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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Prince of Thieves

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Prince of Thieves, a crime thriller written by Chuck Hogan and read by Dorchester’s own Donnie Wahlberg. The action takes place in Charlestown, and the sense of place is definitely the strongest characteristic of this novel. It’s in the tradition of Dennis Lehane’s works, especially Mystic River, though it’s complicated by the combination of the old-time working-class townies and the newly arrived yuppies. Wahlberg’s skillful narration only adds to the convincing characterization of Charlestown and its various residents. The whole book is well worth reading (or listening to), but the dynamite opening paragraph may be the strongest:
First, a toast. Raise a glass, solemn now, to the Town, to Charlestown, our one square mile of brick and cobblestone, neighborhood of Boston yet lopped off every map of the city like a bastard cropped out of every happy family portrait. This is the heart of the old eleventh, the district that first sent the Kennedy kid to Congress, the one square mile of America that shipped more boys off to World War II than any other, site of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the blood of revolution sprinkled like holy water over our soil and our souls, turf and tribe and Townie pride, our sacred trinity. But now, look at these outsiders snapping up our brownstones and triple-deckers, pricing us out of our own mothers’ homes, yuppies with the Volvos and their Asian cuisine, their disposable income and contempt for the Church, succeeding where the British army failed, driving us off our land. But sure, we don’t go away so easy. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” That was us, remember? This carnation here, may be a bit brown at the edges, but see it’s still pinned to the tweed lapel over my beating Townie heart. Be a hero now, reach me that jar. We’ll have a hard-boiled egg with this last one. See how she goes down. It’s caps off, gents. Here’s to that towering spike on the hill, the granite battle monument that’ll outlast us all, the biggest fucking middle finger in the world, aimed right at good brother Boston in the 21st century and beyond. To the Town! Here’s how!
Yes, indeed inspired by Dennis Lehane, and perhaps also by a touch of James Joyce.

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