Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith

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9780140279474: Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith

Called "Doctor of the Deadbolt" by The New York Times, musician-turned-locksmith Joel Kostman has been collecting stories about the New York characters he's encountered in twenty years on the job: the poor and the wealthy, the friendly and the lonely, and, of course, the eccentric. As Kostman quietly lets them into their apartments, cars, or safes, they let down their guard and let him into their lives.

Here we meet a ninety-two-year-old cousin of Eddie Cantor who urges Kostman to try on one of the singer's jackets; a doctor who was Bugsy Siegel's personal physician; a very sexy Jersey girl; and five naked old men listening to Mozart in a steaming apartment, while a 35-degree-below-zero wind blows outside. In vignettes reminiscent of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Keys to the City is an unforgettable collection of fourteen encounters with New Yorkers locked out, locked in--and a few not far from being locked up.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Kostman, a licensed Big Apple locksmith, certainly gets around the city in the pursuit of his profession. In his debut as an author (no license required), he offers a view of a few of the people and sights glimpsed beyond the doors he unlocks. This slender volume is a compilation of the odd scenes Kostman has run into over the years and the peculiar dialogues in which he was a bemused participant. The slices of life are as abundant and fragrant as a Broadway deli's pastrami on rye. As he changes tumblers or replaces lost keys, the intrepid journeyman encounters human interest with a vengeance, from 11-year-old Gloria, who looks after her apparently senile Papi, to the aging Mrs. Herzog, who believes her sister is robbing her blind. Kostman releases those locked in and lets in those locked out (never, it seems, feeling the need to verify the customer's right of passage). Bedeviled by jammed doors are doctors and gypsies, musicians and welfare clients, a psychiatrist and an East Side matron who could use one, a clandestine fireworks dealer and a troupe of naked old men. All converse freely and at length with the compliant locksmith/scribe. They may live in the precincts of poverty or in areas of affluence- -with no relationship to willingness to pay the locksmith's fee-- but most of the little dramas seem to happen in dark or dank places. ``The fish and piss odors produce an overpowering stench'' in one locale. ``At the bottom,'' in another, ``the alley is dark and everything is covered with bird shit.'' These are New York kinds of tales. Short stories by a locksmith with the key to a little Pandora's box of urban yarns. Written in the present tense with a touch of tense presence, the vignettes, while not earthshaking, provide salty, easy, lively city kibitzing. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal:

YA. This collection of 14 stories is based on the author's experience as a professional locksmith in New York City. A young man, Kostman is on call at all hours. He offers aid to people locked out of cars or apartments or provides release or protection for their possessions. In the course of such duties, he encounters a variety of city dwellers old and young, housewives and gangsters, all desperate for his services and rich in those idiosyncrasies attributed to New Yorkers. He meets Eddie Cantor's 92-year-old cousin; Buggsy Siegel's doctor; and others all haggling over payment, skipping out, or (rarely) rewarding him. The appealing main character and varied sequences will attract YAs, as will the humor.?Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Published by Penguin Books 1999-02-01 (1999)
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