View Full Version : Welcome to Dorchester: The Kenzie/Gennaro Thread

03-29-2012, 05:55 PM
Submissions for catchy thread titles welcomed, while I still have the ability to change it.

I know a bunch of people on here are big fans of Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro neo-noir detective novels, and now that the media forum has been split, I figured it would be cool to have a place for people to discuss and learn about the novels.

As for me, I'm on Gone Baby Gone and I'm hooked. I almost hesitate to call it "pulp," because it's standard hard-boiled detective action, but Lehane really knows how to write the shit out of this kind of material. Propulsive plot motion with a very strong sense of place - it makes me want to tour Boston on foot next time I go to New England.

What does everyone else think? This thread doesn't just have to be restricted to the Kenzie/Gennaro books; I know Lehane has a bunch of other highly regarded work, and I'd love to hear recommendations.

Evil Dead Junkie
03-29-2012, 07:26 PM
Oh yeah I wouldn't hesitate to call Lehane one of my favorite authors. Its worth noting that Lehane has said that the crime genre is the only place left where one can write a work of social realism, which is what I think give Darkness and Gone such power.

That said, while Moonlight Mile was better than Prayers For Rain, I wish more and more that Lehane had let the series end with Gone Baby Gone. I appriciate how much he cares for these two, but Gone feels lile the end of the story. The next too installments feel like wishful thinking and are far too pulpy for their own good. And not Sacred's fun pulp either.

PS. Bubba great sidekick or greatest sidekick?

PSS. Possible titles Welcome To Dorchester, Dunkin Donuts is FAHKIN AWHSOME or Fuck Southie.

04-01-2012, 02:24 AM
PS. Bubba great sidekick or greatest sidekick?

Bubba seems a good guy to have on your side when things go all pear shaped.

Paul le Fou
04-01-2012, 06:28 AM
I just finished A Drink Before the War and have Darkness Take My Hand sitting on my Kindle, waiting for me to get around to it. I'm a busy man!

I liked Drink, but I understand they get better from there?

04-02-2012, 10:06 PM
Yeah, Darkness is the best one. The quality takes a slight dip for Sacred, and then Gone Baby Gone (which I just finished) brings it back home again. They're all worth reading.

Evil Dead Junkie
04-03-2012, 10:40 AM
Yeah Sacred is pulp but it is fun pulp. You just get to read Kenzie and Genarro remove some cartoonishly evil people from the face of the Earth.

It's fun but it cant help but look a bit wan sandwiched between Darkness and Gone.

One thing about Lehane no one quite scratches his same itch, Pelecanos doesn't, Crais comes closest but his books don't feel real the way Lehane's do.

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-03-2012, 10:50 AM
Yeah, I read all of these on one long kick after I saw the movie version of Gone Baby Gone, which oddly enough I was turned onto because I like Slaine, the Boston rapper who plays Bubba in the movie (and the getaway driver in The Town).

Pretty much agreed on everyone's rundown of the series. The even-numbered ones are the good ones -- Darkness, Gone Baby Gone, Moonlight Mile.

Sacred has one unforgivably stupid plot twist (aha! [censored] said the secret code word that proves [censored] is actually evil!) and Prayers for Rain just escalates to a level that is kind of cartoonishly silly. Although they both have their moments, e.g. Bubba torturing Scientologist goons with an acetylene torch in Sacred.

Bubba is one of my favorite characters in literature. I once compiled a list of his quotations for some blog or another, called it the Little Bubba Book.

ďWhat donít kill me only makes me bloody."

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-03-2012, 10:57 AM
Should also add, I haven't read Shutter Island or The Given Day, but Lehane's other Boston novel, Mystic River, is a first-class piece of work, especially if you like the setting and the sorta social-commentary aspects of the K/G stories. It is grimmer than hell and will ruin your whole day, but it's good.

04-03-2012, 10:59 AM
I think I like all the books in the series, and honestly, find Moonlight Mile to be an interesting end, especially seeing how the trade changed from A Drink Before the War.

I actually ended up reading Prayers for Rain first due to a mixup (didn't have much internet access about which book was first/wasn't paying attention), but even though it's probably my least favorite of them, it was still good enough to get me hooked.

Sadly, the other Lehane that I've tried reading haven't been as gripping (granted this is only Shutter Island and his short story collection, Coronado: Stories), I mean, they're good, but I guess I prefer detective fiction a bit more.

The film version of Gone Baby, Gone however was a bit of a disappointment for me, though I know it was good. I just felt that Angie was sidelined a bit too much in it, and I prefer Bubba from the books. I would love to see another attempt to adapt any of the novels though.

Evil Dead Junkie
04-03-2012, 11:03 AM
Yeah Prayers starts great and then slides down hill.

Why no Mr. Lehane, I didnt wonder what would happen if the terrifying villian in Darkness had a James Bond lair and knew Kung Fu. But thanks for answering.

