Saturday, November 10, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #314: The Drop by Dennis Lehane

I don't claim to be an expert on Dennis Lehane's work. For a while, I kept up with him -- I read all of his Kenzie/Gennaro mysteries, and a couple of the things that followed -- but he had a couple of big fat standalones that looked like they were begging to become movies, and I can't stand to see anybody beg like that.

(I think they all did become movies, if that matters. This one did, too.)

But the Lehane stuff I read, I liked -- I probably would have liked the big wanna-be-movie books too, honestly, but I don't have the time to read long books these days -- so, in my head, he's still someone I read regularly, even though it's been seven years since Moonlight Mile.

But every seven years is still something. It's what The Drop got.

In 2009, this was published "in a different form" -- that vague statement which tells us nothing -- as the novella "Animal Rescue" in the anthology Boston Noir. In 2014, it became a movie under the current title, and that's when this edition, however "different" in "form" from the original, was published.

Like all of the Lehane stories I've read, it's about white ethnic people on the edge of criminality in Boston, who've been knocked around by life and don't see any way to get free from their fates, The main character is Bob Sagninowski, a fortyish loner who works in his cousin Marv's bar and used to be part of a low-level criminal "crew" run by Marv before the much more violent Chechen mafia took notice of them and muscled them out.

Just after Christmas, he discovers an abused dog, and takes it home to care for it. Nadia, a woman as damaged as he is, witnessed him finding the dog (outside her place) and helps him out. They become friends. But the dog's owner is an ex-boyfriend of Nadia's, and he's the kind of psycho you often find in a Lehane story.

Worse, the bar is robbed by a couple of yahoos, and the actual owner -- the local Chechen godfather -- is not happy about that at all. You see, the Super Bowl is coming up, the biggest day of the year for gambling legal and otherwise, and this bar is one a of a string that handles a lot of that action for his organization. (Every week, there's one bar that is the drop bar -- where all of the smaller bets roll up to -- and that moves around, in a way that seems random, to keep anyone from getting ideas.)

Bob is capable of more than he seems, and he's getting more in his life that he cares about than he has in a long time, with the dog and Nadia. And of course there will be a big confrontation at the end, and another robbery attempt, during the big drop on Super Bowl eve -- that's where it will all end.

You can see the movie instead if you want; I don't judge. It looks to be pretty faithful, besides moving the action to Brooklyn. (All those northeastern cities starting with B are the same, right?) But the book is a good noir story by one of our best modern masters of the form, and it's a quick read, too. I don't think a movie can beat that -- but I'm, as always, biased towards the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment