More Praise From U.K. For The Given Day

From Time Out London:

Boston-based writer Dennis Lehane is man of the hour: Clint Eastwood made his ‘Mystic River’ into an Oscar-winning film, Benn Affleck’s adaptation of ‘Gone Baby Gone’ also attracted praise and Scorsese is presumably hoping to garner glory of his own with ‘Shutter Island’ (out later this year). Not to be outdone, Sam Raimi has signed on to direct this latest novel before its publication. It’s easy to see the attraction: ambitious and hugely impressive, ‘The Given Day’ covers the turbulent period in American history between the outbreak of the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 and the Boston police strike the next year.

Danny Coughlin is a second-generation cop and, if he succeeds in infiltrating a domestic terrorist cell, will become the force’s youngest detective. Luther Lawrence, on the run from a gangland slaying, finds work in the Coughlin household, under the watchful eye of Danny’s father. Together they witness a world in turmoil as racial tensions stew, organised crime gains power and political corruption spreads.

‘The Given Day’ is an epic potrayal of a city at war with itself. Boston has always been to Lehane what LA is to James Ellroy: a morass of compromised individuals on both sides of the law (it was no surprise to find Lehane writing for ‘The Wire’). As if to emphasise the seriousness of his intentions, Lehane strews real people among the fictional characters, including Jack Reed, Calvin Coolidge, Eugene O’Neill and Babe Ruth, who appears throughout as a witness to the simmering conflicts between races and social groups.

The book is meticulously researched and often beautifully written, while thanksfully retaining the hard-edged style of his previous work. In the tradition of James Lee Burke’s ‘The Tin Roof Blowdown’ (set during Hurricane Katrina) and Ellroy’s Camelot novel ‘American Tabloid’, this is a novel that transcends genre, instead presenting a riveting portrayal of American life.


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