Skip to main content

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1. Anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance are alive and well. Could a Dorsey Hogan arise in New York City today? How would society deal with a contemporary Dorsey Hogan? Could we experience another Scottsboro Case?

2. If you were exposed to the kind of rampant anti-Semitism that Harry experienced as a young man, would you develop Harry's open-minded, humanitarian philosophy or would you simply be angry for the rest of your life?

3. Harry Leonnoff shows great courage in his response to polio. How would you deal with polio if you were in Harry's shoes?

4. How does one develop the kind of courage that Harry exhibits when he confronts Dorsey Hogan and the mob?

5. The Lower East Side slum in which Harry Leonnoff grew up is now being “gentrified” and the poor are being relocated to the public housing projects that were created by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Have we really dealt with the problem of poverty, or have we just moved it out of the way?

6. The legal system in Harry Leonnoff's time was corrupt, requiring a fixer like Harry to help those in need. Has our legal system improved, or is it still lacking? How would you improve it?

7. We seem to have an inordinately large number of psychopaths similar to Willie Malakow (Curly Murphy). Does this reflect a serious deficiency in our society, or is it merely normal for any given human population to have many violent criminals?

8. The political parties in Harry Leonnoff's day were run by cadres of insiders like Harry and John McCooey. How are today's political parties any different?

9. Harry and the Commissioner were married for almost fifty years even though they hated each other. Divorce seems to be the norm in today's society. Is it healthier for a couple like the Leonnoffs to stay together, or is divorce a better alternative? Has the institution of marriage as we know it become an anachronism?

10. Harry is advised to save his job by apologizing to Mayor La Guardia, but he is unwilling to do it. Was he wrong? Should he have apologized? Was Harry correct in standing by his principles or was he simply stubborn and unwilling to compromise? Should he have been more flexible for the sake of practicality and his own survival?

11. If you were Harry Leonnoff and faced with Willie Malakow, would you try to stop Willie or would you allow Willie to assassinate La Guardia?

12. Harry’s grandson tries to come to terms with his grandfather’s death. It is a problem that each of us eventually must face. How have you coped with the death of loved ones? How do you feel about the prospect of your own death?

13. Harry spends his final years languishing in a depressing public psychiatric hospital. How would you characterize the way our society deals with the problems of aging?

by Ed Brodow

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2007
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Outskirts Press
  • ISBN-10: 1432717030
  • ISBN-13: 9781432717032