Kings of America

Written by R.J. Ellory
Review by Ann Northfield

Nicky Mariani and his sister are from Corsica, and both are ambitious, full of dreams and determined to become the Kings of America of the title. Lucia has dreams of becoming a famous actress and attaining the Hollywood dream, Hollywood style. Nicky’s plans are more dangerous as he decides the only way for him to triumph is through success in the underworld, and thus he becomes a gangster. They hook up with talented boxer Frankie Madden, who has his own problems and secrets. Madden isn’t even his real name. He has arrived in the U.S. following problems in Ireland and faces the usual issues faced by immigrants at that time: how to make money and how to escape the demons of the past.

The era is the 1930s, and both the gangster and film world are growing immensely. Opportunities abound, and the three characters make the most of them. The novel deals with key themes such as questioning what people are prepared to do to attain their dreams, the consequences of those decisions, being the outsider and how far family loyalty will go. The book is an interesting blend of action and characterisation; the time period comes across well, although the middle could have been more fast-moving at times.