About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo by C. Joseph Greaves

Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo by C. Joseph Greaves – An amazing blend of the real and the imagined made Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo a fascinating book.

Moving from 1915 through 1936 the book factually and fictionally follows the lives of four real life Americans who intersected in 1935 with key roles in one of the most famous trials of the 20th Century.

Tom is Thomas E. Dewey the earnest young lawyer from New York who almost became President of the United States in 1948.

Dewey was blessed with great drive and energy. He charged through life. With a goal of being Governor of New York he accepted an offer as a young lawyer, at considerable financial loss, to become a special prosecutor working to clean up New York. There is more than a touch of  righteousness about him.

Lucky aka Charlie Lucky is best known as American mobster, Lucky Luciano.

Luciano was the son of poor Sicilian immigrants whose father worked hard and was scrupulously law abiding. Luciano turned to crime as a young man. With childhood friends, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, he eagerly went into selling booze to thirsty New Yorkers during Prohibition.

George is George Morton Levy who was recognized as the best criminal defence lawyer on Long Island in that era.

George earned respect for his legal craft. He gained a reputation as a talented defence lawyer without compromising his integrity and without being bombastic. He won cases with intelligence. At the same time he gambled and drank and was comfortable with career criminals.

He so intrigued me that my next post is about George.

Cokey Flo Brown aka Florence Newman, Frances Martin, Mildred Nelson, Fay Marston, Gloria Moore and Florence Stern grew up in a dysfunctional family and ran away from home at 14 with a friend’s older brother. She was running a speakeasy in Cleveland at 15. She hustled her way through the Mid-West eventually drifting into prostitution.

The first half of the book sees the quartet establishing their careers and explores their personalities. Where I was unhappy in Open Season with the narrow characterization of villains Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo shows every character as a real person. All have virtues and flaws.

Greaves does well at showing America in the midst of the Roaring 20’s and the dramatic setbacks of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

The second half of the book recounts the trial of Luciano on charges he was the overlord of an effort to monopolize the prostitution industry of New York City. His original defence, wisely never advanced to the jury, was that he was uninterested in the modest amounts to be made from $2 whores.

In the book are questions and answers of various witnesses. I hope it will not be a spoiler to say they are actual excerpts from the trial transcripts. As I was reading the book I was thinking that the testimony recounted sounded real. There is a style to how lawyers ask questions in trials that is different from fiction.

A book is a good way to explore a trial transcript and the subtlety of cross-examination. In my first 41 years as a lawyer I have yet to see a Perry Mason moment when a witness confesses on the witness stand. I have seen many witnesses destroyed by carefully conducted questioning that is neither overtly aggressive nor flamboyant.

How the prosecution was handled disturbed me as a defence lawyer. I came to admire Levy greatly.

Greaves convincingly brought to life some colourful real life characters. Cokey Flo is the most vivid perhaps because there was the least historic information about her.

While I have focused on the historical aspects of the book the imagination of Greaves drew me along so that I was up to 1:00 in the morning to finish the book.

Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo is an excellent book and deserved to be on the shortlist for the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.


  1. What a fascinating-sounding book, Bill, both in terms of the trial itself (and what lead to it) and in terms of the characters that were a part of it. I can see how those characters got your attention, and I'm looking forward to reading more about Levy. I'm also intrigued by your comments about the defence in the case. It does sound interesting!

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. It was different and I appreciate the author's efforts to re-live an era and an important trial. It is frightening how the law was manipulated by the prosecution.

  2. I am very glad you liked this, Bill. I do want to read it and I was waiting to see what you thought of it. I look forward to your post on George Morton Levy.

  3. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I hope you read it as I believe you will get caught up in the story.