Wonderful, a rarity: the grand entertainment that is art.”
—Pete Hamill, Washington Post Book World

“Mesmerizing reading that soars from the shocking first scene of a gangland execution through episodes of horror, hilarity, and sudden, deepening insights. A stunning, lyrical, masterful novel.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Most urgently and tightly structured... a climax at the center of the novel will stay in the reader’s mind a long, long time. Billy Bathgate may be Doctorow’s Book of Kings, a genealogy of how power is acquired, exercised, and transmitted in this country.”
—Chicago Tribune Book World


“A wonderful addition to the ranks of American boy heroes... Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer with more poetry, Holden Caulfield with more zest and spirit... The kind of book you find yourself finishing at three in the morning after promising at midnight that you’ll stop at the next page.”
—New York Times Book Review

“Doctorow takes up the legacies of the Fitzgerald and Cheever and adds to them a savage and erotic splendor of his own.”
—John le Carré

“Riveting... Mesmerizing... Incandescent... Unforgettable.”
—Time

“A masterwork.”
—The Nation


FROM BILLY BATHGATE

He had to have planned it because when we drove onto the dock the boat was there and the engine was running and you could see the water churning up the phosphorescence in the river, which was the only light there was because there was no moon, nor no electric light either in the shack where the dock master should have been sitting, nor on the boat itself, and certainly not from the car, yet everyone knew where everything was, and when the big Packard came down the ramp Mickey the driver braked it so that the wheels hardly rattled the boards, and when he pulled up alongside the gangway the doors were already open and they hustled Bo and the girl upside before they even made a shadow in all that darkness. And there was no resistance, I saw a movement of black bulk, and that was all, and all I heard was maybe the sound someone makes who is frightened and has a hand not his own over his mouth, the doors slammed and the car was humming and gone and the boat was already opening up water between itself and the slip before a thin minute had passed. Nobody said not to so I jumped aboard and stood at the rail frightened as you might expect, but a capable boy, he had said that himself, a capable boy capable of learning, and I see now capable of adoring worshipping that rudeness of power of which he was a greater student than anybody, oh and that menace of him where it might all over for anyone in his sight from one instant to the next, that was what it all it turned on, it was why I was there, it was why I was thrilled to be judged so by him as a capable boy, the danger he was really a maniac.

Excerpted from Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow Copyright © 2012 by E.L. Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.