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Editorial Reviews

The second you hear Joe Barrett’s voice in Narrow’s Gate, you know you’re in for a treat, especially since the novel was written especially for audio performance. Barrett has a gravely, world-weary voice that is perfectly suited for gritty, urban crime novels. His voice has a seen-it-all quality to it, and even when he sounds jaded and cynical, you can hear hints of compassion for the flawed characters he’s portraying, as they try to do the right thing. This versatile quality surely explains why John Irving personally selected Barrett to perform his gripping, complex novel A Prayer for Owen Meany.

And while Barrett does an excellent job narrating Narrow’s Gate, the dialogue of this sweeping Mafia saga set in a New Jersey seaport literally and figuratively in the shadow of Manhattan springs to life thanks to actor Joe Pantoliano. Best known for The Sopranos and The Matrix, Pantoliano has long been a highly sought-after character actor, the kind of actor who completely disappears into a role. This unselfish approach to acting works perfectly in Narrow’s Gate since Pantoliano speaks for dozens of different characters and uses his entire vocal range. It also helps that Pantoliano grew up in Hoboken, NJ, and knows first-hand that piercing, aggressive, staccato tone made famous by many Jersey boys.

The characters in Narrow’s Gate cover a wide spectrum. There are the inseparable lifelong friends, Sal Benno and Leo Bell, who gradually take different paths in life with dramatic consequences. There’s also Bill “Bebe” Marsala, a singing sensation who sends girls into hysterics much like the real-life Hoboken crooner Frank Sinatra did decades ago. Everyone from the local Mafia to Bebe’s own power-hungry mother wants a piece of the crooner, and they use him for their own selfish needs.

Fans of classic Mafioso sagas like The Godfather will appreciate the epic sweep of Narrow’s Gate, and the thrilling performance by two accomplished actors working at the top of their game. And like many novelists who carefully craft fictionalized versions of the their hometowns, Fusilli knows the streets of his hometown of Hoboken like the back of his hand and makes you feel like you’re right there in the middle of all the pulse-racing action of Narrow’s Gate. —Ken Ross

Publisher's Summary

Audible is pleased to present the exciting novel Narrows Gate by Jim Fusilli, written exclusively for audio and performed by Emmy Award-winning actor Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos) and acclaimed narrator Joe Barrett (A Prayer for Owen Meany).

A powerful epic novel in the spirit of The Godfather and On the Waterfront, Narrows Gate follows the lives of three men in the dangerous and seductive environment of a Mob-riddled New Jersey waterfront town before, during, and after World War II.

For Sal Benno, an errand here and a favor there draw him into the Mafia’s inner circle – and certain danger. His lifelong friend, Leo Bell, hides a deep secret as he informs on the Mob for the Feds – and desperately tries to protect Sal. Their fates become intertwined with that of a skinny crooner, Bill “Bebe” Marsala, who finds fame beyond his imagining – but who becomes an unwitting pawn in a Mob war.

Jim Fusilli, the Pop and Rock Music Critic for the Wall Street Journal, is the author of the critically-acclaimed Terry Orr crime series, among other books. He was the project editor and a contributing writer for the Audible Original projects The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet. He was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, a place very much like Narrows Gate.

Joe Pantoliano is best known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Ralph Cifaretto on The Sopranos and as Cypher in The Matrix. Joe is the founder of a non-profit organization, No Kidding, Me Too!, which works with the Hollywood community to educate the public about mental illness. He, too, grew up in Hoboken.

Joe Barrett’s memorable audiobook performances include John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King.

©2010 Jim Fusilli (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Outstanding in every way -- major talent, voice, feel, and been-there knowledge meets a story as tough and complex as the time that inspired it." (Lee Child)
"Narrows Gate is as tender as it is tough, a big-hearted story in which love and violence conspire to control the lives of people who very quickly become real. Jim Fusilli writes with urgency and grace, and his is a compelling, gritty, and brilliant voice. I loved it!" (Lisa Scottoline)
"Narrows Gate is the expansive novel that Jim Fusilli's readers have been waiting for -- a broad canvas full of vivid characters, hard choices, and steeped in the post-war experience. Fusilli's take of the men who run the mob and those who can't escape its pull -- including a familiar and iconic crooner -- is, at its heart, a uniquely American tale of ambition and failure, of people who underplay their hands and those who overstep their bounds. It is, in short, a dazzling novel by a great writers at the height of his powers." (David Liss)
"Jim Fusilli's Narrows Gate is a big, broad-shouldered novel, equal parts Ellroy, Puzo, and Scorsese. Fusilli, a critical and fan favorite, further elevates his game with this thrilling, ambitious performance." (George Pelecanos)

What members say

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  • Overall

Great fun!

