Friday, September 5, 2008

The Given Day-Dennis Lehane

The Given Day
Dennis Lehane
Morrow, Sep 23 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780688163181

In 1917, the Great War has expanded with the Yanks coming over there. While patriotism to support the troops remains high; on the home front there is also resentment not just by those who opposed America entering the war; some are irate because of conditions in the States.

In Boston by 1918 most of the police force feels strongly they have twin grievances. First there was a promise made that if the cops accepted 1905 cost of living wages during the war, they would be adjusted soon after. Second with danger seemingly everywhere from anarchists setting off bombs, other social unrest in the name of all types of cause and the Spanish Flu lurking behind every door, the job has become much more dangerous without any efforts to counter the peril a cop faces constantly. A strike is expected as the Boston Social Club takes a major stronghold amongst the police officers with promises to bring wages to current cost of living and improve safety conditions.

When Irish policeman Danny Coughlin meets Black Luther Laurence, they become unlikely friends. The former is the son of the most influential police captain and nephew of another ranking officer; while the latter is on the run after an incident involving an organized Tulsa crime mob tied to the esteemed older Coughlin.

This terific historical takes a deep look at Boston just as WWI is ending through the Coughlin and Laurence families. The story line focuses on social class and social warfare as reform, anarchism, and a return to the golden days prior to the war all battle for supremacy. The ensemble cast is solid with extended family members playing key roles while real persona like Babe Ruth as a Red Sox pitching star about to be traded and W.E.B DuBois forming the NAACP set the era. Dennis Lehane provides a superb look at the situation on the ground when the city is divided between those who want to destroy the social order, those who want to change to social order into being more inclusive, and those who want to return the social order to before the democratization of WWI.

Harriet Klausner