It’s time for some hot guy fiction. Now, this is not exclusionary at all. If ladies want to read fiction written by men featuring mostly male characters doing manly things (behaving badly’s on the list), be my guest. I was running a little short on crime fiction recently, so I grabbed four books from two authors I love but have ignored of late–George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane. Let’s start from the top.
The Double by George Pelecanos
You may have heard of Pelecanos from his work as a writer and producer of The Wire and Treme on HBO. He’s been in the crime lit business for a while with 20 books on the shelves. The Double is his second novel with the young protagonist Spero Lucas, who makes finding stolen goods his calling card after returning home from service in Iraq. The first book in the series is called The Cut and is a recommended starting point. In this story, Spero agrees to help a woman whose 19th century painting was stolen by a lover, and as is true in this genre, the bad guys are really bad. Pelecanos has an excellent ear for dialog, gets into the minds of multiple characters, and gives you the sex and violence that’s worth the hardcover price. Also, any time he provides you with a music cue, look that stuff up. This author has great taste in music, and he assigns each character his own musical style or soundtrack. Pelecanos writes mainly about the D.C. area, and the city’s a character in every book.
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
This is the second book I’ve selected that requires going back in a series if you want the full story. Gone, Baby, Gone told the first part of the story of two private investigators, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, who track down a missing kid. The movie was what made us forget about Ben Affleck’s bad acting turns, as it was his feature directorial debut. Lehane wrote five books in this series, starting with A Drink Before the War. He wrote one more book in the series before moving onto single stories for a while. He comes back with Moonlight Mile. In this installment, Kenzie and Gennaro find themselves searching for the same girl, now 16, who’s run away from her family. The tale also brings up the bad economy of the time (not that it’s improved much) as the couple struggles to get by with their own young daughter, having to decide whether to work for the “man” when the “man” is clearly bad news, and again dealing with some Russian gangsters who are a bit short on compassion.
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
It was nice to read three of Lehane’s more recent books because I felt like they were all crime-related but distinct enough to show a writer who’s pretty comfortable in the game. Live By Night reminded me of the recently completed HBO series Boardwalk Empire. The plot begins in 1926 Boston, in the early days of Prohibition. Joe Coughlin, son of a Boston police captain who takes residence on the wrong side of the law, finds himself running a criminal empire out of Tampa Bay. I don’t think I want to live in pre-air conditioning Florida. Coughlin has to deal with murderous competitors, Klansmen, a female evangelist who attempts to take away his shot at going legit, and a boss who doesn’t entirely respect his place in the pecking order. Many scenes will make you as uncomfortable as walking on the beach in a wool suit on a summer day.
The Drop by Dennis Lehane
What’s up with these Eastern European thugs? The Drop is almost novella in length but tells a tidy tale of Bob, a bartender who has no life, save the job and spending lots of time at his local Catholic church. One night he finds a half-dead puppy in a trashcan and decides to take care of it with the help of a woman who’s a bit damaged herself. Bob has to deal with Nadia’s former lover, a villain who was the man responsible for the dog’s condition but attempts to blackmail Bob along with getting the dog back. If that isn’t enough, the bar gets robbed of a lot of Chechen gang money. Bob has to look over his shoulder at his co-worker, an older man who used to be in a gang of his own and is attempting to make one last score, deal with a cop investigating the robbery who also goes to Bob’s church, and the sudden move into adulthood of taking care of a puppy. The final chapter occurs as an enormous haul of cash comes into the bar on Super Bowl Sunday as various criminals get together in a scene that would have me calling in sick. I know, didn’t stick the landing.
You can’t go wrong with any of Pelecanos’ or Lehane’s works. Start from the beginning with A Firing Offense (Pelecanos) or A Drink Before the War (Lehane), or just get in the game somehow. It will make you happy that you’re living a life of un-crime.