A Nickel for the Boatman

General Fiction, History

By Carol Milot

Publisher : AuthorHouse

ABOUT Carol Milot

Carol Milot
Carol Milot was born in Miami, Florida, where she lived until moving to Dallas, Texas, in 1973.  She retired from a long career in teaching to devote her time to writing and working as a free-lance photographer.  Today, she lives with her husband Andrew in Richardson, Texas.


Miami was roaring in the 1920’s, not only with boat loads of bootleg whiskey and “snow birds” seeking warmer climes, but also relocated families like Eddie’s who had left generational homes to forge a new life among Miami’s up and comers. It was a city of temptation and excitement, of Prohibition and the beginnings of commercial flight. Eddie, the only child of preoccupied parents, a social-climbing mother and distant, reticent father, feels trapped under the thumb of nuns and priests in a strict Catholic school. Then, Manny Silver appears, and Eddie’s life changes forever. In the hulking, fastidious mobster he finds a surrogate father and mentor with a soft spot for the teenager. But, there are difficulties. Eddie is torn between his desire for the adult pleasures and freedom Manny offers and the straight path defined by the moral principles of Father Horka, his spiritual guide, who tries to watch over him. In this place and time where the ordinary, the infamous and the famous meet on a single stage, Eddie grows up. Set against the backdrop of the most beautiful and untamed places of the era, Eddie discovers the complexities of friendship, betrayal, guilt and loss.

Carol's inspiration for this novel came from her own experiences and from the rich tales recounted by her father Bob Parker, a Miami pioneer, who witnessed history as it was made during the first half of the twentieth century. One of the scenes from the book--the birthday party--was key in Bob's childhood. He attended Catholic school with Sonny Capone. Like all Sonny's classmates, each year Bob was invited to the birthday celebration held at the Capone mansion. These were considered elaborate affairs to hold for a child and, of course, what kid doesn't want to go to a birthday party? This put the parents into a social predicament. The stay-at-home mothers of the era were not happy about the implications of sending their children to a gangster's home to be supervised by members of the mob. However, they felt sorry for the child, Sonny. It wasn't his fault that his father was a criminal. Consequently, manners and pity won out and Carol's grandparents sent Bob to the party each time the formal invitation, typical of the period, arrived.

I agree with the first reviewer: Nickel is a must read. It offers a view of Miami that is long gone except for the pastel fronts of a few hotels in South Beach. Besides strong descriptions of life in the newly developing middle class of America, the author uses her descriptive talents to detail the vivid natural joys of South Florida that have long since been covered over or destroyed. I think, though, that another level exists in this first novel. The use of Dante's Inferno mixed with the strict life of a Catholic schoolboy gives this young teenager the level of torment needed to create a really good storyline. Each time Eddie sticks his toe into the pool of perdition, he considers yet another level of Dante's hell he is probably subject to. Ambition and money is overshadowed by good Catholic guilt, however, and Eddie must pay a price ultimately. The flashback style is neither disruptive nor overused but offers assurance that perhaps Eddie did not cross the river Charon after all. Overall, the novel creates a mood that pulls the reader back to a time that was not necessarily the good old days but certainly is well worth remembering.