By 1926, Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston Police captain, defies his proper upbringing and his father's strict law-and-order orthodoxy. Graduating from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the riches, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns battle for control, no one can be trusted. For men like Joe one fate seems more likely than all others, an early death.
He does have good parts especially after he is "married" to Graciela whose husband lives in Cuba.
The setting is in Tampa, Florida in the 1920s through the 1930s. Prohibition is in full swing with the gangsters including Joe selling bootleg liquor in speakeasies.
Lots of action, love, betrayal. It was a good read by author Dennis Lehane who I really enjoy reading.
Over the course of a decade we follow Joe as he progresses from small time crook to Consigliere, struggles with family relationships and women, builds his empire and reigns with generosity, and tests his belief in God and karma. It's a nuanced story of a complex man - one who struggles to do the right thing in a lawless profession.
In Live by Night, Dennis Lehane brings Boston, Tampa, Cuba, the Great Depression, and the American immigrant experience to life through this fast-paced and engrossing story.
Prior to the start of the actual story, there is a scene where Joe is in the hands of his enemies. It is clear that this might be his last moments and we wonder how he came to this predicament and if he will be able to survive. The rest of the novel tells of events that led up to this.
Those who have read Dennis Lehane know how memorable his characters can be. Just consider the grieving father, Jimmy Markum and his nervous childhood friend, Dave Boyle, from "Mystic River."
Here again, Lehane returns to Boston to create Joe Coughlin, a strong, resolute character who is the son of Thomas, the deputy supervisor of the Boston Police Department.
We pick up the story in 1926. Mobs ruled the city and Joe is the youngest member of the Tim Hickey crew. Most of the time mobsters have a cruel streak and don't think anything of taking another person's life. Joe is anachronism in that he cares for his friends and those around him.
After spending time at the Charlestown Prison and being there when Sacco and Vanzetti are executed, Joe makes his way to Tampa. His goal is to destroy a man who robbed him of his first love.
I was impressed to watch Joe's rise to power and the manner in which he demonstrated his strength and leadership ability. There was something inside him that made others want to follow him.
The prose is descriptive and vivid. Joe is a character who will take his place as one of Lehane's characters who live on in our memory and Lehane strengthens his reputation as one of our best story-tellers.
While in prison, he meets and impresses mob boss Maso Pescatore. When Joseph is released, Maso sends him to Tampa to revive an ailing illegal bootlegging business, which he does quite nicely.
But it's not the story that makes Live by Night worth reading, for the story is uncompelling, at least to this reader. It is the characters and their limits. Joseph would rather be deemed a gangster than an outlaw, the distinction being one commits murder and one doesn't. The Tampa police chief, Irv Figgis, is OK with illegal rum running as long as it's on the outskirts of town. Thomas Coughlin, after living a life of graft, is faced with becoming a lackey of Maso in order to protect his son in prison. What are his limits? Local businessmen, pillars of the community, hidden underneath white cloaks, commit outrageous acts of violence. The bigotry in a region inhabited by whites, Cubans, Spanish and Blacks is blatant. The treatment of women is appalling, especially women of color. Many will try to counter these inhumane acts with acts of humanity. Does one offset the other? It is Lehane's description of people and the times that make Live by Night another must read.
It is a father's love for a child (Thomas and Joseph, Irv and his daughter Loretta, Jospeh and his son Tomas) and the extent and nature of that love that makes Live by Night worth reading. Some of us grew up with undemonstrative or even mean parents, especially fathers, yet knew how much we were loved. Some may know what happens to a parent when a child is hooked on drugs. Some may know the sheer joy in a father's eye upon the mere sight of his child. Lehane explores this as well.
If you're in the mood for a good story, Live by Night will entertain you. If you are in the mood to understand what makes people tick, Live by Night will give you material to think about.
Mr. Lehane's most recent books, The Given Day and Live by Night, take him into the historical fiction genre, although both are tangentially related to crime. The Given Day is set in the late-nineteenth century and ends with the Boston Police Strike of 1919. Live by Night explores the life of Joe Coughlin, a minor character from the previous novel.
