“Before he died, [Little Tommy Fortunato’s] dad, Tommoso ‘Big Tommy’ Fortunato, asked me to look after his only son. I promised I would. It’s been six years since the old man stroked out, and I’m an afterthought in the family these days. I don’t get invited to dinner. No one asks how I’m doing. I thought I’d be a mentor to Little Tommy, but that’s not how he wants it. When I think of it, the only reason he hasn’t already shoved me out the door is I know all the family secrets. I know where the bodies are buried—literally.”—Robin Yocum, “The Last Hit,” Strand Magazine, July-Nov. 2019
Oh, the troubles of the family business! And when I say “the family,” I mean “THE FAMILY,” as in the Corleones, the Sopranos, and their ilk. It’s the brilliance of Yokum’s article in the current issue of Strand Magazine that he teases out one of the most intriguing but least remarked-upon side of the underworld as a business—i.e., what happens when the next generation comes along, cocky and without reverence for either the rules or the loyal employees who, over the years, built the enterprise to what it is today.
Not many people know anything about the line of work of this story’s narrator, Angelo (“my specialty is elimination”), but many will find more universal what sticks in his craw: “After five decades of undying loyalty to the family, Little Tommy treats me like a leper.” It doesn’t help that Little Tommy is as ruthless as Michael Corleone and as brainless as brother Fredo.
Readers will be even more sympathetic as Angelo puzzles over how to deal with this successor’s favorite, Gaetano, who combines indiscretion with disrespect—both capital offenses to the old school Angelo.
I bought this issue of Strand for a piece that won the magazine unusually widespread coverage: the first publication in English of a 1954 story John Steinbeck wrote in Paris. But “The Last Hit” turned out to be an unexpected and major reading pleasure for me. It makes me want to track down more of the work of Mr. Yocum.