I found Moonlight to be similarly over the top, though not to the same extent, what with the Yakov Smirnoff gangsters and all.

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-03-2012, 11:09 AM
Why no Mr. Lehane, I didnt wonder what would happen if the terrifying villian in Darkness had a James Bond layer and knew Kung Fu.
And won the lottery. Don't forget that he financed the beginning of his evil scheme when he won the lottery.

This is exactly why the villain in Darkness worked. He didn't have a complicated gimmick. He was just a raw-ass evil motherfucker.

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-03-2012, 07:42 PM
Dug up some of those old quotes. So: the collected sayings of Cpl. Ruprecht Rogowski, USMC (ret.)

On the proportional use of force:

"You don't kill a guy for trashing a girl's car."
"Yeah? Where's that written?"

On limiting collateral damage:

"Got a couple Stingers would fix those homeboys just right."
"Bubba, wouldn't they take out half a neighborhood while they were at it?"
"What's your point?"

On protecting one's property:

"Bubba, why donít you just invest in a security system?"
"This is my security system."
"This is a minefield, Bubba."
"You say tomato."

On divorce:

"So what do you know about divorce? Really?"
"I know people seem to go out of their way to fuck up things usually should be snapped off clean."

On hate:

"Hate's cool. Don't cost nothing."

On Morrissey:

"Morrissey sucks, though, Gigi. Really. Ask Patrick. Ask anyone."

On Conan:

"Ah-ha-ha! I am Conan! Grand slayer of evil gnomes! No man dare test my mettle or strength in battle! Ah-ha-ha!"

On the wisdom of Ruprecht Rogowski:

"Itís hard being the guy who does all the thinking for everybody."

On why not to fuck with Ruprecht Rogowski:

"When I served in Beirut, they gave us rifles with no bullets. Thatís Jack. Heís a rifle with no bullets. And Iím this deranged Shiite Muslim motherfucker driving a truck full of bombs around his embassy."

On roadway nomenclature:

"How come you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?"

Paul le Fou
04-05-2012, 07:34 PM
I just tore through Darkness Take my Hand in... I guess it was two days. I couldn't put it down. I'm not sure if I'd rate it as being leaps and bounds better than Drink, I'd probably put them pretty close. I'd say it wasn't a particularly original or even necessarily a good story, but it was really well-written and gripping. Incredibly tense.

I had one reaction throughout, though. It's interesting, the weight that Lehane puts on killing as a heavy, serious, morally disturbing act. This is of course entirely true... but I couldn't help but think as I read that I was too desensitized by deathdeathdeath in movies, books, etc. The weight of various deaths and killings felt lost on me. This going back even to killing Socia at the end of Drink, where it's a monumental decision that haunts the characters into the next book, and for me all I really felt was "So they killed a guy, so what." I kept thinking of Dexter, and how there's people getting chopped up and killed all the time and it's treated so lightly and casually, not to mention any given action movie ever. And here is many of the same acts presented as something so grave, so heavy. Especially considering that Darkness is largely a meditation on killing at its core. Perhaps it succeeded in that sense, by getting me to meditate on killing as an act and its often haphazard portrayal in stories versus the crushing reality of it. It's just a shame that many of the more shocking or disturbing or heartbreaking moments didn't really touch as deep down in me as he intended them because of a kind of experiential cynicism with an overused and often underdeveloped plot point.

As for the book itself, it toed the line so common with serial killer stories of going just a little too campy. Hardiman was great until he started laughing and spouting utter nonsense. Gerry was handled really well though. And then there was stuff like bringing a reconciliation with Phil just in time to conveniently give Patrick a friend who can heartbreakingly die without losing a main character, flimsy spots in the plot like that.

What I did like was that there was no grand plan, although that toed a line too. The selling point was that Patrick asked "wasn't this all just a plan to get back at us for Rugglestone?" and Gerry just kind of shrugs and says "Eh, kinda." That they were killing before that even happened; they were just sick motherfuckers who cut people into pieces for fun. It was refreshing that there wasn't too much standing around talking at each other about how his grand plan was meant to do this-and-that to so-and-so. At the same time, so much of the plot centered around Patrick and getting to him and hurting him; as Moriarty said, burning the heart out of him, the claims that since he didn't feel anything for Evandro their plan was working, they were getting to him.

What do you think the killers were getting at? What is it that, as the letter said, they were "trying to teach" Patrick, and why him? What was their plan about besides revenge?

What's next? Sacred? Is it bad that I'm starting to feel Jack Bauer syndrome on these guys, i.e. "Seriously how much shit can one (group of) guy(s) get into in a lifetime?" already?

