The Prints of Thieves: Russ Shor tells us Once Upon a Time

(these weapons of crass destruction will do… in a pinch)


I suggest that Russ Shor was nuts to pay his cable bill, having read his prologue and seen the story arc.  (And please notice that the title is Solly–not Sullyand the Rebels)

Russ has been a lifelong journalist and a gem(ologist) of guy; he was one of the original patrons of A Word with You Press when its clubhouse was in Oceanside, before it migrated to Moscow, in Heming-by-the-way country, the Land of the Double Entundra. Russ has not submitted a contest entry in a while, and it is good to see he has not lost his spark. His deep voice gives me cause to believe his story is not auto-biographical.

You still have time to enter our contest, and a chance to win enough money to pay your own cable bill. Here is where to sign up:

And here is the prologue to

Solly and the Rebels  

By Russell Shor

The burly Prohibition cop shoved the hot ends of car battery cables in front of Jack Kramer’s face. “How d’you think your balls will feel when we clamp these on ’em?”

Jack’s gaze shifted from the cauliflower mole on the cop’s nose to the electric arc snapping and buzzing just in front of him. Imagining the pain, he tried hard to push back but the chair was lodged tight against the wall.

The cop’s voice rumbled in his ear. “Kid, you better tell us who you’re working for or you’ll be singing in the girls’ choir.”

Jack wished he COULD tell this cop something. The electric arc snapped and buzzed again. This time about a half- inch from his nose. But he was only the inside guy. His cousin Nate was the guy running with the bootleggers, selling them the counterfeit liquor labels that Jack printed. That bastard. He’s the one who should be sitting here waiting for his nuts to sizzle.

Until this moment, Jack had been one hundred percent in favor of Prohibition. The money he and Nate had made printing and selling booze labels allowed him and his parents and sister to move from that two-room Bronx tenement to a nice apartment on the Grand Concourse—all before he’d turned twenty. He figured that by the time he turned twenty-one, he’d be able to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.  Without Prohibition, Jack would still be that eight- dollar a week printer’s devil who had to venture eleven blocks into Irish gang territory to get to work.

Jack was never much for the Synagogue but damn if he didn’t thank God for those Irish boys who chased him into that alley one night. He dove hard into a wooden trash bin, holding his breath as long as he could, until they gave up and walked on. They weren’t that determined, he guessed, because it was a lousy hiding place. After his heart stopped pounding, he went to hoist himself out but discovered he’d been crouching between dozens of metal printing plates. He recognized the names:  Jack Daniels, Old Grand Dad, Four Roses, Gordons. Every liquor brand he’d ever heard of. The shop must have gone bust courtesy of Mr. Volstead. These plates would get him a nickel a piece, maybe more, from a scrap dealer, so he bundled as many as he could carry in his arms and noted the spot so he and Nate could come back for the rest.

The next night, the two of them pulled the rest of the plates from the bin. While Jack kept an eye out for the Irish, Nate strapped the plates to an old bicycle.

“Bet we can get ten bucks for all this stuff down at the scrap yard,” Jack whispered as they led the wobbly bike back to the tenement where their families lived. Nate stopped him with a shove. “Scrap, hell. I know people who can use this stuff. Real bootleggers. They’ll pay us a lot more—”

Jack was thinking what he would buy with his half of the money when the idea hit him. “We’re gonna keep these plates and print up the labels ourselves. I run the press after my boss goes home. You sell to them bootleggers you’re pals with. We can make steady money. ”

Two months later Jack was feeling like a genius. He and Nate were taking in a hundred a week each, making all this money from bootleggers but doing nothing against the law. The perfect set-up. Who would bother him? Who? Nobody until that damn Prohibition cop who was still threatening his manhood with those battery cables.

“For the tenth—and last time—who are you working for?”

Again, Jack protested that he was just a printer.

“Yeah? Your weaselly cousin says otherwise.”

“Cousin? Nate?  What’d he tell you ?”

“He told us YOU are the brains of this outfit and we didn’t even have to cook his nuts to make him say that.”

The man snapped those battery cables in Jack’s face again. This last time was once too often. Fifty-fifty, he’s trying to bluff me out of business.  Close down?  Move back to that tenement? Fat chance of that. No, he’d run his printing press tomorrow, then go out and buy a car to take his girl, Nora, around in style. And later, he could deal with that snitch, Nate. Right now, he needed him. There was still good money to be made.


