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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

The Iron Will, by Hesh Kestin

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The Iron Will, by Hesh Kestin


The Iron Will, by Hesh Kestin

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The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats is about Jewish gangsters in 1960s New York City. A fast-paced, funny look at a time when America still seemed young and moving forward, it focuses on a smart, young man who is mentored by the gangster of his time.


The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats just may be the best book you never read. Think The Godfather on laughing gas, orCatch-22 with guns. It’s also as good a novel about life in the ’60s as you’ll ever pick up. Witty, sexy, thrilling, and all story. You can’t put the damn thing down. If you’re still one of the blessed who reads for pleasure, get this book, because it’s a pleasure to read.” —Stephen King

“This novel will make readers laugh, sigh, think—and remember. It is unequivocally one terrific read.” —Washington Jewish Week

“Consider the multitudes of stories written about gangsters and it’s fair to say the world of new fiction is lucky to count Kestin in its ranks. Here is a writer who knows how to follow his own advice, to write work that matters, and to craft it not in floral prose but literary iron—forty-seven jabs, not a word or action wasted.” —Fiction Writers Review

The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats is an unexpected pleasure, a light novel (a little zingy with its cliff-hanger sentences and a little pulpy with its sex scenes) by a smart writer.” —The Stranger

“From the author of the short fiction collection Based on a True Story comes a vibrant, hilarious addition to the genre of mob tragicomedy. . . . What ensues is a classic boy-meets-mob story: part noir, part comedy, part epic. Kestin’s richly layered characters . . . are straight out of Dickens; his vivid attention to the details of place, New York, and time, 1963, is like poetic journalism; and his snappy, concise prose and dialogue is on par with Raymond Chandler. Kestin zips through Russell’s sexual trysts, dealings in back rooms of Little Italy restaurants, and encounters with historical events like the JFK assassination with unflagging humor and insight.” —Publishers Weekly


An honors graduate of the Brooklyn streets, where he grew up across from the former headquarters of Murder, Inc., Hesh Kestin reported on war and civil mayhem in the Mideast, Europe and Africa, and—as European correspondent for Forbes—on global terrorism and its nastier counterpart, global business.