Joe Coughlin was his cop father's least favorite child - ignored, neglected, and ultimately brutalized. His relationship with his father and his past lead him to rebellion. Joe Coughlin becomes a gangster and Live by Night tells his story. It is story filled with all the elements of a mobster novel, but rises above its genre in the way that all of Mr. Lehane's writing does. Through Coughlin's story we explore legacies of violence, what it means to be outside of the rule of law, how our choices color our ends. Well-written, as always, with great character exploration, Live by Night is another success for Mr. Lehane. As usual, I can't wait for the next one. You must read this book along with everything else Mr. Lehane's written - you're missing out if you don't.
Joe Coughlin is the son of Thomas Coughlin....the only problem is that Thomas is the Chief Deputy Superintendent of the Boston Police Department and his son is a criminal. Joe feels he and his buddies are invincible, but he finds out they are not. Joe has committed many robberies in his short life, but the last one did him in....he did jail time for this one. He could have prevented jail time and a beating, but he had to see his "girl" before he left town. He should have just left town....she did him in and caused him trouble until the end.
This book is about the Roaring 20's and life on both sides of the law. It is fast paced and lets you into that time period along with the characters. You will see that you won't know if you are friend or enemy even if you are in with the gang you are a part of. It is true to life and gives insight into how crime works behind the scenes. It is not a pretty read...you will be part of many mob killings and brutal scenes.
The beginning is interesting but the ending is somewhat slow and a bit tedious. It is not one of his better books...sometimes there is too much information, and the scenes seem to drag on. I really lost my interest about half way through the book, but kept reading because I know Mr. Lehane is an outstanding author and kept that in mind as I aimlessly kept turning the pages.
To his credit he has creative titles for each chapter with content that lives up to the chapter's heading. He has expressive, descriptive writing as always that brings that particular event, feelings, or person alive, but it lacks connectivity. At times, I was completely lost. I do have to wonder what he was thinking when he wrote this book....I am disappointed.
Going to rate it a 3/5.
This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher with no compensation in return for an honest review.
This follow-up to The Given Day, which I also reviewed in my list here somewhere, is even more powerful than its forebear. It could well serve as a stand-alone, but why cheat yourself?
Stunning. Absolutely stunning.
Really excited about this one. I've read a few other books by Dennis Lehane and loved them.
Awesome book set in the late 1920s and early 1930s during prohibition and gangster times. Started off set in Boston and then relocated to Tampa. As a Tampa native it made the book even more interesting since I know of all the places mentioned in the book and could easily picture it in my mind. Especially Ybor City since not much has changed there. Dennis Lehane is a terrific author and I will most definitely be reading any other books he writes that I haven't already read!
Most of the other books I have read about prohibition era gangsters took place in cities, so it was really interesting to see how the usual gangster problems intermixed with issues of race, such as dealing with the KKK, and with the vibrant population of Cuban nationalists.
I really enjoyed following Joe Coughlin's story to see how his morals were shaped by the positions he found himself in and how these morals were shaped by the philanthropic leanings of a woman he meets named Graciela and how these morals clashed with the stricter religious leanings of Tampa's police chief.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in historical fiction of the prohibition era as well as anyone who is interested in considering how you arrive a definition of right and wrong.
As a side note, I read this in the summer, but as a native of upstate New York, I can imagine that if I had read Lehane's descriptions of the pre-air conditioning humidity in Tampa during a long, cold winter, this book would have been even more appreciated.
Yes, it won the Edgar Award in 2013, which may lead you to believe that I am wrong. Go ahead, read it, and you’ll see.
LIVE BY NIGHT is sort of a continuation of Lehane’s previous book, THE GIVEN DAY, his first deviation from mystery/thriller/suspense. I say “sort of” because LIVE BY NIGHT concentrates on one of THE GIVEN DAY’s lesser characters, Joseph, the little brother in THE GIVEN DAY all grown up and a gangster in LIVE BY NIGHT. But our hero is a gangster with a conscience.
This is about the days of gangsters and prohibition and speakeasies (“speaks”) and easy murders. Lehane writes this genre just as well as he did mystery/thriller/suspense. But LIVE BY NIGHT is historical fiction and not what bestowers of the Edgar Award imply.
I won this book from BV Lawson at bvlawson.com.