Live By Night (Lehane)

Live by Night
Dennis Lehane, 2012
HarperCollins
416 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780060004873



Summary
Boston, 1926. The '20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world.

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, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, 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—neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover—can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.

Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa's Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba.

Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—August 4, 1965
Where—Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Eckerd College; M.F.A.,
   Florida International University
Awards—Shamus Award for Best First Novel, 1994;
   Anythony Award, Dilys Award, 2001
Currently—lives in Boston, Massachusetts


Dennis Lehane is an American author. He has written several award-winning novels, including A Drink Before the War and the New York Times bestseller Mystic River, which was later made into an Academy Award-winning film. Another novel, Gone, Baby, Gone, was also adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film. His novel Shutter Island was adapted into a film by Martin Scorsese in 2010. Lehane is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami, Florida. (See his full bibliography below.)

Personal Life
Lehane was born and reared in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, and continues to live in the Boston area, which provides the setting for most of his books. He spent summers on Fieldston Beach in Marshfield. Lehane is the youngest of five children. His father was a foreman for Sears & Roebuck, and his mother worked in a Boston public school cafeteria. Both of his parents emigrated from Ireland. His brother, Gerry Lehane, who is two and a half years older than Dennis, is a veteran actor who trained at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence before heading to New York in 1990. Gerry is currently a member of the Invisible City Theatre Company.

He was previously married to Sheila Lawn, formerly an advocate for the elderly for the city of Boston but now working with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office as an Assistant District Attorney. Currently, he is married to Dr. Angela Bernardo, with whom he has one daughter.

He is a graduate of Boston College High School (a Boston Jesuit prep school), Eckerd College (where he found his passion for writing), and the graduate program in creative writing at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. He occasionally makes guest appearances as himself in the ABC comedy/drama TV series Castle.

Literary Career
His first book, A Drink Before the War, which introduced the recurring characters Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, won the 1995 Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel. The fourth book in the series, Gone, Baby, Gone, was adapted to a film of the same title in 2007; it was directed by Ben Affleck and starred Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as Kenzie and Gennaro. Reportedly, Lehane "has never wanted to write the screenplays for the films [based on his own books], because he says he has 'no desire to operate on my own child.'"

Lehane's Mystic River was made into a film in 2003; directed by Clint Eastwood, it starred Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon. The novel itself was a finalist for the PEN/Winship Award and won the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best Novel, the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction, and France's Prix Mystère de la Critique.

Lehane's first play, Coronado, debuted in New York in December 2005. Coronado is based on his acclaimed short story "Until Gwen," which was originally published in The Atlantic Monthly and was selected for both The Best American Short Stories and The Best Mystery Short Stories of 2005.

Lehane described working on his historical novel, The Given Day, as "a five- or six-year project" with the novel beginning in 1918 and encompassing the 1919 Boston Police Strike and its aftermath. The novel was published in October, 2008.

On October 22, 2007 Paramount Pictures announced that they had optioned Shutter Island with Martin Scorsese attached as director. The Laeta Kalogridis-scripted adaptation has Leonardo DiCaprio playing U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, "who is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island." Mark Ruffalo played opposite DiCaprio as U.S. Marshal Chuck Aule. Shutter Island was released on February 19, 2010.

Teaching Career
Since becoming a literary success after the broad appeal of his Kenzie and Gennaro novels, as well as the success of Mystic River, Lehane has taught at several colleges. He taught fiction writing and serves as a member of the board of directors for a low-residency MFA program sponsored by Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He has also been involved with the Solstice Summer Writers' Conference at Boston's Pine Manor College and taught advanced fiction writing at Harvard University, where his classes quickly filled up.

In May 2005, Lehane was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Eckerd College and was appointed to Eckerd's Board of Trustees later that year. In Spring 2009, Lehane became a Joseph E. Connor Award recipient and honorary brother of Phi Alpha Tau professional fraternity at Emerson College in Boston, MA. Other brothers and Connor Award recipients include Robert Frost, Elia Kazan, Jack Lemmon, Red Skelton, Edward R. Murrow, Yul Brynner, and Walter Cronkite. Also in Spring 2009, Lehane presented the commencement speech at Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts, and was awarded an honorary degree.

