(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

William J. Caunitz was a detective lieutenant in the NYPD for more than twenty years, and PIGTOWN is his sixth novel of greed, sex, and murder in New York City. Caunitz’s narratives always move fast, his dialogue always flows in a gratifying street-smart idiom, and his plots always include background color on some topic most people have never thought about. PIGTOWN, for example, features absorbing lectures on the cheese industry and advanced fingerprint technology.

Beansy Rutolo is an aging no-account who has had a long run on the Mafia wiseguy circuit, and his corpse makes a tight fit for the refrigerator in which the Seven One Detective Squad finds it. Lieutenant Matt Stuart, whip of the Seven One, takes a personal interest in Beansy’s premature refrigeration, for Beansy had years earlier saved Matt’s cop dad from a set-up by some men in blue who had gone bad.

The bad guys are wonderfully sinister, and they commit splendid carnage on each other’s bodies. Isaac Ham and his Rastafarian troops provide exactly the menace readers hope for, Frankie Bones incarnates living evil, and the voyeur Daniel Lupo presides over a crime empire coated with the slime of police corruption.

A serious theme intrudes on the sheer pleasure of observing this drama of wickedness. Readers learn that in the good old days of 1963, when the Five Families and many high-ranking cops on the take wanted to get in on the big drug money, they put an honest cop named Frank Serpico into a notoriously corrupt police division in the Bronx and thereby created a diversion that ultimately cleared the way for the city’s drug supermarkets. Who can know? But who would doubt?