So, I love My Cousin Vinny. I don’t think there’s a lawyer in existence that doesn’t love it. Yeah, yeah, as we saw in the last Film Friday there are some errors in how shit goes down and the presentation of trying a case out of state, but still and all it’s a great fucking movie that captures the realistic and procedural absurdity of a real courtroom and trial perfectly. That’s why when Larry Kelter let me know that he had written a motherfucking sequel to the trial exploits of Vincent Gambini, the foul-mouthed attorney who set an Alabama murder trial on its heads and questioned the physics of a man’s stove on the record, I leaped at the chance to grab an advance copy and review it.
Then I promptly sat on my ass and repeated promised Larry the review would be “coming soon,” because I’m a piece of shit.
But I finally got through with Back to Brooklyn, which you can find through that link on Amazon, and let me say this:
Fuck you, Larry Kelter, for making me form the mental picture of Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei going at it.
Seriously, if I want to picture a pudgy, foul-mouthed attorney banging someone way out of his fucking league, I can just stick a camera in the bedroom sometime. I don’t need to read your goddamn well-crafted prose with an intriguing storyline that uses beloved characters to do so. But it should be taken as a testament that, while the book never actually has a fucking sex scene, Kelter writes his characters, and their interactions with each other, in a way that captures the playful “fuck you too” -ness of a relationship. It says even more that with this writing style, focused on his characters and bringing his own personal touch to characters that have been long-established in the minds of the public, he can naturally make my mind go from “talking about a personal injury suit” to “those two are totally gonna bang in the next three pages” with aplomb. That takes some skill.
For example, early on in the book there’s an argument over toilet paper. Vinny, apparently, is a fan of the tubes. Mona Lisa, however, is much more environmentally friendly than her troll of a boyfriend, and therefore does not. The back and forth bickering makes the characters feel alive, and the tone in which it’s written brings immediately to mind the 1992 Pesci/Tomei interplay on the screen. It’s a real moment captured in the same absurdist style of the film.
At the end of the day, though, my biggest worry about the book was it would turn out to be some form of masturbatory fan-fiction, Kelter jerking himself off as he goes with “his vision” of what happened next with Vinny. I’ll admit it, I was worried that at some point there would be a character named “Jerry Felter” that would swoop in and save the day before being invited back to the apartment to have a torrid affair with Mona Lisa, in the best traditions of Mary Sue’s fucking everywhere. Then I promptly reminded myself that Kelter isn’t some hack who chose the weirdest and most specific fandom in existence to gush over: The man is an actual fucking author with real goddamn credentials…and he shows it because Kelter captures the spirit of the film well.
However, Kelter doesn’t just fucking mimic the film. Instead, he takes the characters we first came to love in 1992 and, updating them a bit for the times, places them in the middle of just another murder case. Vinny, having gotten his cousins off the fucking hook, returns to Brooklyn looking to settle his ass back into the semi-lucrative profession of a personal injury attorney running a mill, churning out the settlement cases without ever having to set foot in a courtroom. Somewhere along the way, though, his past catches up to him in the most predictable of ways: He’s now tried, and won, a capital murder case…and so another one is plopped right into his lap, this time by his old mentor.
I’m not gonna get into the story though, I want to focus on the writing here. It’s a difficult fucking thing to take someone else’s characters and made them your own. It’s an even harder thing to do when the characters are well-loved and well-known. Imagine if tomorrow someone started writing a sequel to Gone with the Win….wait? That already happened? Oh. How about a sequel to To Kill a Mockingb…that too? Go Set a what now? Atticus is a racist? Fuck man. Still, Kelter does what other attempts, and what fanfiction, really can’t he owns the fucking world that the characters live in and preserves the charm from the movie while moving the story forward.
That takes some fucking work, guys, and Kelter does it well.
Also, apparently, this appears to be labeled as “Book 1,” meaning this is going to be a goddamn franchise. I hope that Vinny breaks out of the “murder case” mold in the next one, because we’ve seen him do it twice now, and I’d like to see Vinny tackle a civil case or two. Maybe along the lines of a funnier version of The Verdict or something.
Maybe it’s just the lawyer in me, and maybe it’s the fanboy in me, but I loved the book, and I sure as shit look forward to the next one.
Hell, I may even be okay with Vinny taking on a law partner by the name of Jerry Felter.
Back to Brooklyn by Larry Kelter is available here on Amazon.