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Live by Night: A Novel by Dennis Lehane (Review #2)

Reviewed by Laurie Weatherlow

LIve by NightLive by Night by Dennis Lehane is a 2012 William Morrow publication.

At the age of thirteen Joe Coughlin began his ascension of the organized crime ladder. He was born the third son of Thomas Coughlin, a well-respected Boston police captain. Joe’s life of crime began by knocking off paper stands with the Bartolo brothers.

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At the age of twenty, Joe met Emma Gould during the robbery of a speakeasy owned by Albert White. Joe’s boss Tom Hickey and White were heated rivals in the bootlegging business. This was the turning point to Joe’s intensification into the gangster world. A world that was fueled by prohibition and the underworld of bootlegging. Joe was an excellent business man with a compassion seldom seen in a gangster. During this time, criminal gangs were rampant and ethnic prejudices ran high. Rumrunning prospered from the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, crawling with Irish and Italians, to the backwaters of Ybor City and Tampa Florida, with Cubans and Latino’s. Joe’s bootlegging and cigar businesses of Ybor became his life. But the mob bosses make the decisions and give the orders of how you live and if you survive.

Live by Night sucked me into the world of prohibition, bootlegging and the selling of your soul to the mob. This was a dark time in the history of America. Prohibition paved the way for bootleggers, corrupt cops, organized crime, the KKK, narcotics and the exploitation of women and immigrants. Many people were swept up by the fantasy of the American dream. They wanted to obtain wealth and prosperity and never considered the ramifications attached to a life of crime.

Lehane’s writing and depth of research will leave you wanting more. This era in our history was very fascinating. I have been to Boston and Tampa many times but never knew of their dark pasts. Some of the original buildings and cigar factories still exist in Ybor and I would love to visit them. For anyone who loves novels about gangsters, bootleggers and organized crime, I highly recommend this book.

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