Live by Night: A Novel
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.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012: The story might sound a bit familiar: A cop’s son falls in with bad guys and becomes one. But in Lehane’s hands, the Prohibition-era tale of Joe Coughlin’s rise to criminal power is both fresh and nuanced, packed with guns, booze, and babes as it roars from Boston to Tampa to Cuba. As Coughlin crosses deeper into the dark side—among those who “live by night and dance fast”—he provokes the question that sustains this propulsive narrative: Can a man be a good mobster and a good person at the same time? Incredibly, Lehane, who becomes more masterful with each book, has us rooting for Coughlin even as he slowly becomes the kind of monster mobster he once reviled and rebelled against. —Neal Thompson