Evil Dead Junkie
04-08-2012, 08:23 AM
The reason I find Darkness so moving is that I find Lehane's concept of evil as something transmissible, like a virus to be frighteningly convincing, which makes Patrick's rejection of the Darkness of his father and Gerry to be incredibly moving, and heroic in a manner above and beyond mere pulp. That is really the reason, beyond the terrifyingly vacuous villian and smooth plotting and prose, that I readily name Darkness as my favorite crime/detective novel.How often do you get genuinely moved by a detective novel?

The journey doesn't really culminate until Moonlight (which despite my issues had a great ending) but it begins here.

As you were saying with the killings Lehane insists on treating genres fiction with moral seriousness which is a rarity.

As for the How Much Shit Can They Go Through Quotient, yeah that is a symptom of the genre. But when you compare the six Kenzie and Genaro books to the approximately 8 Billion Harry Bosch ones, or the 10 billion Cole and Pike novels you can see that they live a relatively uneventful existance. It helps to grade on the curve.

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-10-2012, 07:51 PM
'Nother thing I like about Darkness: it's the most effectively balanced of the books as far as how it handles Bubba. Becoming a fan favorite I think kinda took its toll on him. By Prayers for Rain he's turned into 100% avenging angel good guy, and in Moonlight Mile he's on some kind of Robin Hood trip.

In Darkness he's still an ambivalent figure. Patrick trusts him on a certain level but he's abjectly terrified of him and we see why, because Bubba -- like the ostensible villains in the story -- has gone beyond the point where he feels bad, or indeed feels much of anything, about dealing out pain and death.

One of my favorite bits in the book is the scene where Patrick and Phil drive away from the bowling alley, and Patrick essentially says to Phil, "you need to convince these people that you are as emotionally dead as they are, or they will kill you."

Paul le Fou
04-11-2012, 12:47 AM
Yeah, Bubba is interesting because he is completely horrible. As of Darkness he's a total dangerous sociopath, torturing people because he got bored, committing acts of extreme violence in public, is suspected in seven unsolved homicides, ties with the mob. He's not good, like, at all; but he's a "good guy," somehow. It's a little disappointing to hear that Lehane takes him in a different direction later on. Guess I'll see when I get that far.

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-11-2012, 08:06 AM
Yeah, the various levels of evil in Darkness break down into a weird kind of spectrum. Like...

Bubba: Given a reason, will hurt and kill people and have fun doing it.
Kevin: Will hurt and kill people for fun, doesn't really need a reason.
Villain: His reason for being is to hurt and kill people for fun.

And then you have Pine, for whom it's all strictly business. Not sure where he fits in. Think that's one of them philosophical questions.

Evil Dead Junkie
06-12-2012, 10:20 PM
So I'm working on the second draft of my own Crime novel and decided to take the opportunity to revisit these for the first time in awhile. (I reread Gone Baby Gone about a year ago in preperation for a lecture I gave on the film but it's been a couple of years since I read the others).

Just finished A Drink Before The War, and for the most part really enjoyed it. I've kind of gotten into the habit of dismissing it as "The one you have to read to get to Darkness". But it's pretty great on it's own terms, fast moving, well written, and Lehane already has the characters locked.

There are a few "Stop the narrative so we can have a conversation about Very Important Issues That Are Plaguing Society" but that's just called being a first time author, by the time he reached Gone Lehane had become pretty flawless at letting the story make his points.

I also rewatched the film version of Gone, which I both love and am annoyed by, because I consider it an A film and a solid B adaptation. The casting is pretty much perfect, Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan both nail it, as does Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan and Amy Madigan but I'm always annoyed by the way that it plays as a Kenzie film rather than a Kenzie and Gennaro film. Fanboy grouses aside though it's a pretty tremendous film, and I can't help but love the fact that it exists. Even if it means I'm pretty much guaranteed never to see Darkness on screen.

Evil Dead Junkie
11-20-2012, 09:34 PM
As I'm polishing the final draft of my crime novel I'm rereading Darkness Take My Hand. If anything my opinion on this book has actually gone up. It's perfect, the writing is just fantastic, the plotting is literally perfect, with the slow escalation of the villain's harassment even more menacing when you know how insane stuff gets and the thematic underpinnings of it are so genuinely rich.

This freaking book. If I ever write anything a quarter as good I'll be satisfied.

02-07-2014, 01:32 PM
This was a pretty specific idea for a thread in retrospect.

I'm finally working through the final two. Prayers for Rain starts out as solidly as advertised and ends as stupidly as advertised. One of those situations where there are so many weird moving parts to the villain's scheme that there's no way it could have developed organically.

Moonlight Mile is far better by comparison, if still not up to the standard of the earlier books. I like what Lehane does with the time jump, diving into issues of aging, technology and identity.

Lehane is turning out to be one of those authors I'm going to have to read everything by. He has a terrific way with words and an amazing sense of place, plus I've actually visited Boston a couple of times now.