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Like many of the Jersey and New York crime writers of his generation, JIm Fusilli is a master of mood and emotion. His books deal about the struggle to keep one's humanity as much one's life. With The Price You Pay, he found the right story to match his skills.

We see the world of seventies working class Jersey City through Mickey Wright Jr., the son of an overbearing cop, who lost his mother to cancer. He toils as an apprentice baker and attends college to someday go west toward a brighter future. Dad pushes him to work as router-typist in the offices of Impact Trucking, a Teamster shop with connections to the Genovese Crime Family. Seeing how the better pay will get him out of Jersey quicker, he takes it.

Initially keeping his distance, Mickey falls in with the drivers and other Teamsters. He collects for the football pool, keeps secrets, and gets favors. He realizes the many hijackings are inside jobs, but keeps his nose out of it. After growing up in a broken family, he feels like he has one. Things turn even better when he falls into a relationship with Debbie, a fellow student from a middle class life.

Things come to a head when Minnow "Duck" Duckett, the sole black driver at Impact, is hijacked. Unlike the other drivers, the hijackers rough him up and threaten his life. He tells this to Mickey whe the police come over to question him, then Mickey learns part of the Genovese crew did it and there is a discussion of finishing the job. Mickey keeps his mouth shit and Duck is murdered.

Mickey was seen talking to Duck and the police. Accusations and threats come at him. Dad warns him off. Then the FBI steps in wanting to talk. Mickey will have to make decisions he never planned for. If that wasn't enough, he begins to wonder how much his father was involved with the murder.

Fusilli uses the seventies era judiciously. He applies it more as a storytelling element than setting. Jimmy Hoffa is mentioned just enough to place the questionable company Mickey is in with The Teamsters. He applies the music of the time, particularly the R&B of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, to portray the shift in generations. A portable color T.V,, considered a luxury item at the time, makes a quiet yet important statement between Mickey and his father.

Jim Fusilli worked a job like Mickey's and uses those memories to great effect. he gets the working routine down as well as the personalities to create a society that stands outside our larger one. He follows the men from the office to the ba and how they shape Mickey.

These and other details provide a bed for Mickey's story. Like Scorsese's Goodfellas, it takes a longer but still entertaining time before it hits it's inciting incident to fully appreciate what he could lose, no matter what he does. It also helps build to revelations that could break his tender heart. As everything closes in, we see a fight for Mickey to keep that heart while developing a backbone.

The Price You Pay works both as a crime and coming of age novel. It examines race, family, changing generations, and loyalty in just over two hundred pages and keeps it personal. You can picture the slate gray sky pushing down on Mickey and feel the cold as coworkers, FBi, and his father come at him. Most of all, you feel for Mickey.


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