Sunday, June 24, 2012

An American Family Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for An American Family by Peter Lefcourt!

What did it mean to become American in the mid-20th century? Peter Lefcourt goes beyond assimilation to take a nostalgic and dramatic look at what makes us truly American in AN AMERICAN FAMILY: A Novel (Amazon e-book; $3.99; May 1, 2012). Lefcourt, known for his best-selling comic novels -- The Deal, The Dreyfus Affair, Di & I, Abbreviating Ernie, The Woody, Eleven Karens and The Manhattan Project -- takes a more serious approach here as he revives the settings, styles and sentiments of the 20th century.

RootsThe GodfatherAngela’s AshesThe Joy Luck ClubMy AntoniaThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayMiddlesex are just a few of the great family sagas that have evoked our shared immigrant experience. AN AMERICAN FAMILY is told through the shifting points of view of the five Perl siblings born in the 1940’s, between the two iconic dates of the last fifty years: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the catastrophe of 9/11. Within this time frame the Perl family is swept up in the sweeping cultural changes of those years: the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, rock and roll, drugs, women’s liberation, and the civil rights movement.

During this turbulent time, we meet the Perls -- Meyer, the immigrant tailor with a weakness for Yiddish theater actresses, whose nephew, Nathan, would become a fabric cutter on Seventh Avenue and the patriarch of the clan; Jackie, the young lawyer with a weakness for women, alcohol and Italian-American “clients”; Michael, the business genius intent on building his fortune; Elaine, the married school teacher who wants more from her life than being merely a wife and mother; Stephen, the brilliant and sensitive artist who struggles with his talent and his sexuality; and Roberta, the rebel hungry to experience perhaps a little too much of what life has to offer.

Lefcourt reaches back to his own family and memories to inform this saga. “Though this is not an autobiographical novel, it is, in a larger sense, a ‘cultural autobiography’ – specifically, that of Jewish-Americans born in the 1940’s. Our experiences are similar to that of all immigrants – Italian, Irish, Vietnamese, Iranian, etc. – as we all navigate the tide of our new culture.”

Peter Lefcourt is a refugee from the trenches of Hollywood, where he has distinguished himself as a writer and producer of film and television. Among his credits are “Cagney and Lacey,” for which he won an Emmy Award; “Monte Carlo,” in which he managed to keep Joan Collins in the same wardrobe for 35 pages; the relentlessly sentimental “Danielle Steel’s Fine Things,” and the underrated and hurried “The Women of Windsor,” the most sordid, and thankfully last, miniseries about the British Royal Family. He is a 30 handicap golfer, drinks too much good wine, and has never been awarded the Nobel Prize for anything.

Buy the book at Amazon.

So today I have an excerpt, guest post, and a review! 


If only that asshole Y.A. Tittle hadn’t decided to run out the clock against the Eagles last Sunday instead of kicking a field goal and covering the spread. The bald little prick didn’t give a shit. It wasn’t his $450 on the line.

The shark operated out of a bar and grill in Hempstead, and charged 28% a week. The needle on the 1951 Ford Falcon was twitching around the E mark. He’d have to stop for gas in Brooklyn. He was juggling a lot of balls, and keeping them all in the air at the same time was getting harder. He needed to get by till January, when he’d be finished with Torts and on to Contracts, which was a lot easier, and he was promised a raise.

When he’s been offered the job as Larry Porter’s administrative assistant, Jackie had jumped at it, even though he was going to law school at night.

Guest Post:

Scripts vs. Novels: Peter Lefcourt’s Take on the Similarities and Differences

The similarity pretty much begins and ends with the fact that both careers involve writing. But that’s about as far as it goes. As many other writers, I came to Los Angeles with the intention of making enough money to finance my lifestyle as a novelist. As it turned out, I found that television writing was not only lucrative but a good apprenticeship in the art of story-telling. You learn how to tell a story economically, which is an invaluable skill in fiction writing. And you learn how to write to a deadline. On the other hand, you soon learn that in Hollywood the writer is a fungible element in filmmaking, summarily replaced by another writer when he/she offers resistance to all the “creative” input from directors, studio execs, producers, and actors. You are, essentially, a hired gun, at the beck and call of others – a well-paid hired gun perhaps, to be sure, but one with very little control over the product.

Moreover, there is very little “voice” in screenwriting. In books it is often the way you tell a story and not the story itself that compels readers. I am drawn to language and voice; and with the possible exception of a facility for dialogue (a skill that is almost impossible to teach: I learned how people talk driving a cab in New York in the sixties – an education worth more, in my opinion, than a PHD in Creative Writing) -- these elements are not valued in screenwriting.

Nevertheless, Hollywood has allowed me the wherewithal to travel a great deal, to perfect the craft of story telling and, ultimately, to reinvent myself as a novelist and have both careers mutually reinforce each other. I’m not sure I would have succeeded in one without the other.


When President Kennedy is assassinated, people across the United States were shocked. This is no different for the Perl family in Long Island. Spanning from the 1960's to 2011, this book tells the story of the Perl family. Nathan, the father, and his second wife Lillian are parents to 5 children. Jackie is a law student with a penchant for gambling and drinking. Mickey is the businessman, always looking for a way to make money. Elaine is in school becoming a teacher. Stephen feels like he doesn't fit in with his family and most of the world around him. Roberta is the rebellious one, more interested in experimenting with things than anything else. Through the years this clan will go through numerous changes in their family and the world around them. As time passes, they will all learn what being a family truly means.

This book is able to draw you in immediately with the use of a major historical event like the assassination of President Kennedy. You get a good feel for the characters by their reactions to that one event. This carries on through the years. Sometimes you get to see their reactions to major parts of history, but other times you get to see them deal with the everyday parts of life that we all have to deal with. Many of the Perls really struggle with finding their place in this world (or at least the place that brings them the most happiness). Bobbie had probably the most "stereotypical" experience of what you expect from that era- she loves drugs, rock and roll, and her freedom. I found Elaine's story to be the easiest to relate to in some ways. She really struggles with being expected to just be a wife and mom.

Sometimes I felt the sheer number of characters to be a bit hard to keep up with, but I am also horrible with remembering names. One thing this book really reminded me was how much things have changed in such a short amount of time. I found a beautiful sense of family with the Perls. They don't always agree, and they certainly weren't perfect. However, they really did take care of each other. The ending brought things full circle in an amazing way. I also appreciated that the family participated in history in very normal ways. The family wasn't just thrown into events in dubious manners. Overall, I was really just touched by this story. The Perls really could represent almost any American family. This book will make you laugh and maybe even cry, and in the end you will really feel a great sense of inclusion in and love for this great fabric of people that make this world a wonderful place to live.

Galley provided for review.

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the tour for more great excerpts, posts, and more!

Thanks for stopping by!

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