Winslow’s East Coast Mafia Story Is A Blood And Shiny Game
Helen of Troy rises out of the ocean and starts a war between nations of men that has blood flowing through the streets of…well, pageantry and Greek mythology, the streets of Providence, Rhode Island.
This is how Danny Ryan recalls seeing Pam for the first time on a beach in Rhode Island, as he reflected on dozens of violent deaths, even though she wasn’t really Helen of Troy, and that it was not the property of men, no matter how powerful their egos or the size of their armies. But Danny imagined her as Helen of Troy and knew her arrival was a problem.
Danny is the Al Pacino figure in this brilliant new novel by American author Don Winslow – he just wants a decent life for his family, but he’s in the crowd, chaos is coming, and he just might be the guy. the smartest in the room, although that bar is pretty low. Danny doesn’t buy misty-eyed nostalgia for an Ireland they’ve never seen, he doesn’t like songs about the martyrs of the Easter Rising in 1916, but he didn’t give out the cards that ‘he holds.
It’s the mid-1980s, and Irish and Italian families have carved up Providence under the wary eye of the major league mafia families of New York and Boston.
But they are still suspicious, always ready to take a piece of each other, starting to look over their shoulders at Blacks. The economy is bad, owning the port and the unions aren’t the gold mine they once were, and the young people don’t like to hear the old gangsters say no to the heavy drug trade.
Winslow is an amazing storyteller who works at a breakneck pace, but weaves so many personal stories along the way. They’re seedy gangsters, sure, but they have families, mortgages, and illnesses with medical bills that no amount of bribery can cover.
Winslow doesn’t care all that much about grammar when he goes vernacular gangster in the narrative, and if you’re not good at it, he doesn’t care, okay?
The don has a clambake every summer that everyone comes to. Pam is there with Paulie, a wise man who is one of the best Italians, but Danny’s brother-in-law Liam – a hot-headed dope but not yet a made man – touches Pam’s chest.
It has nothing to do, needless to say, with Pam – it’s all about Paulie and his honor, and the price Liam has to pay Paulie for soiling his property. And soon, Pam is with someone else, and Paulie wants her back…
But enough about the plot – suffice it to say things don’t go well and violence ensues.
Winslow depicts a world with a twisted and quite warped code of honor governing corruption, lawlessness, silence – there are crooked cops, trolling judges, businessmen paying protection and expecting to get it, wives and mothers who fall silent when refrigerators and jewelry fall from the back of a truck.
Hitmen can be imported from somewhere like Pawtucket, Mass., if a family in Boston says okay, or they can even fly in from Belfast if there are guns coming the other way .
Through it all, Danny penetrates deeper and deeper. He is married to a Murphy, whose family rules the Irish; the Ryans were on top but Danny’s dad drank after Danny’s mom – no, no more on Danny’s mom, but you’re gonna like it.
See, city on fire is not a happy story. It’s really violent, they’re awful men who are racists and murderers and bad jobs. But Don Winslow is quite the genius at telling their stories.
Retired Free Press reporter Nick Martin was in Providence once – thankfully he didn’t approach the docks, play backstage card games or spoil the honor of no man made.