Reviews of The Monkey Rope:
A dark, gritty first novel featuring lawyer Seymour Lipp, who reluctantly agrees to defend his boyhood nemesis, Junior Constantino, on drug charges and becomes, to his grief, Junior's court-appointed keeper. Seymour finds Junior work as his ramshackle building's janitor -- a job Junior mostly ignores until the arrival of Emily Levine, the bored wife of a new tenant. When Mrs. Levine is murdered, Junior is the prime suspect -- they were having an affair. Meanwhile, Seymour and Junior's sister, Rosalie, have rekindled their own romance; Junior's live-in lover Lois, a whore and a junkie, is working the streets again; and Eddie Gomez, the other janitor in the building, may have raped Mrs. Levine when she was a young girl (while he was working as her father's gardener). The question of whether Junior did it is less interesting than what he did to Seymour in their enmeshed past -- namely, mangle Seymour's foot with a cherry bomb when they were kids and, later on, convince Seymour to rob a jewelry store (when the alarm went off, Junior took the fall for both of them. as penance). Now, the trial and downbeat solution leave it all too clear that Seymour and Junior may never be rid of each other -- or their various guilts. Pungent dialogue and full-bodied characterizations make this a better-than-usual first effort. Not, however, for the dainty-hearted, with its cynical morality and sexual taunts.
Robert Randisi, "Orlando Sentinel," July 22, 1990:
The Monkey Rope is Stephen Lewis' impressive debut as a novelist. Seymour Lipp is a Brooklyn-born lawyer who is suffocating in a corporate law firm until Lois Constantino walks back into his life. Lois and her brother, Junior, grew up with Seymour, and now Junior is in trouble. Seymour ends up representing Junior in a drug matter. He then opens his own office and gets Junior a job in his building. But when the wife of a wealthy tenant is found dead, Junior is the number one suspect. Lewis does a fine job of explaining the ways in which the characters are connected. He does an even finer job of taking Seymour -- and the reader -- on a roller coaster ride that rivals anything you could find at Coney Island.
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