The shmatte trade

Andrew Gross’s latest novel stars the rough-and-tumble Jewish gangsters of 1930s New York City.

January 2, 2019 20:29
4 minute read.
The shmatte trade

THE 1930S in Manhattan were rife with corruption and mob influence.. (photo credit: FAIRCHILD AERIAL SURVEYS INC.)


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Morris Rabishevsky, the protagonist of Button Man, Andrew Gross’s new novel, is a fighter who came up the hard way.

Early in the 20th century, after his father died, Morris dropped out of school and apprenticed himself at age 12 to a garment manufacturer on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He mastered every aspect of the factory’s operation. At 23, Morris opened a business with his brother Sol as his partner. On his first sales call, he threw fur coats over a partition to get the buyer’s attention. Morris chased after – and married – Ruthie, a beautiful, well-educated young woman from an affluent family. And in the 1930s, he refused to knuckle under to corrupt unions, gangster Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, and Murder, Incorporated.


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