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Lehane's 'Live By Night' an excellent historical novel

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Author Dennis Lehane has another bestseller on his hands with the publication of his newest crime novel "Live By Night." You all might remember Lehane as the author of "Mystic River," a bestselling mystery novel, which in turn became an Acadamy Award-winning movie of the same name directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie starred Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon.

"Live By Night" is Lehane's sequel to the previously published "The Given Day," an excellent historical novel set in early 20th century Boston. "The Given Day," for the purposes of this book review, tells the story of Aiden 'Danny' Coughlin, an ethnic Irish-American Boston Police patrolman and his father Thomas, a detective and captain on that same Boston Police force. Included in the novel's action is the infamous Boston Police Strike of 1919.

"Live By Night" begins in 1926 Boston, where the '20s are roaring, the liquor is flowing and the dead bodies are falling everywhere. Prohibition is in full swing and that includes Illegal distilleries, 'speaks', corrupt policemen and the ever present gangsters. Joe Coughlin, Danny's younger brother and Thomas' youngest son, in an abrupt about face, has become an outlaw among the gangsters. Joe rises through the ranks of organized crime, holding up illegal poker games, robbing banks and of course falling in love. Along the way he serves two years in prison, joins the Mafia and he ends up in Tampa's Latin Quarter and eventually in Cuba. Joe runs the Mafia operation 'rumrunning' for the entire East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States.

I loved "Live By Night." The book, while much better than "The Given Day," is on a par with "Mystic River," one of my top 10 all-time favorite mysteries.

After reading Lehane's newest crime novel "Live By Night," the only other novelist I can compare him to is James Ellroy. If you know me at all, you know that I am a very big fan of James Ellroy's "L.A. Quartet" ("The Black Dahlia," "The Big Nowhere," "L. A. Confidential" and "White Jazz") as well as his "Underworld USA Trilogy" ("American Tabloid," "The Cold Six Thousand" and "Blood's A Rover"). I believe Ellroy to be America's greatest living crime fiction writer. And also in my opinion, Dennis Lehane is right up there, just a step or two behind Ellroy.

Bill Patton is a regular contributor to this book review column. He reminds everyone that you too can be a contributor by submitting your 400-500 words books review to sarah.dougherty@cabell.lib.wv.us.