Dorothy Uhnak (April 24, 1933 - July 8, 2006) “was an American novelist.
Before becoming a novelist, she worked for 14 years as a detective for the New York City Transit Police Department. Uhnak
was born in New York, New York.
Uhnak's debut book, The Bait (1968), received a 1969 Edgar Award from the
Mystery Writers of America for Best First Novel (in a tie with E. Richard Johnson's Silver Street). The Bait was also
made into a 1973 made-for-television film of the same title. Her most famous novel is The Ledger, which was adapted for the
TV film and series Get Christie Love! starring Theresa Graves.
Uhnak died July 8, 2006 in Greenport,
New York, reportedly of a deliberate drug overdose that may have been suicidal.” (Martin, D. New York Times, July 12,
Dorothy Uhnak was the author
of Law and Order; Victims; The Ledger; Policewoman; The Investigation; The Witness; The Ryer Avenue Story; Bait;
False Witness; and, Codes of Betrayal.
According to the book description of
Law and Order, “From 1937 to the 1970s the NYPD owned the New York City streets, and the Irish
owned the NYPD. Officers ruled their beat, fighting crime the way they wanted, and bending the law to take what they could.
There was only one rule— look after your own. When Sergeant Brian O’Malley’s prostitute lover pushes him
out of a window, his friends in the police cover up the details and give him a hero’s funeral. His eldest son is encouraged
to join the boys in the force, but as he rises the ranks he realizes that all favors must be repaid, whatever the repercussions.”
A reader of Law and Order
remarked, “I liked it a lot. It is the story of three generations on the NYPD. It did slow down a bit on some of the
character backgrounds but then speeded up again. If Cop stories are your thing then I give it 4 stars. It would make a great
Kirkus Reviews said of Codes
of Betrayal, “A New York City cop whose Irish relatives have been killed by the Mafia branch of the family
vows revenge--even though it means he'll get pulled every which way from here to next week. Hours after attending his
great-grandfather Nicholas Ventura's 75th birthday party in Westbury, Peter O'Hara, 12, is shot dead during a petty
drug quarrel his cousin Sonny had with some independent dealers in Chinatown. Peter's father, Det. Nick O'Hara, is
devastated by his son's death--and even more devastated when his cop uncle Frank O'Hara tells him that the story Papa
Ventura told him about Peter's death was just a whitewash of Sonny, and that 30 years ago, Papa had ordered Nick's
own father killed when he witnessed a fatal scene on a city construction site. It's time for revenge on the Venturas,
Frank urges Nick. But first Uhnak (The Ryer Avenue Story, 1993, etc.), not content to leave Nick deadened with grief over
his son's death and his grandfather's treachery, has to plunge him further into despair by packing him off on a botched
robbery that leaves him struggling in the clutches of the DEA--and all the more ready to rebound to the Ventura fold, now
as a government informer. Nick's betrayal of his grandfather is complicated not only by his affair with Papa's spoiled
darling, manipulative fashion-designer Laura Santalvo (who has her own drug-soaked secrets to hide), but by the elaborate
introduction of dozens of figures--Papa's widowed sister Ursula, loyal retainer Tommy the Dog Bianco, Nick's longtime
antagonist Funzy Gennaro, Junior Caniello, Esq.--who pop up and then get disappeared, as if by the Mafia. Coupled with Uhnak's
telegraphic prose, it's enough to make the whole series of triple-crosses read like a treatment for an even longer story--a
television mini-series, maybe--that could dramatize Nick's never-all-that-divided loyalties against the full range of
characters tantalizingly sketched in here.”
A reader of Codes of Betrayal
said, “Nick O'Hara is a good New York City cop whose sole vice is gambling. The only flaw in Nick's record is
the occupation of his beloved grandfather, Nicholas Ventura, an aging Mafia Don. When Nicholas pleads to see Peter, his great-grandson,
on the occasion of the old man's seventy-fifth birthday, Nick reluctantly allows the lad to attend the Little Italy San
Gennaro Festival. While in nearby Chinatown, Peter is killed during a shoot-out.
The senseless death of his son leads to the destruction of Nick's life. He
knows the identity of his son's murderer, but is impotent to act on the information. His wife leaves him and his gambling
goes out of control, leading to large losses. Desperate, he tries to steal drug money to pay off his debts, but is caught
by the DEA. He is offered a deal. Either spend the next two decades behind bars or sell out his grandfather, the man he ultimately
holds responsible for the collapse of his life.
No one describes the mean streets and
various cultures of New York City quite like Dorothy Uhnak. Her latest novel,CODES OF BETRAYAL, brings to life various ethnic
lifestyles and neighborhoods like no one else can, turning them into the stars of the novel. Though the story line is well
written, Nick does not generate reader empathy and the denouement of his complex problems avoids answering the more difficult
question of ethics and morality. Still, fans of police procedurals will not feel betrayed by this book.”