By: Jim Knipfel
Publisher: Virgin Books
Publication Date: October 2007
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 2008
Noogie’s Time to Shine follows the hapless Ned “Noogie” Krapczak on his wild journey avoiding detection from the FBI. Noogie is an unlovable, overweight, somewhat miserable nobody who, in his thirties, still lives with his overbearing, nagging mother. An avid film enthusiast who once had visions of working in the movie industry, he instead had to settle for a job with a small ATM company. Noogie goes from store to store refilling ATMs. It is a thankless job that pays little and the store owners have no respect for the socially inept man. Noogie, however, seems oblivious to their taunts as he goes about his job and occasionally quizzes these people on their knowledge of old movies.
One day while filling an ATM, a twenty dollar bills slips from a stack of bills that had been inserted into the ATM. Having already closed the machine’s doors, Noogie is at first frustrated but then decides to keep the money till the following day. He can always slip it back into the machine and nobody will be the wiser. But on the way home, Noogie stops to buy dinner for himself and his mother and, short of money, uses the new-found cash to pay for his meal. Thus begins a year-long process of slowly siphoning money from his company.
When an accountant for the ATM company finally discovers that an enormous amount of money has been siphoned away, he alerts the owner of the firm. Soon, Noogie receives a call from the owner who begins to question his employee. Noogie makes up an excuse and gets the owner to agree to call him back in half an hour. In that short time, Noogie packs up his laundry bags full of money, grabs his cat, and runs for his car. Thus begins his journey.
I found this story quite enjoyable. Although Noogie is not a person you can easily empathize with, you will find yourself hoping he escapes capture. As he travels from town to town, he slowly slips into a life of petty crime, even though he has thousands of dollars of twenty dollar bills in his car. I found myself scolding the bumbling criminal for his foolish escapades and enjoyed the experience.
The final third of the book switches from Noogie’s exploits to those of the FBI as they track him. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying to read about their procedures and how they backtracked this small-time criminal. Still, I quickly read through this section as I wanted to find out what happened to Noogie.
One final comment I’d like to make is about the book’s cover. I was initially taken aback when I saw the picture and didn’t want to read the book. It is a rather eerie picture of Edward G. Robinson, and yes, given the context of the book, it makes sense. Still, having taken an unscientific poll of fellow reviewers, it was felt that the cover adding nothing and indeed, might keep people from picking up this book.
Quill says: Don’t judge this book by its cover, it is a great read.