Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Philly mob story gets fictionalized for 'Blood Betrayal'

Award-winning filmmaker Rob Child ventures into another medium with his first work of literary fiction, Blood Betrayal. Based on the memoirs of retired FBI Special Agent Charles "Bud" Warner, Blood Betrayal takes place in the heat of the Philadelphia Mob crisis in the mid-'80s, with a a case that earned Warner national acclaim. This might be a fictionalized account of Warner's story, but some quick research will show who the characters are really based on.

Following the release of crime boss Nick Scarponi, Special Agent Frank Murray (based on Warner) is prepared to tackle the crime boss once again. Eventually, Scarponi keeps finding ways to bring attention to himself; two of his goons attack Frank's police friend Center City Charlie and then he puts out a hit on someone trying to take over the family business.

Menawhile, Frank gets close to capturing con man Nick "The Crow" Consiglioni who's trying to extort money from a waterfront development pie through the lead development firm. Congilioni slips through Frank's fingers and flees the country with the money. This is the final straw for Frank as his life begins to spiral out of control. Will he ever get the chance to take the mob down?

Blood Betrayal is a swift read, quickly running in and out of subplots and racing urgently to the end. Is that a bad thing? Not really, but it's not good either. The main problem is that it doesn't give us enough time to relate to or get involved with any of the characters.

The first in a series from Child, Frank Murray comes off as a bruting, no non-sense agent with a soft spot for his family. That's pretty much all we know about him. Sure, it quickly establishes who he is, but finding out how and why he became like this would have added a new layer of depth to the book. Had he been involved with the Italian mob before locking Scarponi away? Has he always been a tough-as-nails agent? 

Based on his screenplay of the same, Blood Betrayal reads like a screenplay, with locations being established at the start of every new passage in the chapters. This isn't shocking considering that he has written many films and documentaries in the past — even garnering an Emmy nomination this year for his historical docudrama The Wereth Eleven. It's obviously a familiar style for him to work in, and I think it works in the book considering what the story is.

Blood Betrayal is not a masterpiece, nor a train wreck. The story is quite intriguing and has moments of greatness — chapter 7 in particular — which elevates this book into good territory. As a guy who loves going downtown, it was easy to visual all the places Child mentions. But it also made me think, "Wow, did all that stuff really happen here?" 

Grade: B-

Note: Blood Betrayal is available as an e-Book only. It can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon

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