117 Cherry St. Seattle, Wa. 98104
To call Live by Night a sequel is not quite accurate. It is a new addition to the unfolding story of America through fiction. Joe Coughlin was the youngest son of the Boston family of cops in Lehane's saga, The Given Day. As the family splintered around the Boston police strike of 1919, young Joe turned into a true black sheep, committing petty crimes with his childhood buddies. Lehane follows this fragment of the family into the story of America's great failed experiment of Prohibition. In the early part of the book, Joe winds up in prison and forms an unlikely alliance with the jailed head of the Boston mob. From there, he is sent to the tropical setting of the novel, into Tampa's heat, sunshine and Latin-fueled emotions. Rum is the mechanism and Joe's path to riches and power - though both exact a grave toll on Joe as he mirrors the nation.
Lehane's writing is both disarmingly poetic and serious, even as it makes you smile. As Chandler wrote, "In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man." Lehane describes one thug this way: "Loomis, a former club boxer at Mechanics Hall and sparring partner for Mean Mo Mullins, was said to have a punch like a bag of cue balls." In one sentence, with a tight smile, he's told us this guy is tough (he spars with a guy nicknamed "Mean"), he's probably too dumb to be a contender and his fist is something you don't want to feel. But you've got the entire measure of the man - and he's just a face in the crowd. Later in the book, after Joe's in Tampa and a chancy theft goes well, he and a woman tumble into bed: "The first time they made love in her room above the caffe it was like a car crash. The mashed each other's bones and fell off the bed and toppled a chair and when he entered her, she sank her teeth into his shoulder so hard she drew blood. It was over in the time it took to dry a dish."
Where The Given Day was a large, David Lean-like saga, Live by Night is a big story writ small, shot in close-up, a national story told through nine years in one man's life like B-movie film noir that outlasts the blockbusters. It is a grand and timeless story of love and hate, revenge and fear and hope, as well as folly, greed and the age-old question of whether it is possible for anyone to outrun their fate or outrun a bullet.
If his predecessor in writing deserved a stylistic moniker, so should he. I would say we need to have the term "Lehanian". For if Chandler is one of the brightest stars in the literary universe, surely Dennis Lehane's will be seen to shine just as brightly and his works will be celebrated just as deservedly as they're read and re-read over the decades.--JB
Indie Next ListOctober 2012
This is a stunning epic of a young Irish gangster coming up in the vicious underworld of the Prohibition era who carries the loaded pedigree of being the son of the Boston police chief. Knocked off his game by his first great love, he falls prey to the Italian mob boss who makes him his own and then punishes him for his success. From Charlestown to Tampa to Havana, this stay-up-all-night page-turner is rich in both history and suspense. -- Elizabeth Houghton Barden, Big Hat Books, Indianapolis, IN
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 oneneither family nor friend, enemy nor lovercan 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.
About the Author
Dennis Lehane is the author of nine previous novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island; The Given Day; and Moonlight Mile, as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He and his wife, Angie, divide their time between Boston and the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Praise for Live by Night…
“LIVE BY NIGHT is Crime Noir 101, as taught by the best of its current practitioners. . . . A sentence-by-sentence pleasure. You are in the hands of an expert. And you’ll know it.”
-Janet Maslin, New York Times
“LIVE BY NIGHT transcends the familiar and assumes an unimpeachable reality of its own. . . . [A] meticulously crafted portrait of our violent national past.”
-Washington Post Book World
“Lehane’s novel carves its own unique place in the Prohibition landscape. . . . This is an utterly magnetic novel on every level, a reimagining of the great themes of popular fiction—crime, family, passion, betrayal—set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Masterful. . . . Lehane has created a mature, quintessentially American story that will appeal to readers of literary and crime fiction alike.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)