Fiction and Non-fiction Book Reviews Featuring the Artists and lifestyle of the Rat Pack Era

Tony “The Clam” Consiglio…

…is finally opening up to offer us an inside view Frank Sinatra — Tony’s best friend for more than 60 years.

Beyond being a “never in doubt” loyal compatriot to Frank, Mr. Consiglio apparently earned his nickname by being extremely tight lipped … apparently NEVER parting with any low-down on the private doings of Mr. S and his pack of rats.

At least that’s the story proffered in Franz Douskey’s interesting new book “Sinatra And Me: The Very Good Years” that released this week.

Randall Beach has a great book intro/review piece — Memories of Sinatra captured in best friend’s words — in the New Haven Register this week. Beach hits on the special nature of the Sinatra-Consiglio relationship and the process that Franz Douskey had to work out with Tony C. to get “the clam” to open up.

Tony strongly believed he was going to meet up with Frank in heaven, so even when “the clam” eventually opened up, he reserved the right to cull anything he ultimately decided should not be published … what a great friend.

Mr. Consiglio rejoined his best friend in 2008 with a clean conscience … I figure they’re hitting all the swinging spots with Dean, Sam and the gang.

Beach turns out a nice intro article…

…that sets the table well for what sounds like a great read on Sinatra — the man — and his constellation of friends, wives, lovers, politicos and enemies.

“Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years” sounds like a super-sized version of the Sinatra we glanced from Gay Talese’s elegantly insightful Esquire magazine article — “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (VS review here).

I have “Sinatra and Me” resting comfortably in my kindle for my holiday reading pleasure, right after I finish Randisi’s latest Rat Pack Mystery — “It Was A Very Bad Year” . (BTW the “Sinatra and Me” kindle price is only $6.99 — a huge discount off the $20 paperback price.)

Check out Randall Beach’s New Haven Register piece; if like me you just can’t consume enough Rat Pack lore, hit Amazon and take advantage of their unusually good kindle deal on “Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years”.

 

 

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Robert Randisi’s latest Rat Pack Mystery

… “It Was A Very Bad Year” — just landed on my Kindle.

As you probably know by now, I love these Rat Pack Mystery novels; and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this — the seventh in the series — since this time last year (check out my previous Rat Pack Mystery reviews here & here).

Randisi turns out fun, immersive, Dashiell Hammett-esk detective stories that are set in Las Vegas and Hollywood (mostly), and steeped in the milieu of the extended Rat Pack (Frank, Sam, Dean and their constellation of hangers-on) at the height of their careers and influence. It’s easy, fun reading … a great Sunday afternoon escape.

Invariably in this series one of the Rat Packers gets into some sort of trouble and Sands Casino pit boss, and friend of Mr. Sinatra — Eddie Gianelli — is called in to “do Frank a favor”. With Jerry — Eddie’s buddy … the very large, lovable, Mafia torpedo — along for the ride, things get interesting in a hurry as they attempt to make the problem go away.

This time ’round…

…it’s Joey Bishop’s wife that starts the ball rolling with a bit of a blackmail issue. But this is 1963 … and as the title suggests “It Was A Very Bad Year” for Frank Sinatra with the bombshell of Jack Kennedy’s assignation, and the kick in the gut of Frank Jr.’s kidnapping.

My book queue is full-up at the moment so I can’t offer a review until later this month … hmmm, maybe a fun T-day week read is in order! However, I must admit that the cast of characters arrayed for the 7th in the series doesn’t quite have me as enticed as usual — I much prefer seeing Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe or the core Rat Packers as the central characters rather than Bishop’s wife and Frank Jr.

That said Randisi has never failed to craft a fun, sexy, action packed “who done it”, with interesting tie-ins to the real happenings of the day; all generously larded with the ambiance of 60’s Rat Pack era Vegas … I have confidence that’s where I’m headed when I do start turning the pages (virtually of course) on the next Rat Pack Mystery — “It Was A Very Bad Year”.

I’ll let you know in a few weeks, but don’t wait on me! If your up for some swing’n, murder mystery fun, dive on in!

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Michael Feinstein…

…just released The Gershwins And Me: A Personal History In Twelve Songs … a very interesting book that chronicles the six years Michael spent with Ira Gershwin researching and cataloging the music and lives of George and Ira Gershwin.

Feinstein uses twelve songs (that he also performs on a CD that comes with the book), his deep research and anecdotes associated with these classic numbers to reveal the essence of his time with Ira, as well as the lives and music of the Gershwins and their foundational roles as composer/song writers in what has become The Great American Songbook.

Head over to NPR for the lowdown on Michael’s new book/CD, including excerpts from his recent Fresh Air interview … or listen to the whole Fresh Air interview that is available as a stream (a download or a transcript as well … very cool).

If you’re a bit on the wonkish side regarding The American Songbook and the great songwriters of that era (yeah, that’s me) then this is “not to be missed” stuff.

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What a fun read…

I want to follow up an earlier review of Robert Randisi’s Rat Pack Mystery novels, with a quick update and review of I’m a Fool to Kill You — the 5th book in the series.

Not being especially acquainted with Ava Gardner’s background, I thought I might have trouble connecting with this story — the previous four RPack mysteries from Randisi have placed the likes of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy and Marilyn Monroe at the center of the murder mystery story-lines — but I couldn’t have been more wrong. [Read more…]

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Since we’ve been talking about Crossover Artists this week, just for fun I am crossing over to the literary side to chat you up on Robert J. Randisi’s six-pack of Rat Pack Mystery novels.

Fun is definitely the operative word with these books … at least if you’re a fan of “the Pack” and enjoy fast breaking private-eye style mysteries. We’re not talking Pulitzer prize winning stuff here, but Randisi uses the first-person PI style to great effect and immerses the reader in the lively (hot!) action packed Vegas that was home to Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey in their hey day.

All the trappings are here with scads of Hollywood stars, show girls, booze and all manner of trouble for Eddie Gianelli — former Brooklyn CPA, now a blackjack pit boss at the Sands. Eddie finds himself in the middle of it when Jack Entratter asks him for a small favor … he just wants Eddie to help his friend Frank Sinatra out with a little blackmail issue!

Thats’s the thumbnail for the first book in the series — Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime — where it turns out Frank needs someone “expendable” to help Dean out of a nasty fix.  [Read more…]

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Could there be a more aptly named book about Dean Martin?


“DEAN MARTIN cool then, cool now” is a fun photo essay of how cool Dean Martin’s life was during the best of times. This is a combo photo album and dual CD musical tribute … let’s hit on the book first.

The Book…

It’s important to note that “cool then, cool now” is not a biography or expose; there are several books that fit that bill (try Shawn Levy’s Rat Pack Confidential), but this Dean Martin Family Trust effort is essentially a photo album. With the exception of a forward from Kevin Spacey and brief intros from at the beginning of each major section, the only words in the book are captions under the photos. That said, the writing that does appear is nicely done — just enough to lend some context, humor and poignancy to the great pictures. [Read more…]

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