Friday, March 09, 2007

Stanley Alpert's "The Birthday Party"

Today's feature at The Page 69 Test is Stanley N. Alpert's The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival.

Alpert's capsule biography and the book's backstory:
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Served as a federal environmental prosecutor in New York for 13 years. In 1998, unrelated to my work, I was kidnapped off the street by a gang of robbers who held me, blindfolded in an apartment in Brooklyn, for 25 hours. I survived. The story was "too wild to be fiction" as Joseph Wambaugh says, so feeling the need to tell it, I took several writing classes and transformed myself into an author.
Among the praise for The Birthday Party:
The Birthday Party [is] one of the most exhilarating, improbable New York stories ever told.
--New York Times

Reading "The Birthday Party" is like watching a slow-motion train wreck - difficult to look at but impossible to turn away from. Alpert depicts good guys and bad guys in vivid detail.... Those telling details - alternately funny, appalling, fascinating and scary - are the product of some hard-won wisdom on Alpert's part. That's the real gift he received on the occasion of his remarkably memorable 38th birthday. "The Birthday Party" is a good read, but it is also an object lesson. We all need to pay attention to it.

The view from inside the trunk of a car is delivered in this harrowing, first-person account of kidnapping, robbery, and revenge.... This story is told in two parts, effectively giving a satisfying narrative arc to Alpert's complex ordeal: the first part is "Mouse," recounting Alpert's victimization; the second part is "Cat," in which Alpert pursues his former captors. A street-smart prosecutor, Alpert delivers an unflinching look at the humiliating, terrifying role of the victim, lacing his plight with commentary on contemporary crime and the creaking judicial system. The second part reads as compellingly as the first and with every bit as much suspense. An effective, one-two punch of a memoir.

Tom Cruise as Stan Alpert in the film version of The Birthday Party? United Artists, now led by Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner, optioned the book as one of their first properties.

Alpert stills work as a courtroom lawyer, primarily on environmental and toxic tort cases across the United States, "doing the sort of work made famous by the Erin Brockovich movie." His law firm is The Alpert Firm in New York City.

--Marshal Zeringue