Pomeranski by Gerald Jacobs
As Benny the Fixer Pomeranski is laid to rest on a cold November morning at the turn of the twenty-first century, a motley crew of survivors from his youth assembles around the grave, its members ‘identified by their lived-in faces – faces that indicated a singular kind of past, a chequered hinterland.’ This encounter with the past, and the discovery of his father Benny’s diaries, leads Simon Pomeranski back to his childhood and the post-war days of the Astorians, a small group of criminals and traders in ‘swag’ who ran their business from Brixton Market and exercised their own particular brand of justice. From this wonderful assortment of characters we are introduced to ‘Spanish Joe’, the cultured Russian emigre, Sam ‘the Stick’, with his wounded machismo and penchant for violent retribution, and the dazzling songstress Estelle, among others. Front and centre in their world, though, is Benny himself, the autodidact owner of Pomeranski Gowns, whose passionate affair with Estelle marks the beginning of a new era for the Astorians. Both riotous and profound, this novel resurrects a vibrant era that deserves a place in our collective memory.
They should have been celebrating Benny Pomeranki’s eighty-first birthday the previous week but on this typical cold November day in 2000 they were instead laying Benny the fixer to rest. Pomeranski (Quartet Books) by Gerald Jacobs is both amusing and also fascinating reminder of post-war Brixton and we are introduced to some ‘interesting’ characters of the time.
Simon Pomeranski has discovered his father’s diaries and now a trip back in time. This is a story of a small Jewish community based in South London, an area I know very. But this story is post-war Britain and Benny Pomeranski is just out of the army and is looking for a new start. Benny swops the army life for a life in the rag trade and soon he getting to grips with his new role and his new life. But it does not stop him there. Benny wants more.
So now together with some of his chums they set up what can only be deemed as an interesting group of young men and name themselves after the Astoria Cinema. The Astorians are a small group of friends, they are smart and clever and as Brixton is beginning to liven up, they will make sure they look after each other’s back. You cannot have a group of friends without each of them having their own unique name or badge of honour you might say. So now we have Benny ‘the fixer’.
But this group was not set up just for fun, they had plans, some of the locals deserved seeing to. So Benny ‘the fixer’ and his group set about just that, robberies and beatings took place. After all they deserved it. Was this a case of this band of young brothers just setting a marker and a place for themselves in a new world order in South London?
This is both a fascinating and brilliantly written book that harks back to the post-war days and it is at times really quite humorous but also a compelling read. The characters you will either like or you not it really is as simple as that. Look out for a cameo performance by Ruth Ellis. I really warmed to Pomeranski by Gerald Jacobs, this is from a bygone era and will bring back memories for anyone growing up in South London back in the 1950’s.
Thank you to Quartet Books for the review copy of Pomeranski by Gerald Jacobs.
Pomeranski by Gerald Jacobs was published by Quartet Books and was published on 30th April 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.