“OC” Doesn’t Stand for Ocean City


  A book review by Ben Leiter

I’ve always despised, feared, hated OC. That’s not “Ocean City”—like in Maryland or New Jersey. Or, the old TV show about Orange County.

It’s Organized Crime, what I’ve always called the Mafia. It has brethren, offspring, associates: the Russians, the Mexicans, Wall Street, and other gangsta relatives.  

Why my strong aversion? 

Maybe their ruthless bullying? 

Maybe because my upbringing—Red, White, and Blue American—pledges that’s not how we roll as a country. So we tell ourselves. 

Or, not playing by the rules? I’m big on following the rules, and coloring within the lines. 

Or, could be my firmly imbedded RC personal religious strictures, with their two thousand year history of proposed guidance on how to live godly, even though I’m not the pious type and have been known to laugh uproariously at medieval dogmas.

So, even though I enjoyed The Godfather I, II, III, et al. I still took offense at the manifest, unapologetic, irredeemable viciousness underlying the films. I probably didn’t mind the bad-guy-on-bad guy violence, but I was always put off by the cowardly abuse of the weak. 

Now, I’ve just finished another fantastic Don Winslow book, The Winter of Frankie Machine. 

Our protagonist, Frank Machianno, fronts as a bait shack owner on the San Diego oceanfront. Frank does part-time work as a hit man for The Families, as requested. They term it “a personal favor.” But, you better say yes. So, I really, really don’t like Frank. 

Then I start to appreciate him more because he has become reflective later in the book and in his life, the accumulating years catching him in their inevitable final embrace.

Here’s Frank, with more gray hair.  “…It was something in the paper about a crackdown on organized crime, and Frank just went off on a rant.

“Nike pays twenty-nine cents to a child for making a basketball jersey, then turns around and sells it for one hundred and forty dollars,” Frank said, “And I’m the criminal?

“Wal-Mart sends half the mom-and-pop stores in the country the way of the buffalo while they pay the kids who make their cheap crap seven cents an hour. And I’m the criminal?

“Two million jobs have gone adios in the past two years, a working man can’t afford a down payment on a house anymore, and the IRS mugs us like drunks at an ATM, then sends our money to a defense contractor who closes down a factory, lays off workers, and pays himself a seven-figure bonus. And I’m the criminal? I’m the guy who should get life without parole?” 

Well said, but yeah, I’m still not ready to pardon Frank, despite his philosophizing and his love for his daughter which threads through the book. Frank does take out some bad dudes—not on a date. 

I usually anticipate your average literary surprise. No spoiler alert, but Winslow caught me off guard with a wonderful twist at the end. Good for Winslow and good for Frankie Machine.

A brilliantly entertaining read.

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