Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

by Jim Testa

I knew a guy in high school named Jon D’Amore. He lived in Secaucus, I was in Weehawken, but our two towns shared the same high school. I didn’t know Jon well; we might have had gym class together or something, but we ran in different circles. I was nerd – chess team, yearbook, voracious reader, closet folkie – and Jon was a rocker. He had the hair, the John Lennon hippie sunglasses, girlfriends. There was another difference too. My grandparents came from the Northern; we ate risotto instead of manicotti and had roast beef after Sunday mass. Jon’s family came from Southern Italy, and they were connected.

Fast forward a decade or three and I discover that Jon is now a published author. His novel The Boss Always Sits In The Back is a roman a’clef, a coming of age story loosely based on real life characters and Jon’s experiences running a Vegas betting scam with a colorful collection of characters straight out of Jimmy Breslin’s The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight and the movie Goodfellas.

The story is alternately funny, sexy, riveting in its attention to detail, and a bit scary… but also fascinating. The story describes how a well-organized cabal of gangsters infiltrated Las Vegas’ casinos and managed to cheat them out of millions of dollars at craps, by artfully placing bets they were sure to win while a patsy – in this case, our man Jon – made like a bumpkin and lost his shirt, playing on casino credit. Recruited by his beloved cousin (and godfather,) Jon starts his adventure as a naïve professional musician doing his cousin a favor on a stop in Las Vegas, and soon becomes ensnared in a second career that’s as illegal as it is potentially dangerous.

Like any Mafia story, the escapades eventually escalate to include murder, mayhem, drugs, prison, and a near death experience for our hero, but I’ll leave you to read the book and find out what exactly happens to whom. There are surly mob bosses, sniveling underlings, secret rendezvous, double crosses, and FBI stings, but also a real appreciation for the Italian traditions of family, honor, and loyalty. The names have been changed to protect the guilty (and to keep the author from getting wacked,) but I guarantee you’ll enjoy The Boss Always Sits In The Back.

Jon D’Amore will be reading from the novel and signing books at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22 at when he becomes the first inductee into Tachair Books’ Hall of Fame at the downtown Jersey City bookstore (260 Newark Avenue, Jersey City.) is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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