The Given Day and Live by Night

Dennis Lehane is best known as a local mystery writer, but his last two books aren’t mysteries: they’re historical fiction. They loosely form the first two parts of a trilogy (actually, I’m just guessing…maybe there won’t be a third book in the series…or maybe there will be a third and more). The first book, The Given Day, focuses on a Boston police captain and his second son, a police officer and union leader, before and during the famous Boston police strike of 1919; the second, Live by Night, focuses on the captain’s third son, a gangster, mostly in Tampa during Prohibition.

Both novels are filled with character development and other details. Although the ostensible themes are the ones I described in the previous paragraph, the real themes are those of ethnic and racial strife. We learn about Irish immigrants in the first book, Cuban immigrants in the second. We see race relations featured heavily in both books. We meet Babe Ruth in the first and Lucky Luciano in the second. We see police corruption, high and low. Like most historical novels, we get accurate history woven around fictional characters. I found both books completely fascinating; you will too if you like that sort of thing. I certainly do.

Categories: Books, Dorchester/Boston