The Trees is an exciting historical novel told in “Godfather” style about a handful of guys and girls who make it out of the slums of Brooklyn after World War II and arrive in Las Vegas in time to participate in the transitions is taking place—from the introduction and subsequent demise of Howard Hughes up to the emergence of Macao as a potent force in the world of gambling. Spanning a fifty-year period that begins in 1947, the novel traces the stories of Lawrence “Mongoose” Cohen and his boyhood friends—“Ringo,” “Solly,” “Mo,” “Charlie the Man,” and “Scumbag”—from the old neighborhood until their lives converge in Las Vegas. Ultimately Mongoose—who runs the gambling and gaming activities for the erstwhile last holdouts of the mob at the plush Desert Winds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas—reunites with Eunice, who has become a successful showgirl working under the name of Venus. At first she ignores him, but softens after he is almost killed in a car bombing. Although the relationship develops, Mongoose continues to be haunted by her prior relationship with Tommy DiMeglio, with whom he must deal—but not before he “makes his bones” against the person responsible for the car bombing. The novel concludes by focusing on the partnership forged between the Desert Winds and Stanley Ho, the richest man in Asia, to establish the Pacific Winds in Macao. After his acceptance as a “made man,” Mongoose and Venus prepare to celebrate the opening in Macao in time for the new millennium in the Year of the Dragon.
This book is a long one. There are a lot of characters in this book and it takes awhile to introduce them and to follow them through the years. The book is interesting, but there is so much going on and so many characters, it was hard for me to keep everything straight. I also felt like there were too many technical things or things that were overly descriptive. For instance, one scene comes to mind when “the gang” gets together and has a celebration. There is one entire, long paragraph that describes and lists out all of the food that is there at the celebration. And another scene has to do with one of the characters and a plane that they are going to pilot. They start discussing all of the technical aspects of the aircraft and what it can do, how much thrust and torque and all of that. None of these things were pertinent to the story and I don’t feel that they added anything to the story. The whole book was like this. There are areas where there is just so much description and it gets really hard to read.
I think I would’ve liked this a lot better if it would’ve been pared down and maybe had fewer characters. There is a chart at the end of the book that lists all of the characters and their various ages at certain times throughout the story. I don’t think a book should need that if the author had done their job of building it into the story. At first this book kind of reminded me of the movie Sleepers about the boys that grew up in New York and had to go to reform school for a crime they committed. Then, it switched and kind of reminded me of the movie Casino. It’s almost as if the author wasn’t quite sure what he wanted this book to be. I can only give this book 3 1/2 books.