STARRED REVIEW
March 2018

A terse, terrific crime epic

David Mamet hasn’t published a novel in 20 years, but he makes up for it in every way with Chicago. Set during the height of Prohibition, the novel follows intrepid reporter Mike Hodge, whose nose for news only serves to get him into trouble. While other reporters at the Chicago Tribune make an effort to stay under the radar of City Hall, mobster Al Capone and even their own publisher, Mike constantly looks for rocks to turn over and skeletons to expose.

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David Mamet hasn’t published a novel in 20 years, but he makes up for it in every way with Chicago. Set during the height of Prohibition, the novel follows intrepid reporter Mike Hodge, whose nose for news only serves to get him into trouble. While other reporters at the Chicago Tribune make an effort to stay under the radar of City Hall, mobster Al Capone and even their own publisher, Mike constantly looks for rocks to turn over and skeletons to expose.

A veteran fighter pilot of World War I, Mike prefers the stories “told at the bar” than those printed “in the rag” for which he works. Mike thinks outside the box, uncovering sources no one else considers. After attending a series of mob-related funerals, he approaches the florist to the mob for insider knowledge, and instead meets the Irish girl of his dreams, Annie Walsh.

Mike’s knack for words (“Jackie Weiss,” he writes, “had died of a broken heart, it being broken by several slugs from a .45.”) garners him respect among the mob. But his dogged questions about a pair of shadowy men attending the funeral ultimately get the best of him, leading to Annie’s murder and plunging Mike into a quest for justice and revenge.

Movie buffs will immediately recall Mamet’s screenplay for The Untouchables about the legendary showdown between FBI Agent Eliot Ness and Capone. Whereas the movie was a tense, action-packed shoot’em-up, Chicago is a more methodical whodunit, though fraught with plenty of tense peril of its own. Better yet, Chicago is a master class in the author’s trademark “Mamet speak,” made famous by his Pulitzer Prize-winning screenplay Glengarry Glen Ross. Every page is layered with sharply drawn, often biting dialogue. Some of the conversations are so thick you may have to read them twice to catch everything, but they’re so good you won’t mind one bit.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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