Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Chicago by, David Mamet

Mike Hodge is a WWI vet and a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Prohibition-era Chicago is a rough place with the war between the Irish, Capone's mob, and the Feds. Hodge's ingenious idea of getting the inside scoop is to hang around flower shops because people always send flowers to a wake. This is where he falls in love with the daughter of an Irish shopowner. Their love affair is cut short and Hodge spends a good chunk of the book piecing together why.

David Mamet is known for the rhythmic quality of the dialogue in his plays. It doesn't quite translate onto the written page where the sentences have numerous dependent clauses and start and stop many times. It could work if one character spoke like that or if there were moments when a character did, but almost all the characters do it all the time and the narration follows the same pattern. It causes the characters to sound unnatural and as if they're pontificating on life, the universe, and everything.

Mamet does craft some good sentences, though. There are multiple chapters whose first lines could easily serve as a great first line of a novel. For example, Chapter 4 starts with this line: "Jackie Weiss, Mike wrote, had died of a broken heart, it being broken by several slugs from a .45."

Ultimately, the early pacing problems and the florid language drag down what could have been an outstanding book.

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