Film Career
Lehane wrote and directed an independent film called Neighborhoods in the mid 1990s. He joined the writing staff of the HBO drama series The Wire in 2004. Lehane returned as a writer for the fourth season in 2006 Lehane and the writing staff won the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2008 ceremony and the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Television Feature/Mini-Series Teleplay for their work on the fourth season. Lehane remained a writer for the fifth and final season in 2008. Lehane and the writing staff were nominated for the WGA Award award for Best Dramatic Series again at the February 2009 ceremony.He served as an executive producer for Shutter Island. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Bibliography

The Kenzie-Gennaro Novels

A Drink Before the War (1994)
Darkness, Take My Hand (1996)
Sacred (1997)
Gone, Baby, Gone (1998)
Prayers for Rain (1999)
Moonlight Mile (2010)

Other Works

Mystic River (2001)
Shutter Island (2003)
Coronado (2006)
The Given Day (2008)
Live by Night (2012)



Book Reviews
Live by Night is Crime Noir 101, as taught by the best of its current practitioners.... Sophisticated, literary and barbed.... A sentence-by-sentence pleasure. You are in the hands of an expert. And you'll know it.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


Reduced to a bare-bones summary, Live by Night might sound like the sort of standard crime saga we've all encountered far too many times. In Lehane's hands, however, it becomes something larger and infinitely more complex. With its fresh, precise language, its acute sympathy for the passions that shape—and sometimes warp—its central characters and its lovingly detailed recreation of an earlier age, Live by Night transcends the familiar and assumes an unimpeachable reality of its own.... [A] meticulously crafted portrait of our violent national past.
Bill Sheehan - Washington Post


Bestseller Lehane (The Given Day) chronicles the Prohibition-era rise of Joe Coughlin, an Irish-American gangster, in this masterful crime epic. While most hard-working stiffs are earning their wages by day in 1926 Boston, 19-year-old Joe and his friends live by night, catering to the demand for prostitution, narcotics, and bootleg alcohol. When Joe falls for a competing mobster’s gun moll, he sets in motion a chain of events that land him in prison, with the girl missing and presumed dead. In the joint, Joe meets aging Mafia don Thomaso “Maso” Pescatore, who becomes his mentor. On Joe’s release, Maso sets Joe up in Tampa, Fla., as his point man. Years pass, and Joe creates a huge empire in the illegal rum trade. He marries Graciela Corrales, a fiery Cuban revolutionary, and eventually builds a life for himself in Batista’s Cuba, soothing his conscience by doing good works with his dirty money. This idyllic existence can’t last forever, though, especially in the night, with its shifting alliances and fated clashes. Lehane has created a mature, quintessentially American story that will appeal to readers of literary and crime fiction alike.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) Lehane’s novel carves its own unique place in the Prohibition landscape.... This is an utterly magnetic novel on every level, a reimagining of the great themes of popular fiction—crime, family, passion, betrayal—set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop.
Booklist


The acclaimed mystery writer again tries his hand at historical fiction, combining period detail from the Prohibition era with the depth of character and twists of plot that have won him such a devoted readership. Though this novel serves as a sequel to The Given Day (2008), it can be read independently of Lehane's previous historical novel.... Its protagonist is Joe Coughlin, the morally conflicted youngest son of a corrupt Boston police official.... He ultimately builds a bootlegging empire in Tampa, backed by a vicious gang lord whose rival had tried to kill Joe, and he falls in love with a Cuban woman whose penchant for social justice receives a boost from his illegal profits.... Neither as epic in scope nor as literarily ambitious as its predecessor, the novel builds to a powerful series of climaxes, following betrayal upon betrayal, which will satisfy Lehane's fans and deserves to extend his readership as well. Power, lust and moral ambiguity combine for an all-American explosion of fictional fireworks.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Live by Night begins with Joe Coughlin in a tub of cement surrounded by armed men on a boat heading out to sea. How does this opening foreshadow the story that unfolds?

