I'm struck by the response of other Amazon readers. I agree that Coronado is not the equal of one of Lehane's novels, but short stories (and short plays) are seldom the equal of a novel, particularly a novel crafted by a writer as gifted as Lehane. Each of the stories here is dark and each is haunting in its own way. Like any reader, I have my favorite(s), but the collection as a whole carries the Lehane touch. I waited awhile to buy Coronado because, like most readers, I was waiting for the next Lehane novel. Paging through the book it felt odd to me, particularly with a two-act play that grew out of one of the stories. I should have read it earlier. Any 'collection' is, a priori, uneven, but each of the stories held my attention and 'Running out of Dog' and 'Before Gwen' are unforgettable. The stories also take Lehane away from his geographical base and demonstrate the range of his talent. I'm still waiting for that next novel, but Coronado has given me enough of a Lehane fix to help me tolerate the wait.
on January 1, 2007
I picked this book up because I had heard much of the author Dennis Lehane, and thought it would be worth trying his prose on for size (so to speak). It is, for me, and imperfect fit. Lehane is a talented writer, but there is something unrelentingly dark about this book. Every character seems to be caught in a downward spiral, without any hope of escape. Admittedly, there are a few very quick flashes of biting humor in the stories, but I just had that impatient feeling of wanting the book to be over. Although the characters and situations are different, they are all sinking under the stormy surface of life. His prose is stark and unstructured, in a style that I feel is similar to Raymond Carver, although he explains more than Carver every did. I found the book interesting and the characters were very real, but I guess it's just not he kind of thing I feel I need to experience again.
on April 10, 2007
A few years ago my father turned me onto Lehane with "Gone, Baby, Gone". The incredible insightfulness, the absorbing story lines and the absolutely cutting sarcasm led me to seek out all of his books which I read with frothing eagerness. I was thrilled when "Mysic River" was made into a movie, and Clint and the gang did a great job of it. So after what seems like a long time since "Shutter Island" I was ready for some Lehane, especially since I live (and have been for 20+ years) in the Boston area. I was thus more intrigued by the fact that it was a book of shorts and set in the south, not Boston. I thought "Running Out of Dog" was total brilliant Lehane, crisp, sharp, full of mood and expectation. Then, what happened...? The whole book fell apart. The rest of the stories seemed forced, the dialogue and characters completely non-believable, and frankly the plots were tedious. It was like he spent his creative story telling mastery on "Dog" and wrote the other pieces just to finish a book of short stories on a deadline. Dennis - if you are listening, please, please do another book of shorts, if "Dog" is what you can do, that is where the gold is.
on September 13, 2006
After waiting 3 years since Shutter Island for DL's next book, this collection of short stories and a play came as a major disappointment.
Might DL have a writer's block problem?
Some of the stories are quite good, except ICU, which is a failed attempt at being kafkaesque. But they don't add up to a book. DL should have written a few more for a more solid collection.
The play is just plain bad. The scenes based on "Gwen" are so much weaker than the story. Filling it up with the triangle scenes and the doctor/patient scenes doesn't make it a real play. It is still just a collection of scenes. The dialogues are sometimes miserably juvenile, reminding me of high school efforts at drama. The father/son war of the Gwen-story does not bear being stretched anyway, the man's badness is so overdone, it ought to stay tucked away in a short story.
I think the best of the stories is "Gone down to Corpus". That is also juvenile, but in the sense of looking at young people who are feeling hopeless. Convincing, and very "economical", as the cover blurb announces. Economical probably stands for very short. "Running out of Dog" is a very violent and very bloody, well constructed story about another hopeless situation: when hope comes late to a man, it is dangerous. That's the aphorism around which it is constructed. Some more like these, and I would have given more stars.
on August 5, 2007
A collection of short stories and a script, this was very disappointing. Dennis Lehane is among my favorite authors, but these stories fell far short of his usual great reads. It seems like these were old stories that were lying around and there was a thought that if they were bundled together in an attractive package, a quick buck could be made. Ugh!
on December 13, 2006
Having consumed the Kenzie and Genaro series followed in quick succession by the rest of his works I left on a high with Shutter Island awaiting his next release.
This is a case of really not worth the wait. If you're new to LeHane's work then invest in his back catalog skip this book in it's entirety. If this is your first DL book then don't measure him on this.
The book starts well, the first short story is not a bad read. I really felt that it went down hill from there. Sorely disappointed.
I agree with a lot of other reviewers about this one. The only other book I've read by Dennis Lehane was Mystic River, a great thriller with an impressive plot and characters, and a wonderful sense of place (it took place in Boston, the author's native town). These stories, surprisingly, are mostly about uneducated, backwoods, trailer-park-type Southerners that seem to me to be more stereotypical than real. I'm not sure how much time the author has spent in the south or why he set these stories there. They mostly lack substance, as if he couldn't produce another great novel in time for the deadline, so this book was slapped together. The stories are dark and depressing and the characters are all going nowhere fast. It was really hard for me to care about any of them. I noticed that I would not have understood the play had I not read the short story on which it is based first. The play fleshes out the story, but there is still not much meat to it. I read the first story, Running out of Dog, last, and had to force myself to finish it. Some authors' short stories are masterpieces. I think this author should stick to novels.
In Patrick Anderson's Triumph of the Thriller, the author identifies four authors as the modern masters of the thriller: George Pelecanos, Thomas Harris, Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane. I've not yet read any Pelecanos and I think that Harris's output has been far too sparse and erratic to qualify for "master" status, but I have no objection to Connelly. As far as Lehane, I have enjoyed almost everything he's written (except for Shutter Island). Like Connelly, however, Lehane has achieved his greatness through novels; short stories require a slightly different set of skills. Coronado shows that while Lehane's strengths are with longer form fiction, he holds his own in short stories as well.