Fusilli really brings the NY/NJ of the '30s to life. As a born and bred New Yorker, I really felt like I'd gone back in time. And the story's a great yarn full of texture... good guys, bad guys and tough guys. If you like the Sopranos, Mario Puzo or any writer of sagas who create a whole universe, you'll love this!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Character-Driven Crime Epic

Those who have read Fusilli's Terry Orr books, are familiar with how he is able to create deep, compelling characters -- setting his mystery books apart from your average "pulp" stories. And with Narrows Gate's story covering such a long span of time, Fusilli is really at the top of his game in creating a credible and nuanced cast in this (audio)book.

The story certainly recalls some of the great, epic films set in New York City like "The Godfather" and Sergio Leone's fantastic "Once Upon a Time in America" (the original cut, not the American release). While Joey Pants's narrative can sometimes come off as "campy", especially for those that have watched him throughout his career, Joe Barrett keeps the story focused on the real drama including coming of age within the challenging moral fabric of mob-controlled Hoboken.

As a native New Yorker and an Italian-American, I generally approach novels like Narrows Gate very cautiously. While the drama inherent the Mafia construct attracts its share of writers, few can convincingly pull off the conflict without straying into your typical gangster trope. Fusilli, perhaps because he understands it personally, manages that delicate balance perfectly -- there's certainly enough Mafia action to keep you engaged, but it never turns into an over-the-top goombah fest.

I recommend the book for people looking for a compelling, well-written, character-driven crime epic.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 12-17-10

Wonderful Audio Experience

One of the best productions yet. Great characters...fabulous narration...the whole package will leave you sitting in the driveway because you're not quite ready to say good-bye to vibrant characters, delightful plotting and the kind of interest you are always hoping you will have when you start a new story.

LOVED the narration. Actually it is more performance than narration.

The best audiobook this year, I think.


8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Todd
  • Princeton, NJ, United States
  • 12-15-10

Joey Pants!

The varying degrees of reviews really surprised me. Clearly, this is a "love it" or "hate it" kind of book. I fall whole-heartedly on the "love it" side.

To be honest, we're not breaking any new ground in the story - its a very, very classic mobster story. But if you're a fan of The Godfather, GoodFellas, the Sopranos, or just a resident of New Joisey, you're going to eat this up like it was pasta fagioli. Joey B is solid and gruff reading the text. Joey Pants is absolutely phenomenal. I'm absolutely amazed at how many distinct characters he performed. He really adds something unique to the performance. I'm actually thinking of starting the whole thing over....

Really well done...

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Godfather -- Jersey style

I liked the narration; it was very good. the story revolves around two friends -- sort of a tough but not too bright guy and a bright but not too tough guy. It also revolves around the story of a crooner, who seemed strangely like an Italian crooner from Jersey -- ok, Frank Sinatra -- and his affair with a woman modeled after Ava Gardner. Oh, and there's the Bugsy Malone character who is off in Vegas building the "Sandpiper" hotel and casino. So, that was fun. But the parts involving the spy games during WWII not too compelling. But, in the end, I liked it -- it was nice ear candy to relax and hear about mob hits.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fun, funny Sicilian tale read by the best!

First it's important to highlight the remarkable work of Joe Barrett and Joe Pantoliano. The novel is entertaining on it's own, but these two make the experience a masterpiece.

I bought this on sale with low expectations. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this one.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Diane
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 12-16-10

Love,Loss and the Triumph of Friendship

A wonderful re-imagining of growing up poor and ethnic in small town America set against the sweep of history and the emergence of the mob. Although I was swept away by the story,it was the friendship between the two male leads-- Benno and Bell --that kept me listening. It is a surprisingly witty and touching story told well.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent narration

The narrating team is great, the story itself is half Godfather and half Bio of Sinatra with quite a few fictional elements. Even if the story is kind of used, it is a great listen.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • BREWSTER, NY, United States
  • 12-13-10

Damn Good Book

I can't believe that some of these people have been listening to the same book that I have! The characters are all superbly drawn, there is one great scene after another, and the background is fascinating. I do most of my book listening in the car, and for NARROWS GATE, I go out on errands that I don't really need to do, just to listen to more of this wonderful book! Viva Jim Fusilli!

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Frances
  • Upper Montclair, NJ, United States
  • 12-13-10

Just finished "Narrows Gate"

Joey Pants was terrific!.His voices brought the audiobook experience to a whole new level.The dual narrators was just right. The story held my attention throughout . I'm glad it didn't glorify the
Mafia or the entertainment business.
I will find it hard to resist buying any audiobook with Joey Pants as a narrator.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful