Friday, September 12, 2008
Forgotten books: Dead City by Shane Stevens
Originally published in '73 by Holt. the book was reprinted in '92 by Carroll & Graf, probably because Stephen King mentioned it in the afterword of his '89 The Dark Half, and this reprint carries the front cover blurb by King, "One of the finest novels ever written about the dark side of the American dream". In his "The Dark Half" afterword, King also says about Stevens' books, "I recommend them unreservedly...but only readers with strong stomachs and stronger nerves need apply." I haven't read Stevens other books yet, but it certainly applies to Dead City. This is a brutal, extremely violent book that looks at the dirtiest aspects of the mob business, and could've almost been a blueprint for the Sopranos. The book focuses mostly on three members of the Jersey City mob; Joe Zucco, a mob boss, Charlie Flowers, a depressed sort whose career has stalled out due to a failed hit and is mostly now doing strongarm stuff, and Harry Strega, a kid fresh out of the Vietnam war, who is trying to work his way up through Zucco's organization. This book pulls no punches as it shows how there is little loyalty, honor, and decency among these criminals. Anything goes, anything seems to be fair game, and there's a realism that makes you think Stevens must've have had friends in the mob, or at least hung around those who did. The ending is a kick in the face, as cruel an ending as I've come across, and a perfect metaphor for workers struggling for the American dream.