2. Joe, the youngest son of Thomas Coughlin, a high-ranking member of the Boston Police Department, was born into a socially respected and accomplished family. How did he fall into a life of crime? Think about his relationship with his father. How are the two men alike? Did they love each other? Did they respect each other?

3. Talk about Prohibition America as it is portrays in Live by Night. Do you see any similarities with twenty-first-century America? Why does Joe thrive in this world?

4. Joe's first boss, Tim Hickey, tells him, "the people we service, they visit the night. But we live in it. They rent what we own." What is the "night"? What is the significance of the title Live by Night? Joe tells his older brother Danny, "the night. It's got it's own set of rules." What are those rules? What is the darkness inside Joe that draws him to the night? Why does he prefer the night's rules to those of the day? Joe also tells him, "there are no rules but the ones a man makes for himself." How does making individual rules work in Joe's world? If we all made our own rules, what kind of society would we have?

5. Tim also offers Joe several pieces of advice. "The smallest mistake sometimes cast the longest shadow," and "when a house falls down, the first termite to bite into it is just as much to blame as the last." How do you interpret Tim's wisdom? How are his insights reflected in the events of Joe's life? What about Joe's future bosses, Albert White and Maso Pescatore?

6. Everything changes for Joe when he meets Emma Gould. Why does Joe fall in love with her? When his father meets her, he tells Joe she's "dead inside." Explain his observation. Emma does not like Joe's father either, and classifies him as one of those people, "who confuse being lucky with being better." She tells Joe, "We're not less than you." Who is the "we" she is talking about and why does she say this? Do successful people—especially those who have done well financially—think they are better than those less well off? Does wealth make someone "better"? Are the assessments Emma Gould and Thomas Coughlin make about each other correct?

7. Throughout the story, Joe insists that he isn't a gangster, he's an outlaw. How does he define each? Do you think they are different? If Joe isn't a gangster, who is? Joe believes his father—"a pillar of the City on the Hill, the Athens of America, Hub of the Universe"—was more criminal than he could ever be, thanks to a lifetime of "payoffs and kickbacks and graft." Is he right? Does Joe's honesty about himself make him nobler—or just more honest—than his father?

8. Joe's father tells him, "People don't fix each other, Joseph. And they never become anything but what they've been." He also tells him, "the foundation of all lives is luck." What do you think of both of these statements? Can we change our circumstances and our lives? Does luck make a person's life? What does it say for those who are successful and those who are not? Joe argues with his father, "You make your luck, Dad." Can we make our own luck? How can we do so and how do we recognize it when happens? Do you think most people recognize luck when it comes their way?

9. Talk about Joe's relationship with Maso Pescatore. What kind of man is Maso? How does he stand up to comparisons with Thomas Coughlin? What does Joe learn from Maso?

10. Thomas Coughlin gives Joe his beloved pocket watch. Why? What significance does the watch hold for both father and son? Do you think Joe will pass the watch down to his own child?

11. Joe says he doesn't believe in an afterlife. "You didn't die and go to a better place; this was the better place because you weren't dead. Heaven wasn't in the clouds; it was the air in your lungs." If there is nothing else besides this life, what stops people from taking all they can? Do we need religious values to keep us moral? Is Joe and ethical man? Does he have his own code of honor? How would you define it?

12. How does Joe's life change when he meets Graciela? What draws the two together? Does she remind him of Emma? What does she offer him that the night does not?

13. When Joe arrives in Ybor, he meets its lawman, Chief Irving Figgis. Figgis tells Joe he's "incorruptible." Is anyone free from temptation? How does the chief's daughter, Loretta, test this assessment? What impact does she have on Joe and his business? How would Joe characterize Loretta?

14. Joe occasionally dreams of a panther. What does the animal represent and when does it appear to him?

15. Religious revivals and bootleg liquor were embraced throughout the 1930s. What draws people to either—or both—during hard times like the Depression?

16. Where would Joe fit in today's world?

17. Live by Night interweaves themes of class, race, money, power, honor, and betrayal. Choose one and trace its arc through the story, showing how it reverberates in any of the characters' lives. What insights does it offer for our lives today? How much has America changed since the 1930s?

18. What intrigued you most while reading Live by Night?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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