The August sun shines high and hot above the beach house of boss Pasco Ferri in Rhode Island. It’s a beautiful day, just like the woman emerging from the water. The sun’s rays that make her skin glisten and her blonde hair make her look like a deity. She is beautiful, beautiful enough to bewitch the eyes of Danny Ryan, who is enjoying a moment of carefree sitting on the sand next to his wife Terri. Who is that woman? Where is she from? Her name is Pam, she is the partner of Paulie Moretti, one of the big shots of the Italians, and simply untouchable. Too bad that Liam Murphy, Danny’s brother-in-law and son of John Murphy, head of the Irish, doesn’t think so.
A small misunderstanding is enough between two groups that share control of the territory to unleash a feud: a spark that rekindles grudges only dormant and never disappeared.
The war has begun.
He just came out City on fire published by Harper Collinsthe first novel in a new crime trilogy by Don Winslow, one of the most important noir authors of the contemporary literary panorama. The master decides to move away from the warm atmospheres of the southern states, places where he has set many of his stories about him, to move to the north, in provincial and freezing New England mid-eighties.
Winslow has repeatedly stated that he takes classic dramas as a model rather than inspired by the great noir writers who preceded him. His novels can be read as Shakespearean plays in which the characters are individuals in perpetual balance between thatto be or Not to be which will determine their actions. In this new book, however, the author decides to draw inspiration from a much older text: Homer’s Iliad.
The author dusts off the myths of ancient Greece: Pam is his Elena, the woman who will start the war. There is Prince Hector, embodied by Patrick Murphy, the heir to the throne of the Irish, there are the rulers of the factions, and then there is Danny, the protagonist, the Achilles who would like to live his life peacefully alongside the wife, but who in the face of violence decides to respond with more violence.
Danny Ryan he is a tragic hero, keeps the gun under his leather jacket but doesn’t want to use it. But when the situation worsens, all you can do is go on the counterattack, abandoning the role of a loving husband to dress those of the hitman who is about to become a boss.
Intelligence is the cross that Danny is forced to carry on his shoulders, but it also constitutes the talent necessary to protect his whole family, at least initially, because if in the streets they start shooting, in the home there is no lack of meltdowns, misunderstandings, the traumas that resurface and the great pains.
It is the human being in all its facets to create the precise and pressing structure of the novels of Don Winslow e City on fire is no exception. The literature of the American writer is great precisely because of the way in which he manages to outline the protagonists, telling us complex characters, drunk with a thirst for power and unable to control the complexity of the world around them.
The questions are the real engine of literature, not the answers. Narrative has the task of raising doubts, open grooves in the armor behind which we protect our certainties, and Don Winslow’s characters succeed perfectly.
As in all his novels, the writer paints the portrait of an America dominated by shadows, cynical and violent. The exact opposite of a promised land. A place where slimy mistrust reigns: small towns are ghettos in which there seems to be no integration among the different ethnic groups, the arteries that theoretically should supply the beating heart of the United States with lifeblood.
In the town of Dogtown, theater of the war, the desire for wealth fertilizes the criminal affairs that sprout behind the legitimate activities run by the bosses: men locked up in fortress roomscriminals hypnotized by bogus rites, so proud as to border on stupidity.
Italians love their land, even if they have never been there, as well as being very attached to their (alleged) traditions. They put grease on their hair, eat pasta with sauce and wash their muddy honor with blood baths.
The Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s and chug beer while the African Americans live on the concrete basketball courts. Everyone wants power, including cops and detectives.
In the Winslow galaxy, few are saved: perhaps only those who manage to safeguard emotions and feelings just enough to remain human.
City on fire devours itself: prose essential to the present, the fulminating dialogues and the sudden outbursts of violence electrify the reader through a fast pace, a journey in which the figures that outline the story constantly change roles, dancing around the very dangerous bonfire of violence.
The twists and turns follow one another quickly, keeping the attention high, dragging us into spiral of hatred and revenge in which the protagonists are sucked. Flashbacks are perhaps the only thing that could dilute the density of the story, but in the course of reading they are essential to understand the psychologies of the characters, to know the traumas that have indelibly marked their experience and, above all, to discover the pacts through which the bosses divided up the territory, weaving a solid network of contacts in the world of legality and entrepreneurship, thus managing to maintain peace for years.
Even if the gruesome murders, the beheadings and the castrations that bloodied the pages of the cartel trilogy (the highest and most important point of all Winslow’s work) the action is great, and constitutes the dramaturgical texture of a story capable of seducing every reader.
This latest novel is the new piece of a gigantic mosaic that the great American writer, absolute heir of James Ellroy, began to compose from his first works.
With Harper Collins they will follow City of dreams And City to ashes the other two parts of this new trilogy which, according to the premises of the first chapter, turns out to be truly unmissable.
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