At the age of seven, Jason Benson first experiences the wonders of Atlantic City—
Carousel music. The scent of Belgian waffles in the cool night air. A clanking roller coaster, riders screaming in free fall. Freak shows and bellowing barkers. The Miss America parade of fifty Cadillac convertibles.
Amazed and smitten, Jason decides his real life will happen here, in this magical shore town. Growing up in a Philadelphia suburb in the 1960s and 1970s, he lives only for his summers on the boardwalk, where his father owns a pretzel stand. From a gypsy friend the boy learns to juggle, and soon “Jason the Magnificent” entertains rapt beachside crowds with his skill and his clever patter. He can’t wait to finish high school so he can move to Atlantic City permanently.
But his plans go awry. More than 20 years later, we meet him as a grumpy, distant New York copywriter who has never spoken of his youth. All his adventures on the boardwalk—and all the dreams he cherished there—remain a secret from his wife.
In deftly interwoven passages, Mr. Boardwalk traces the excitement and perils of the young Jason and the moral growth of the adult who must come to terms with the past he tried to forget. It is a dual coming-of-age story like no other—a tale of magic and reality intertwined.
Louis Greenstein is an award-winning author of two novels and twelve plays. The recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts playwriting fellowship and a 2020 Sunny award for fiction, he has also edited books on subjects ranging from self-help to Led Zeppelin. He has produced two documentary films, covered professional boxing for The Ring magazine, and written for the Emmy-winning TV show Rugrats.
Fiction, 310 pages
paperback / $19.95 / ISBN 978-0-9788636-7-8
ebook / $9.99 / ISBN 978-0-9788636-8-5
“Vividly evoking the carnival energy of the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1970s, Louis Greenstein captures the longing for places and people who linger in memory. Mr. Boardwalk is a sensitive portrayal of loss, regret, and the difficult yet healing task of coming to terms with your past.”
—Alan Drew, author of The Recruit
“Like a world-class juggler, Louis Greenstein’s Mr. Boardwalk pulls off the impressive feat of handling several things at once: His debut novel is a heartfelt bildungsroman, a story of a man coming to terms with his complicated youth, and a vivid novel of place. The depiction of 1970s era Atlantic City is particularly well crafted, marking Greenstein as a writer with a keen eye for the ocean-side resort in the years just before casinos came calling. Although I grew up in Georgia and never visited the Jersey shore before the new millennium began, this novel makes me feel as if I was there, circa 1975, eating a soft pretzel on the boardwalk.”
—Joe Samuel Starnes, author of Fall Line and Red Dirt
“Mr. Boardwalk is a must read and brings back so many great memories. You’ll love it.”
—Jerry Blavat, a.k.a. "The Geator with the Heater," disc jockey and music legend
“Mr. Boardwalk's central concern…is Jason’s love for Atlantic City in the mid-70s, and his nostalgia for it in the present day. Jason’s teenage years down the shore were those immediately preceding legalized gambling, when Atlantic City wasn’t exactly a more innocent place (Greenstein deals honestly with the drug and sex culture of the era), but a more honest one. Before the huge casinos with faux themes and the false hope of winning big, the city was full of local seasonal businesses which, in the novel, seem to act more like family than competitors. Greenstein brings us vividly back to that time, while also reminding us that it was not without its consequences on the individuals who lived it, and that nostalgia can have a bit of a dark side as well.”
—Joshua Isard, Small Press Reviews
“The Atlantic City of the past was a place oozing with a strange and elusive magic. In his tender and taut novel, Mr. Boardwalk, Louis Greenstein captures, as well as anyone has, the mighty and magnetic pull of this place, how it grabbed people when they were young and wouldn’t let go, even after years of being away.”
—Bryant Simon, author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America