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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Department of Book Reports: The Given Day

The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane (HarperCollins $27.95) Dennis has truly written a sprawling epic of Boston history here. Set in the North End during the years just after WWI, Danny Coughlin is a beat cop, son of a powerful police Captain, who cannot admit his love for Nora, the starving waif his father brought home from the streets 6 years ago. She is now their housekeeper and engaged to marry the brother his father is angling to become District Attorney. Luther Lawrence, an African American has joined their household staff also, running from a deadly encounter with a Tulsa crime boss. Luther has to keep his past secret, or endanger the pregnant wife he left behind. To pay for his board, Luther has taken a job with the newly formed NAACP, and is rebuilding a wreck of a building for the future headquarters of W.E.B. DuBois.
Danny has been tasked with infiltrating the insurrectionist movements, the commies, the bolshies, and the Unionists fighting for worker and immigrant rights. As he witnesses the hypocrisy of the Boston Police Department in these encounters, and the deprivation of those officers he is drawn to the Boston Social Club's advocacy of clean sleeping quarters, a raise for the first time in 16 years (during a period of 73% inflation) and to end the practice of forcing the men to purchase and maintain their own uniforms. The officers work 83 hour weeks, sleeping in the fetid lice ridden beds at the precinct.
The historical events here are the Spanish Influenza epidemic, the explosion and Molasses flood that has destroyed an area in the North End, and the Policeman's Strike of 1919. Historical figures abound, the Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, and the ambitious Department of Justice lawyer, John Hoover. And did I mention Babe Ruth? Gidge's drinking and perspective from the dissatisfied baseball players give this a bigger narrative.
This 700 page novel is steeped in local lore and is a world you'll hate to leave when it's time to close the book. I couldn't help seeing parallels to our current economic and social issues.

Order The Given Day from Jackson Street Books, or check with your fine local indie bookstore.

Following Mike Lux's appearance at Virtually Speaking, we are able to offer signed copies of The Progressive Revolution. Please use the "questions for the bookseller" option to tell us how you would like your copy signed; personal inscription or signature only. These are First Edition, First Printing copies. Books will be covered in a protective Brodart wrapper and shipped in a padded bubble envelope.

Direct links to previous book reports:
Here Comes Everybody


  1. SeattleTammy:

    Had I but known that this week's selection would feature my former adopted hometown of MA, I would've cut short my "missionary" work in the "gentlemens clubs" of central NY and assisted in the report.

    Calvin Coolidge was more than just a colorful, if somewhat laconic public figure. He was an uberprick and "small government" conservative who helped, in his own way, to usher in GDI (Great Depression I--we're heading into II, now) and he is also remembered with a special fervor by the Boston police department's union members.

    Calvin Coolidge--God's Own Piece Of Shit--GOPOS (TM)

  2. Twenty fucking minutes to put up that last comment--no joke.

    There must be some way to keep from having to post multiple times or continually sign in to a google account even while one is already on their own friggin' blog on a different feed. Sheesh!

  3. It's a great book. Highly recommended.

  4. dear demo, a favorite passage of mine was Thomas Coughlin punching out Coolidge's lights.

    Dusty! so nice to see you here! :)

  5. Didn't Robert Parker try something like this, though considerably less ambitious from a historical angle, several years ago? Or am I imagining things again?

  6. Edenville Owls?

  7. Couldn't you find something a little shorter? 700 pages seems a little intimidating to those less learned. I like reading about people getting their lights punched out, it supplements my wrestling on the tee vee. Thanks in advance,

  8. This book is the ultimate politically correct read. It's a good story as long as you don't mind being lectured by an obviously left-of-center novelist. If I'd know what a diatribe this was going to be I'd never bought the thing.

  9. Thanks addtree! Your recommendation will help convince my readers here!

    oh, and from your blog:
    "This blog is a sponsored blog created or supported by a company, organization or group of organizations. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.
    This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest."


  10. asstree:

    Shorter SeattleTammy.

    Go fuck yourself, troll.

  11. Thanks demo, Hon. And I know it's bad form to laff at one's commenters, but "paid insertions"?



We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.