to explore organized crime in Atlantic City and the rise of J. Edgar Hoover. Cutler’s writing makes you feel like you can hear the seagulls overhead at the pier and I was impressed with his ability to translate advances in photography to the average reader, it was clear that he has done his homework. I think one of the best compliments I can give the book is that it makes me want to learn more about “Nucky” Johnson and the other characters of that era. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the trilogy.
An extremely enjoyable read that evokes a wonderfully different era. “Low Light” opened my eyes to a past where organized crime, clever politicians and greenheaded flies all fought for control of Atlantic City. The past plays out through the eyes of a simple immigrant photographer who struggles to support and protect his family while being lured in by the glitz. I loved getting a sense of the sometimes sordid history of AC – I’ll look at the town very differently the next time I visit! And by exploring this world through a main character that felt very authentic and down-to-earth, someone I truly believed was slipping into this underworld with the best of intentions, I found myself sucked in myself and couldn’t put it down. A fine book to curl up with on a summer afternoon!
The best historical fiction must pass the plausibility test in that someone with knowledge of the main historical characters and situations finds it potentially believable. This book passes that test.
The setting is Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1929, when it is the “Sin City” of the nation and Las Vegas nothing more than a town in the desert. Organized crime controls the city, but it is well managed. Alcohol, gambling and male and female prostitution all flourish off the Boardwalk and beaches in a well-controlled manner. Al Rubin is a Jewish former boxer that has taken up a career in photography and he has been hired in an elaborate scheme to obtain compromising photographs of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Hoover is in the early stages of establishing his shadow empire of control over the political process and the crime figures of Atlantic City feel the need to obtain some counter-leverage against him.
By using his contacts, Rubin establishes a relationship with Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the man in control of Atlantic City and he is able to put up a stand on the Boardwalk where he takes souvenir photos of the tourists. Hoover and his henchmen learn of the plot to take the photos and that Rubin was the man behind the camera. This makes him a target, but his boxing skills prove more formidable than the opposition. The crime figures need to find a way to blackmail Hoover into leaving them alone without making it overt. Their solution is an admirable one, a form of velvet-gloved blackmail that leaves both sides uncertain enough to maintain the agreement.
After he died and people were free to speak their fears, it became clear the J. Edgar Hoover was a brute that was often in female attire. He dominated Washington like no other person has ever done, by applying his blackmail tools; he struck fear into the minds of the most powerful political figures. In this book, his secrets are used against him in a way that quite possibly may have happened, which makes it such a joy to read. On the back cover, it is stated that this is the first installment of a trilogy. Given the quality of this book, I strongly encourage Cutler to complete his plans.
By Grady Harp
Stanley J Cutler has written the first in a trilogy that will study the birth and rise (and continued rise!) of the interplay of organized crime and the government of this country. Many readers may not wish to become informed about the corruption that began during the Jazz Age in the form of one J Edgar Hoover, but Cutler makes his points so well that this book reads as much like a documentary as a novel. Hoover, as we now know, was a man of great influence and was able to thrash out at the ‘criminals’ he wished to select while nurturing some very heady controls over not only the justice department but also the federal government. How Cutler winds his narrative through the glitter and squalor of the Jazz Age as focused in Atlantic City by introducing an ‘incidental, ex-boxer photographer’ as the lead character is a clever novelistic thrust and one that makes this review of the beginnings of organized crime credible.
Reviews for The Subversive Detective
By Cathy Turkell
On behalf of the Temple Beth Am Sisterhood Mystery Book Club, I’d like to thank you for this month’s selection, The Subversive Detective. We will be thoughtfully discussing the book this coming Tuesday evening. Your book is loaded with fascinating topics of interest to our members. Because so many of our members are either survivors or children of survivors, I anticipate a lengthy discussion about what American Jews were experiencing during World War II.
Rich in character development, it was easy to embrace Dave, Al, Helen and so many others. You brought to life a group of individuals who were near enough to infamous historical figures to enable us to understanding the world as it was unfolding during that period. Thank you.
We’re not just any book club. We regularly connect with authors of Jewish-themed mysteries and/or thrillers. You are in good company with Reed Farrel Coleman, Daniel Silva, Cara Black, SJ Ruzan, Miles Corwin, many of whom we’ve met and discussed their works together. I anticipate that we will select more of your works in the future. Once again, thank you for this enriching mystery, and I hope you know that you have appreciative new fans in us.