Can’t read Russ’s piece without thinking of “The Untouchables”…


13 thoughts on “The Prints of Thieves: Russ Shor tells us Once Upon a Time

  1. Gary says:

    Good story. Reminds me of Bugsy Malone. This is definitely a guy story. A woman just wouldn’t understand the significance of the arching jumper cables in your face. The style is smooth and easy to read, (my favorite) – and the hook is definitely in the first sentence.
    This is definitely a book that I would buy.

    • Julie Mark Cohen says:

      Gary: Please don’t give Russell the idea that he’s writing solely for guys. He’s not, by a long shot or buzz or snap, as the case may be.

      Between my readings post-WWI thru 1940 readings on “organized” crime to the beginnings of corruption and racketeering in the NYC construction industry through at least the late 1970s… and knowing much more about cars than just the purpose and mis-use of jumper cables, I really appreciated Russell’s prologue.
      — –

      Russell: I want to read more!

      You might want to read William Kennedy’s book entitled “Prohibition Story,” to double-check terms used in the 1920s, if you haven’t already done so.
      among others.

      I was hooked from the get-go, but I would like to see a more thought-provoking end, sudden close to the prologue. For me, I would prefer that the prologue would have ended with these sentences: “The man snapped those battery cables in Jack’s face again. This last time was once too often.”

      • Gary says:

        Julie – thank you for your suggestion but I’m capable of doing my own critiques and making my own statements. I’m glad you’ve READ so much about cars but I suggest you get out and get under the hood to experience it instead of using your readings as an excuse for being an expert.

          • russshor says:

            Thanks.. I appreciate the comments. The object of a prolog is to set the stage for the story or character. In this case, I want the prolog to show that Jack is a scrappy guy who has to make a dime by his wits and won;t back down from a fight

      • Michael Stang says:

        WHAT? There was corruption in NYC’s construction projects? What year was that again? Yesterday? Why, I can’t belive what I am hearing.Wait, I’ll laugh for you … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
        Well, okay, maybe not so funny. I’m a construction guy (day job), struck a funny bone.
        The potential of this work is shocking. Sorry Russ

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Solly and the Rebels” reminded me of the writing groups I have been away from too long remembering how animated and well placed, but unique Russ Shor’s characters always are. There is an element of Jack and Nate as well as the policeman doing the interrogation shakedown that seem familiar enough to be believable, yet each of Russ’s characters carefully and with purpose have quirky characteristics which make his stories fresh. Whether prohibition era, film noir or fifties Vegas in setting, I love Mr. Shor’s original and crackling dialogue.

    The sparks which fly so crisp and electric within this prologue that even ladies such as I can feel the potential male pain or is it memories I would rather deny? Either way the prologue to “Solly and the Rebels” begs us to read on to go deeper into running booze and going wild in the roaring 20s.

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    I wish to remind the readers of the contest that older entries can be found to read and critique at “Departments”/”All Blog Posts”. I am sure that all of those who have entered “Once Upon A Time” would appreciate hearing from you.

  4. Julie Mark Cohen says:

    I want to read more! Your entire prologue appeals to me. I can easily visualize the scene, understand the terms that you used (Can a 1920s battery ( do more “damage” than freak out a male?), and appreciate the Roaring Twenties (from both readings on history of building technology and “organized” crime which spilled from/into bootlegging). Good stuff.

    A suggestion: You might enjoy reading William Kennedy’s book entitled “Prohibition Story.” If nothing else, it may serve to help double-check terms used in the 1920s, if you haven’t already done so. Just a thought.
    among others.

    I was hooked from the get-go, but I would like to see a more thought-provoking end, sudden close to the prologue. For me, I would prefer that the prologue would have ended with these sentences: “The man snapped those battery cables in Jack’s face again. This last time was once too often.”

  5. Michael Stang says:

    This is so period, Russell. The time, the place, the kid on the fringe getting in on a slice of the action; paying for it (maybe). There not gonna really toast his nuts … are they? Who wouldn’t want to read/buy/love the book. I’m betting on reading the first chapter after the smoke clears, and I think chapter two as well. Strong image and dialogue from the kid (from you) makes this great.

  6. Tiffany Monique says:

    Russ, aside from seeing your earlier this week, I’m glad to hear/read/see your writing in a contest submission. So many great points set up in the first few lines… adrenaline, intrigue, and even a love story on the sly. I’m curious about the revenge and the danger level right off, and that’s not even the blatant electrocution looming… good start my man.

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