STEVE MONROE – 57, Chicago

Miramax/Hyperion; hardcover; First Edition, 2001; trade paperback, August 2002.


   Boxing and organized crime, unfortunately, go hand in hand. And when you think of organized crime in this country, mid-20th century, you probably think of Chicago. (Unless you’re a born-and-bred New Jerseyite, of course, and then all bets are off.)

   There is very little detective work in this solidly constructed pulp novel — when there’s a murder done, and there’s big money involved, it’s the mob that did it, whether on the direct orders of Sam Giancana or not. Otherwise, the crimes are generally minor: illegal gambling, extortion, dope-peddling, prostitution and the like.

   Ex-convict Robert (The Lip) Lipranski is trying to work his way into big league fight promotion; he has a black heavyweight who could go all the way, but Junior (Hammer) Hamilton has a recent history of mental problems.


   And Al Kelly has been a successful bookie for nearly 30 years; why all of a sudden are things going wrong — unable to lay off bets, unable to access his safety deposit box?

   Their paths, not unexpectedly, converge and collide. The book starts slowly and builds to a crunching finale, led along the way by dialogue that takes both vulgarity and the internal workings of the mob for granted, and punctuated by moments of intense violence.

   Meant for the movies, you say? Absolutely. There is no doubt.

— Jan 2002

   [UPDATE] 06-06-08. In spite of that final upbeat statement, I was wrong. As far as I’ve been able to determine, no movie has ever been made of this book. Some Googling suggests that for a while one was in the works, but for whatever reason, it never happened.

   Steve Monroe has written but one other book, 46, Chicago (Miramax, 2002), and I’ve never seen it. But posting this review has reminded me that I do want a copy, and I’ll be ordering one as soon as I sign off from here.