“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.” — Martin Tupper

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Joel Harris

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. While attending James Madison HS I was fortunate to have had several excellent writing teachers. After two years at NYU, studying Banking and Finance, I dropped out and went to work for the NY Daily News in the editorial department.

After a few months I was drafted during the Korean unpleasantness and spent my first army year with the 11th Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky where I worked the battalion intelligence desk.

Then, due to an unfortunate disagreement with the Commanding General, I was exiled to Verdun, France for my second year. My job there was in Troop Information and Education, which included writing for and editing the post newspaper.

Out of the Army and back at NYU, this time majoring in Journalism. After graduation I worked in the insurance business and took several writing courses.

For some time the story of PUBLIC PARTS was forming in my head and eventually I started writing it down. After over 20 years, eight major revisions and uncounted small ones, I self-published my book.

I live in Woodmere, NY with my wife Evelyn. We have two children. Gail, my daughter, is a social worker with two adult children. Gail's younger brother, Andrew, is a former lawyer turned journalist. He works the District Federal Court of Appeals in Washington DC for Bloomberg News, and covers other similar stories. He is married and has a 7.5 year old daughter who has now taken over the family.

Visit Joel's web site at: publicpartsthelegend.com.

Quotation from a 1934 interview with Ernest Hemingway: "All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."

Published Works:


A failed escape? Or a Mob hit arranged by crime boss Meyer Lansky to silence him and save Lepke Buchalter, Bugsy Siegel and Albert Anastasia from the electric chair? A question never answered. Either way, Murder Incorporated hit man turned major crime snitch Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, known as the pigeon that could sing but not fly, encountered the one law he could not evade: The Law of Gravity.

Thirty years later, it's the early 1970s, and someone is talking. When Big Moe Levine is forced into abrupt retirement in Florida to avoid questions about the demise of his old friend, Reles, his son Larry takes over at Public Auto Parts, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Larry knows something of his father's link to the Mob, but not nearly enough, as he is left to face a relentless police detective, John Mannion, who wants answers and an equally relentless Mob boss, Carmine, who wants cooperation.

Larry tries to protect his father, end Mob sway at Public Parts, cope with Laurie, his dissatisfied wife, and Ann Riordan, his new, beautiful, and enigmatic young assistant, but complications mount until one night a tragic fire destroys all that Larry had worked for.

While dealing with his insurance company Larry is indicted for arson and other crimes, and arrested. At trial he is defended by Brownsville's own Harvard trained Bernie the Attorney. Once a renowned Mob mouthpiece, now turned Orthodox Rabbi, Bernie's time has long past.

Ultimately, Larry's fate is in the hands of Ann Riordan. Her reluctant testimony about the extent of their relationship and where they were on the night of the fire could save Larry from prison but could also destroy her engagement and his marriage.

The book is a black comedy of corruption and error cloaking a classic tale of love and betrayal, death and redemption; a might-be-true legend of its time and place, and Larry is the last man able to tell the tale.


"The writing throughout is good-to-better-than-good."
- Richard Marek, former President and Publisher, E P Dutton Co

"A Triumph."
- Stefan Kanfer, former Book Editor, Time Magazine

Self-published 2015 by XLIBRIS. Book available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com in hardcover, trade paperback and ebook formats.

A Kirkus Starred Review:

"In Harris's debut novel, a dutiful son wants to make an honest success of his father's auto parts business – but the mob may still be pulling the strings behind the scenes."

"Thirty-something Larry Levine has worked at his dad Big Moe's Public Auto Parts in New York City since he was in college. All of a sudden, Big Moe decides to retire to Florida, leaving Larry holding a mostly empty bag. His dad not only left with most of the company's funds-he also left a lot of questions unanswered. For example, Larry wonders about the mob's connection to Public Parts when a sinister gentlemen named Carmine lets Larry know that he's not his own man, but an owned man. Moreover, Larry finds out about the supposedly accidental death of mobster Abe Reles 30 years before; the man fell to his death, just as he was to rat out several other criminals. Does that fact have something to do with why Moe decamped so hastily? What's in the wind all these years later? Although Larry is desperate for answers, the old man is as cagey as ever. Then Larry meets Ann Riordan, with whom he falls instantly and hopelessly in love-even though he's a semi-happily married man. Despite the turmoil caused by their relationship, Ann is also, as Larry's executive assistant, the best thing that ever happened to Public Parts. The climax of the book is Larry's trial after he's framed for arson, receiving stolen goods, and other crimes. How did he get into such a mess? Eventually, Big Moe – a widower whose health is fading fast – comes clean, to a degree, about what happened way back in 1941."

"This is a very impressive debut, and although its nearly 600-page length may be daunting to some, it is, in fact, a brisk and straightforward read. The book doesn't focus on a huge cast – just Larry, the narrator, trying to reform Public Parts while dealing with his feelings for Ann, and hers for him. These are, for the most part, well-rounded characters, precisely because Harris takes the time to develop them. Ann is shown to be competent, enigmatic, and eerily perceptive; Big Moe could have been a one-note character, but his love and care for his only son show him to have some depth. Larry's wife, Laurie, is a study in exasperation, but she's also there when the chips are down. The dialogue is crackling and sly, and the long trial section, featuring the colorful Bernie "the Attorney" Schwartz, is priceless. The novel also offers an intriguing hybrid of real and fictional characters. Reles, Meyer Lansky, Lepke Buchalter, and others, are actual mob figures, but their stories mesh well with those of invented characters, including the Levines; Ann; the perky Dawn Sanders, who helps Ann out around the office; and the vengeful Detective John Mannion. Indeed, by the end of the novel, readers will find that the made-up characters feel like living, breathing people, as well."

"An entertaining literary work with realistic characters."

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