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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Alex Cohen Series: Books 4-6 Collection by Leopold Borstinski


The Alex Cohen Series: Books 4-6 Collection by Leopold Borstinski.

Published 23rd December 2021 by Sobriety Press.

From the cover of the collection:

Three more decades in the life of Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen, as he arrives in the US and forges a life for himself and his family using the blood, sweat and tears of those who stand in his way.

This digital box set contains the second set of three books in the saga of Alex Cohen's life:

Casino Chiseler: Alex Cohen leaves jail to find salvation from the 1940s mob in the hotels of Las Vegas. When Bugsy Siegel invites him to take over sports betting in Nevada, Alex must figure out how to get back to the top table in New York without attracting the Feds' attention. If he succeeds then he will regain his self respect, but if he fails then the last members of the national crime syndicate will cut him dead and he will be left a nobody or wind up a corpse.

Cuban Heel: Alex joins long-time friend and business partner, Meyer Lansky to recreate Las Vegas in 1950s Havana. Dictator President Batista gives them the opportunity to build their dream casino complexes, but Alex must choose between dancing with this devil or being in debt to the Italian mob.

Hollywood Bilker: Alex returns to America and settles in 1960s California to build a drug and prostitution empire in LA. When he gets a call from the mob to help the CIA invade Cuba, Alex must decide between family and his business associates. If he helps Uncle Sam and the Mafia then he puts his life on the line fighting for freedom and the chance to rebuild his Havana casinos. If he refuses the favor then death will call on him, his ex-wife and their sons. Once he agrees to one accommodation then others are sure to follow, in a decade where even presidents, assassins and presidential candidates were whacked at a terrifying rate.


This collection includes books 4-6 of the Alex Cohen series, which I have previously read and reviewed on my blog. My reviews for each book are shown again below:

Casino Chiseler (Alex Cohen Book Four)
  Published 30th September 2020.

Welcome to the fourth book in the Alex Cohen saga, Casino Chiseler!

Alex is out of prison, after being caught up in the Feds' concerted efforts to take down some high profile mobsters on tax evasion charges. He is feeling a little abandoned by the syndicate, but soon comes to realise that he still has friends in high places - friends who continue to have need for his singular talents.

So, Alex finds himself heading west to Vegas, baby! Times they are a changing for Alex and his mobster friends and the betting game is where it's at now. Alex is given the job of taking over sports betting in Nevada, and he goes at it with his usual verve - wheeling, dealing (pardon the pun) and with his special brand of violence to get his syndicate buddies exactly what they want and ruffling some rather important feathers along the way.

Of course, Alex's personal life gets in the way of business, as always, friendships are put under enormous strain and there are some important decision for Alex to make if he really wants to get back in with his mob bosses. Romance-wise a name from the past puts in an appearance, but things get complicated and we see him heading in quite an unexpected direction at the end of the book, which promises interesting things to come. It was very pleasing to see some more interesting storylines for the females in the book too, which have been a bit lacking in the past - more than the usual bit parts for gangsters' molls. Hurray!

It was a refreshing change to find Alex on different ground in this fourth book, as it was nice to move away from the well trodden turf of New York and Chicago. This time, Leopold Borstinski gives us a fascinating glimpse of the early days of mob involvement in the growth of the gamblers' playgrounds in Nevada - not just the mobster machinations involved to get ahead of the competitors, but also the intriguing part played by Hollywood royalty in the establishment of Vegas as a glittering jewel in the gangsters' crown. There are familiar names from the gangster scene that still make an appearance (one at least in rather less glamorous circumstances than we normally picture them), and also those from stage and screen - some to be expected, such as George Raft and a young Sinatra, but also some rather more surprising ones which made me raise an eyebrow or two.

Casino Chiseler was an all round entertaining read, full of gangster noir and echoes of the best books and films in the genre . I thought this one was a bit more sophisticated than the previous three books in terms of plot, as it takes us into some less travelled mobster territory and gives a bit more depth to Alex's character, and this drives the story along nicely.

Cuban Heel (Alex Cohen Book 5)
 Published 3rd April 2021.

Welcome to the fifth book in the Alex Cohen series, which finds Alex fresh from the Las Vegas scene and trying to establish his own gambling empire in Cuba, in partnership with old friend Meyer Lansky.

There is a lot of money to be made in a country that is little more than a banana republic under the control of a dictator president, but to do so Alex must make some difficult choices - President Batista wants part of the action, and some pretty hefty bribes too, but it boils down to either keeping him sweet or relying on money from the Syndicate back home - the very people who were plotting Alex's downfall not so long ago.

Despite the tricky situation, Alex knows if he can make enough money in Cuba he will be set for life, and he is rather enjoying being away from the beady eye of the FBI for once, but things are about to get complicated - there are quite a few old Syndicate buddies who want in on the deal, Meyer is demanding more and more commitment, and a revolution that threatens all their schemes is on the horizon...

It was great to meet up with Alex again in his fifth adventure Cuban Heel, and this time we see him wheeling and dealing in Cuba. There are opportunities aplenty on this little tropical island off the coast of Florida, and lots of money to be made if Alex can learn the rules of the game quickly enough. As usual money talks, and President Batista is a man who is partial to lining his own pockets at the expense of his people, which gives Alex and Meyer some promising avenues to exploit, but do they really know what they are getting themselves involved in?

