One of the greatest mysteries in southeastern Michigan is the
disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa in the summer of 1975. Imagine having
witnessed this mystery; this is the premise for “Pictures at
Eleven,” a novel written by University alum, William Everlong. In
“Pictures at Eleven” he creates a story around Al Strohmeier, a
typical computer salesman who happens to get embroiled in the mafia
affairs of his neighbor, Bobby Gerard.

Kate Green

This idea successfully carries Everlong’s story, which has a
plot that is occasionally a little far-fetched. An example is when
Al’s son, who supposedly has an IQ of 210, just happens to engineer
high-tech surveillance equipment perfectly suitable for his
father’s growing obsession with his neighbor’s life. It is hard to
believe that coincidences could work out so perfectly, or that a
mobster with no qualms about killing would let Al get very far with
his blatant curiosity and obvious watch over his home life. If one
overlooks certain details like these though, it is easy to enjoy
the story and its quick pace.

The characters are believable, if not exactly likable. Al
Strohmeier is well developed; his tendency to overeat parallels a
lack of control in watching his “exotic” neighbor. Bobby Gerard
tends to be a stereotypical mafia member, wearing expensive Italian
clothing and quick to resort to violence. It is disappointing that
Everlong didn’t expand upon hinted-at traits in Bobby’s character,
which could have made him three-dimensional and much more
interesting.

Everlong’s story isn’t pretentious and is told in a simple
straight-forward style. He does well creating a believable setting
and lets the events in the plot color the reader’s perceptions. One
of the book’s strengths, but perhaps its biggest disappointment at
the same time, is that it isn’t an outright commentary on anything
in particular. In the end, readers almost wonder what the point
was.

“Pictures at Eleven” has already been banned at one campus
bookstore, apparently because of its cover, which features a young,
seemingly nude boy running around a corner while waving toy guns.
The picture isn’t representative of anything about the story; it is
simply a picture that Al finds with a mafia name scrawled on the
back – a device that Everlong uses to spark Al’s interest in his
neighbor. The book is written with simplicity, and if you are into
conspiracy theories, the mob, or life in the ’70s, it is worth the
quick read.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

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