HERE ARE A few books that could have been written this year and might have become best sellers. They would have made ideal gifts and good reading during the 12 days of Christmas.
The Dillons -- Up from the relative obscurity of being a law clerk for a County Court judge and, before that, a face in the district attorney's office, James Dillon, 38, was elected this year to the Family Court bench. To Uncle Mike, presiding judge of the Appellate Division, his nephew's victory on his first run for public office came as no surprise. The Dillon name, after all, has been on area ballots for more than three decades.
"The Dillons," is a delightful almost folksy account about the dynasty that includes Uncle John, a semi-retired County Court judge; cousin Kevin, the district attorney; Supreme Court Justice Michael, and now nephew James. The beholder in this case is Mike Dillon, and while he bares no family secrets or unearths no skeletons, the author provides a rare glimpse of what it's like growing up on Lackawanna's Reed Street during the Great Depression.
It was a time when boyhood heroes lived in comic books and something resembling a cape was all that a youngster needed to leap from a tree as Superman or Batman in "the fight for truth, justice and the American way." In most cases, because his ego was the biggest and required the most stroking, the hero's role belonged to himself, wrote the judge.
And the foil? It was the kid next door with the block's second largest ego, Ed Cosgrove, who as The Joker or The Penguin, got bopped and bammed by the caped crusader.
The Golden Parachute -- If you're a financial maven, you won't be able to put this book down. Written in clear, precise English with a few verbal intensifiers thrown in for good measure, Ross B. Kenzie, former chief of Goldome and one-time civic powerhouse, tells how, after leaving his bank job, he had to get by and make do on severance pay of $4 million, plus a year's salary of only $782,005.
Readers are eased into the Kenzie story by a forward written by Paul Willax, former chief of Empire of America, who is scraping by on $1.7 million over five years and has come to know what it's like to ride low on the hog. Shortly after leaving his bank post, federal regulators stepped in and took it over -- proof, perhaps, that some people are indeed indispensable, he concludes.
Crime and the Elderly -- He really didn't need to be told, but when he went to a meeting of elderly people who were concerned about the current crime wave, Josephine Golata let him know that old people are now hiding out behind doors that are locked as early in the day as 5 p.m.
A week earlier, five youths mugged a judge not far from the front window of his office.
And on his desk, a report from just one police station had recorded five murders, 38 rapes, 189 robberies, and 418 assaults in just 6 months.
All of which commanded the deepest sympathy of Buffalo Police Commissioner Ralph V. Degenhart, who, as a senior citizen himself, knows crime inside and out. In his book, "Crime and the Elderly," Degenhart points out that last summer he became a crime victim.
Caught up in an apparent scam operation conducted by the city Parks Department, Degenhart was bilked of $900 in the mistaken belief that he was paying for the removal of a tree. He wrote that the incident should serve as a warning to senior citizens not to carry around that kind of money. Or deal with the Parks Department.
The Big Squeeze -- U.S. Attorney Dennis C. Vacco's book may not be for everybody, but it should be must reading for law students who are interested in becoming prosecutors. It's a text book on how to squeeze the little fish so the big one can be landed.
First you make a plea bargain with "Murph" Czajkowski, the deputy parks commissioner, and then you make one with Ed Graci, the superintendent of Delaware Park. According to the script, they will deliver Robert Delano, the parks commissioner, who once played Damion to Mayor Griffin's Pythias.
And can Delano be squeezed to get someone higher up the ladder? Vacco says possibly.
"In theory, you can squeeze right out to infinity," he wrote, "but with Murph and Ed having been dipped into the River Jordan, Delano just might be a bite-size main entree."
Repairs on the Side -- Those "how to" books for handy people are still in fashion, and this one is certainly an unusual one. It was written by the bartenders at the Swanee House who, according to Griffin, once repaired his boat motor while he and the missus, the former Margie McMahon, waited at the bar. With the flair of a Duncan Hines, Griffin writes in a forward that the workmanship was excellent and that he heartily endorses it. Especially since the service was free.
Had these books existed, they would have been a sure-fire way of saying "Merry Christmas" to a friend.
Since they don't, we'll just have to say it: Merry Christmas!