Irish American novelist Denis Lehane’s tale of love and revenge in the Prohibition era - “Live by Night” is his finest achievement
Lehane pens an epic story of Irish mobsters, petty criminals and women so alluring that men are willing to die for them.
Livee By Night is Irish American novelist Dennis Lehane's atmospheric follow up to The Given Day and it's unquestionably his finest achievement. A tale of love and revenge in the Prohibition era, every page leaps to life with all the grit and glamour of the Jazz Age. Cahir O'Doherty talks to the bestselling author of Moonlight Mile and Gone, Baby Gone about the hard living gangsters that populate his most accomplished work to date.
Every generation Irish America throws up a few authors who seem to tell the story of the nation through the dramas they create. Unarguably Dennis Lehane, 47, has become one of those writers.
Born in the hardscrabble and heavily Irish Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, he inherited tales of the Irish in America from his family and friends before he even knew what a gift they were.
In Live By Night, Lehane's first new novel since 2010's Moonlight Mile, he has set about crafting the finest novel of his career to date set in the Prohibition era in both Boston and Florida. This is an epic story of Irish mobsters, petty criminals and women so alluring that men are willing to die for them.
It's a truly great read in other words, and you can tell on every page how much this atmospheric tale actually means to the writer. Lehane leaves nothing out, he's put his heart and soul into this noir-ish drama, and you can bet that Hollywood is already angling for the screenplay.
This is the richest gangster story Lehane has ever written and it's crying out for a film treatment (Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio are already reportedly in talks to direct and produce).
“When I started this book I only knew two things,” Lehane tells the Irish Voice. “I knew that it was going to begin in Boston, the middle would be set in Tampa and that it would end in Havana, Cuba. That was it.
“The characters grew organically from the story which is a wonderful way to write it. I don't think I've ever enjoyed writing a book as much as this.”
Live By Night begins in 1926, when bootleg distillers and speakeasies are at their height and gangsters are making fortunes from the puritanical crackdown on booze. Lehane introduces us to Joe Coughlin, the bad seed son of one of Boston's best police officers. Joe has gone to the bad, as they say, ending up on the payroll of one of the city's toughest hoods.
But fate crosses his path in the person of Emma Gould and the affair puts him on the hit list of Albert White, the man who rubs out his old crime boss. The entanglement lands Joe in prison where he falls under the wing of Maso Pescatore, who sends him down to Florida to run his bootlegging operation when he's released.
There's more, much more to this epic story. Joe sets up operation in Tampa and before long he's a kingpin in the state's underworld.
But what Lehane is really interested in is the shadow history of the American century, the underworld economy and its seedy denizens that are as much a part of the history and success of Irish America as are the celebrated figureheads we commemorate to this day. No daylight with darkness, after all, no saints without sinners.
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