Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Live By Night by Dennis Lehane

With the new season of Broadway Empire and the long-awaited, just released Live By night by Dennis Lehane, the era of Prohibition   continues to rivet the attention of millions. As in Boardwalk Empire, the novel spins a tale of booze, violence, guns, gun molls, flappers, speakeasies, killers and the killed.
           Live By Night is a fascinating saga of the rise of an ambitious petty thief to a full- blown mobster and killer. We follow him and his obsessive love affairs from the Boston streets to prison, and to Tampa, running rum between Cuba and Florida. The classic universality and clashing values between Joe and his father, Thomas, enriches the plot’s twists and turns with psychological truth.      
          Reading the novel was like visiting my own family. The names are different; Joe Caughlin was the invention of the author; Louis Rosen was my real-life father. Joe Caughlin ran rum from Cuba; my father imported alcohol from Canada to be turned into liquor through stills. Fighting over bootlegging turf, they both wound up murdered; Joe Coughlin with his feet in cement at the bottom of the Mystic River; my dad, shot to death in the driveway of his own home.
          The novel addresses a haunting question of my life—can a criminal also be a good person? Against all odds, Lehane brilliantly creates a likeable outlaw with sympathy. Although I never knew my father, and my mother refused to talk about him, after reading They Live By Night I am inspired to think of my dad with a new-found compassion and solace.

Babette Hughes

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