Thursday, March 05, 2009

An Overdose Of Death

THE DEATH LIST OF RICO SCALISI (Curtis, 1974) doesn't read like a typical men's adventure at all, despite the provocative cover and the book's numbering. In fact, Arrow is almost a supporting character in his own book. This is really the saga of Rico Scalisi, a New York hood who waits thirty years to gain revenge on the men he blames for his long stretch in the joint.

Arrow's backstory is richly delivered by author Walter Deptula here, so I wonder how much of the character's history was revealed in past novels. Franco Arronelli grew up in an Italian neighborhood of New York City and followed his father onto the police department. He was a good cop until he decided to keep a little drug money for himself instead of turning it in as evidence. His by-the-book father Tony Arronelli not only discovered Franco's indiscretion, he also turned him in and had him bounced from the force.

Now excommunicated from his family, Franco moved to Hawaii, changed his name to Frank Arrow, and went to work as a thief of sorts, stealing from the bad to give to the good. DEATH LIST finds Arrow returning to New York for the first time since his father disowned him to track down the man who shot Tony and left him in a coma.

The shooter is Scalisi, of course, and the novel's richest passages take place thirty years in the past, when Scalisi and Tony, childhood friends, split up when one became a cop and the other a hood. Frank's mixed feelings about avenging his father stem from his childhood friendship with Scalisi, who took a liking to the lad when he watched young Franco beat up a bully. THE DEATH LIST OF RICO SCALISI is a true epic filled with rich characterizations that nicely offset the violent passages, very much like THE GODFATHER.

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