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Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

Synopsis:  Boston, 1926. The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world.

Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city’s most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw.

But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one–neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover–can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.

Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa‘s Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. “Live by Night” is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue.

First Line:  Some years later, on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe Coughlin’s feet were placed in a tub of cement.

Random Quote:  What Ive learned is that violence procreates. And the children your violence produces will return to you as savage, mindless things. You wont recognize them as yours, but theyll recognize you. Theyll mark you as deserving of their punishment.

Review:  Dennis Lehane is hands-down one of my very favorite writers.  His books are sad and wise and filled with lasting images, some of which haunt my dreams.  He is a writer of great depth and breadth and I read and re-read his books over again (although Mystic River is so painful to me that I cannot read it anymore).

Mr. Lehane’s most recent books, The Given Day and Live by Night, take him into the historical fiction genre, although both are tangentially related to crime.  The Given Day is set in the late-nineteenth century and ends with the Boston Police Strike of 1919.  Live by Night explores the life of Joe Coughlin, a minor character from the previous novel.

Still in the Attic of a Home – Tampa, FL – 1920 (image source)

Joe Coughlin was his cop father’s least favorite child – ignored, neglected, and ultimately brutalized.  His relationship with his father and his past lead him to rebellion.  Joe Coughlin becomes a gangster and Live by Night tells his story.  It is story filled with all the elements of a mobster novel, but rises above its genre in the way that all of Mr. Lehane’s writing does.  Through Coughlin’s story we explore legacies of violence, what it means to be outside of the rule of law, how our choices color our ends.  Well-written, as always, with great character exploration, Live by Night is another success for Mr. Lehane.  As usual, I can’t wait for the next one.  You must read this book along with everything else Mr. Lehane’s written – you’re missing out if you don’t.

FTC Disclosure:  Copy from publisher for review

Publishing Information:  William Morrow – October 2, 2012

Format:  Hardback

Published inBooks

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