Dennis Lehane's The Given Day didn't surprise me at all.
As with any Lehane novel, he spares no details when it comes to graphic, grueling, and gritty, and as with his other books, skimming becomes one of my reading tools, but all of that does not keep me from reading what he writes. Compelling and interesting, Lehane's stories always have memorable incidents.
Set in 1917 in Boston, Lehane's The Given Day tells the parallel stories of Danny McCoughlin, a member of Boston's police force, and Luther Lawrence, an African American running from his past. As expected the two stories intersect, but what is not expected is how.
Lehane had me turning pages from the first page and reading this seven hundred page novel like it was on fire, sometimes a hundred pages in a sitting. Lehane delivers fast reading because his narrative knows no "pause" or "stop" or "ponder" -- it propels forward, fast and furious, like a car chase or a Van Diesel movie -- not that I have seen the latter.
Seething beneath the surface in post WW1 Boston was a dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Promised a raise since 1903, the Boston Police Force grumbles and mumbles about their poverty status and resents, for one thing, that with their small salaries, they also have to fund their own uniforms and guns. Barely able to make ends meet, the "beat" cops work eighty hour weeks and sometimes twenty days in a row before a day off. To add fuel to their situation, the conditions of the precincts are deplorable -- rats run amok and filthy quarters seem the normal.
Immigrants, revolutionaries, and anarchists note the great discrepancies between the common man and the Brahmins and stir unrest in a city primed for insurgency. Violent radicals rabble rouse the locals by setting off bombs or sending them to city agencies or even civic leaders.
A nervous Boston reacted with prejudice, paranoia, and reprisals. Boston, ripe for change, had the old guard fearing their loss of power and reacting in less than pleasant ways and the new guard fighting back for their own survival - - - the clashing of the two ways of life -- inevitable.
Lehane seems to have done his homework -- he focuses on a part of history that I knew little about -- like Philbrick does for me ---- except Lehane writes this in fiction.
Not only are the fictional characters of Danny and Luther memorable, but Lehane peppers his novel with historical figures -- Babe Ruth, W.E.B. Dubois, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Eugene O'Neil.