I did not know a lot about the mobster operations in Cuba that intended to make it into a playground for American tourists, but it is hard to ignore that there is a pretty fixed window of opportunity in a country headed for a very well known revolution and change of leadership at the beginning of 1959. This brings a really interesting air of suspense to the tale while you are waiting for the inevitable takeover by the Castro brothers that must bring an end to the fun, and Borstinski nicely works into the story some of the events heading up the to eventual downfall of Batista. Tension builds slowly, as the story goes back and forth between Cuba and some action packed visits by Alex to the US, until everything comes crashing down in a way that makes you wonder how he is going to get out of this one without losing everything.

The entertaining way Borstinski keeps you on the edge of your seat makes this my favourite Alex Cohen story so far, but it is not the only thing: Cuban Heel also sees Alex shaping his own dynasty for the first time, as he begins to build bridges with his sons, and establish a family affair with him and Sarah at the top. Although both Sarah and Alex want to keep their children on the legitimate side of operations, we know that they are are all more than aware of the more shady dealings beneath the surface of everything Alex does, which offers some interesting possibilities for the future - and of course, it's great to finally see Sarah getting some recognition.

Talking of shady dealings, Alex is called upon to make use of his special skills more than once in this book, especially to settle some old scores and keep his reputation fresh in certain circles back home, even if the Italian mobs are distancing themselves from the Jewish gangs - it seems he is still a good friend to have around in a tight spot!

Of course, the party does come to an end, as we know it will, and Alex now needs to move onto pastures new, but this time he will be beginning with his family around him and some intriguing cards up his sleeve, which I have no doubt he will play to his advantage. I have enjoyed each and every one of the books in this series, and Alex has become like an old friend to me now - albeit one with a particular set of less than legal skills. His experiences have shaped him into the very resourceful and crafty character he has become, and it has been a pleasure being along for the ride. I cannot wait to see what comes next in book six, Hollywood Bilker, which will take us into the 1960s!

Hollywood Bilker (Alex Cohen Book Six)
. Published 8th October 2021.

Welcome to book six in the Alex Cohen series, which explores the world of Jewish organised crime in 20th century USA.

Alex and his ex-wife Sarah, now firmly back together as a couple, have been pondering their future after their flight from the turmoil of revolutionary Cuba. The safety offered to them in Florida by friends high up in the Italian mob is all very well, but it offers little in the way of opportunities for their own family business without stepping on some very unforgiving toes. Having acquired a taste for the high living that the world of entertainment can offer, but not keen to return to the casino life in Vegas where Alex's businesses are prospering under the competent hands of his lieutenants Ezra and Massimo, they decide to relocate to LA instead. Using the contacts Alex has built up during his years in the casino business, the money soon begins to roll in from their newly established drug and prostitution operations, and they begin to settle into the California lifestyle with thoughts of retirement in the not too distant future.

Brushing shoulders with Hollywood royalty brings Alex into the sphere of some very famous names in the film and music industries of the 1960s, and through them into the society of shady politicians - especially the Kennedy family, whose political fortunes are on the rise. It is an association that will bring him untold riches, get him into some very sticky situations, and ultimately decide his own future.

Hollywood Bilker follows on quite naturally from the direction Alex and his family's lives have taken in the previous two books of this series - Casino Chisler and Cuban Heel. Building on his casino and entertainment contacts, Alex is drawn towards the magic of Tinsel Town, where Hollywood stars can provide a willing market for his own offerings - drugs and women. Cue some big names of the stage and screen in these pages - some well known for their association with organised crime, such as Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies, and some not. It was lots of fun celebrity spotting, and Leopold Borstinski is certainly very bold about some of the real life characters Alex associates with!

This book starts out with a much mellowed Alex, happy to be back on good terms with his ex-wife Sarah and reconciled with at least some of his sons. His time in Hollywood is a winding down of sorts, as he managed to get away with a nice nest egg from his otherwise disastrous flirtation with casinos in Cuba, but he is still keen to build up his fortunes before converting his assets to legitimate holdings - and retirement is beckoning.

As usual, Alex's less accommodating business partners throw in a curve ball here and there, and intriguingly this means that he is called upon to get involved in events he would rather avoid by putting to use some of the skills he has not personally had to call on for some time, harkening all the way back to his strike busting days in New York and his assassination years with Murder Inc. However, rather than the gangster scene he is used to operating in, this time his efforts are directed towards the political arena, which brings him into contact with a very famous family in the world of 1960s politics - the Kennedys. I really enjoyed the way Borstinski ties Alex's fortunes to that of the Kennedy family here and echoing some of Alex's own life experiences - with a meteoric rise backed by less than squeaky clean money; salacious secrets that need to be kept from prying eyes; and attempts to distance oneself from a dodgy past. Alex becomes embroiled in events taken straight out of the history books, and it was fascinating to see how Borstinski inserted his fictional creation into the fates of Bobby and John (Jack) Kennedy, cleverly linking him with their assassinations too. There is also a fabulous episode where Alex finds himself involved in the botched invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961, which was great fun.

This is a book that has a much wider scope that any of the previous Alex Cohen books, and Borstinski handles all the twists and turns confidently and sometimes a little playfully, which makes the story very engaging indeed - especially if you have been with Alex from the start, as I have. Eventually, all of Alex's escapades in this instalment find him forced into taking his oft promised threats of retirement more seriously than ever before, but I suspect that there will still be plenty to tickle my gangster noir loving taste-buds in his final adventure The Mensch coming in 2022.

The Alex Cohen Series: Books 4-6 Collection is available to buy now!

Thank you to Zooloo's Book Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for resharing your reviews as part of the tour x