Book Review: The Night They Raided Minsky’s

Dear Constant Reader,

I have a backlog of books to review and I’ve even started reviews for most of them, but I never seem to find the time to finish writing said reviews. It’s a failing. Of course, this is the newest book in the Manor collection…

The Night They Raided Minsky’s: a Fanciful Expedition to the Lost Atlantis of Show Business by Rowland Barber (1960).

It is an undisputed fact that a burlesque show at a Minsky’s theatre was raided in the 1920’s. The rest of the details chronicled in this novel are up for debate. Many of the characters are based on actual people, some more accurately than others.

Our story climaxes on April 20, 1925 with the police raid of the evening burlesque show at the Minsky’s National Winter Garden. The novel traces the stories of the principal players in the drama while counting down to the raid itself. We meet Louis Minsky, the hardworking patriarch who hates burlesque, and his showman son and world class troublemaker, Billy. Then there’s Mlle. Fifi from Paris, the former Betty Buzby of Philadelphia, whose father, who hates her love of dancing, has finally caught up with her. Plus, of course, all the family members, chorus girls, comedians, and hangers-on directly and indirectly involved with the show.

The story is fast-paced and heads inevitably toward the raid, like a pushcart rolling downhill. On the way there, the reader is given a tour of the Lower East Side of the day, complete with dialect. I particularly liked the scenes of overheard conversation at the theatre as the chorus girls gossip and the comedians rehearse in their respective dressing rooms. Post-raid, the story runs out of steam as the author crams the remaining history of Billy Minsky and his brothers into a meager few pages.

Quite entertaining and well captures the time and place, if not the reality, of the heyday of Minsky burlesque. Now I’ll have to watch the movie and see how it compares.


Published in: on 7 July 2016 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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