There are five stories in Coronado, but the title actually comes from a play that is also included and takes up almost half the book. The first story, Running Out of Dog, deals with Elgin and Blue, two lifelong friends in a small town. Blue gets a bounty from the mayor to hunt down the dogs running wild around town, and Elgin worries that Blue - never the most stable fellow - is beginning to get a real taste for killing. ICU is a tale of pure, Kafkaesque paranoia about a man who seems to be targeted for government persecution for no particular reason. Down to Corpus deals with an ex-jock's desire for revenge against the teammate who blew the big game and the lessons he learns about himself in the process. Mushrooms, the shortest in the collection, is also a tale of revenge, and how violence can spiral out of control.
Finally, Until Gwen relates the story of a man just released from prison. He is picked up by his crooked father who is interested in where his son hid some loot. The son has figured out some things in prison, however, leading to a violent confrontation between the two. The play, Coronado, is an expanded version of Until Gwen, with two other, seemingly disconnected storylines: one involving the semi-twisted relationship between a woman and her doctor, and the other involving a young couple whose romance is impeded by the fact that she is married; this problem will be solved by the murder of the husband. Eventually, all plot lines come together.
All the stories are well-written and even the play has its merits, though I wonder how well it worked when actually performed (for reasons I can't dwell on without spoiling the plot, but should be evident to the reader. Although this is not quite on the level of his novels, this is a good read, whether you're new to Lehane or a long-time fan.
This collection includes five short stories and one play, and the book can be divided almost in half, page-wise, between the former and the latter. Used to Lehane's affinity for Boston, I was surprised by the Southern settings, but noir works here equally well as there. Many of the stories are linked only by this general place and a general time: post-Vietnam. The work seems best discussed in its pieces.
"Running Out of Dog" -- A Vietnam vet comes home to his small South Carolina town and finds an old buddy (who did not go to war) in crisis. The foreboding escalates in this story until you sit reading and waiting for violence to explode off the pages. The conclusion is almost anticlimactic, but the awfulness manages to haunt anyway. A bleak look at the psychology of a man whose "hope came too late" and therefore became dangerous.
"ICU" -- An everyman is harassed by a nebulous government agency for an unnamed crime until he hides ... in a hospital. I've never read a story like this before. It's absurd, yet absurdity seems to be the point. For me, somehow, it worked, maybe because the desperation for human connection overshadows the odd setup.
"Gone Down to Corpus" -- The simplest, most realistic of the stories. A group of low-class high school football players vandalize the home of their rich teammate who lost them the game that would have made a difference in their lives (but to him didn't matter one bit). It doesn't have much of an ending, which again seems to be the point.
"Mushrooms" -- A girl who's lost too much to the gang wars in her neighborhood decides on vengeance. She reminds me a lot of the protagonist from the previous story--two kids without hope, with only anger to hold onto. Or, as the stories leave you wondering, maybe not ... but probably yes.
"Until Gwen" -- A young man's father picks him up from prison. This is my favorite of the stories. Layered, chilling, suspenseful, sad. The dialogue in this one just crackles. The father/son relationship is taut and terrible. Something about this story stands out as sharper than any of the others--sharper writing, sharper characters.
"Coronado" (the play) -- Two stars for this. Strong dislike. Which is interesting, since it's built from the story I liked the most. But the attempt to draw out the exchanges in "Until Gwen" falls flat and deadens their impact. A comparison between this story and play is a great study in the rule that economy wins. In addition, I found the scenes between Doctor and Patient to be positively scenery-chewing and the revelation of all the character connections to be forced. I couldn't go back to the beginning and see, yes, aha, it was there all the time, but rather felt that various characters' incarnations contradicted each other without explanation. I'd venture to guess the reason for this is that Lehane's greatest strength as a writer is not his dialogue. Not to say he isn't great at it, but part of what makes the dialogue work in his novels (especially Kenzie & Gennaro) is the richness of the narration surrounding it. His characters have deep, human, sarcastic, poignant thought lives that make them who they are; to prove this, one only has to compare the book and film versions of MYSTIC RIVER.
As a Lehane fan, I'm glad to have read this piercing little collection, but the stories are far superior to the play.
on August 22, 2006
Dennis Lehane is still the man, BUT Coronado was disappointing. 'Running Out of Dog' and 'Until Gwen' are classic Lehane stories, well worth the price of admission. They are character-driven and original and everything we've come to expect from Mr. Lehane. While other writers just scratch their fingernails across the skin of their characters, Mr. Lehane plunges in with his fist, rips out their heart and holds it out for the readers to see. Dog and Until Gwen are nothing short of masterpieces. It was also a pleasure to read the play Coronado, which is full of memorable lines and twists and turns. My wife and I saw the play in New York and it was brilliant.
That said, the rest of the stories were extremely disappointing, none really catching the magic that we know Mr. Lehane is so capable of wielding.
I think it says alot that the book is dedictaed to Mr. Lehane's agent who probably encouraged him to publish a book so readers wouldn't "forget" about him while he's writing his Boston Police Strike novel(s). I think his agent used poor judgment in pushing Mr. Lehane to publish this book. With the caliber of literary work that Mr. Lehane has produced from the Kenzie & Gennaro series to my favorite book of all-time, Mystic River, up to the unforgettable Shutter Island, Mr. Lehane's agent underestimated how long readers can wait until their favorite author produces another book. We'll wait another ten years if the Boston Police Strike novel(s) are anywhere near as masterful as Mystic River and Shutter Island.