- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 8 hours and 48 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HarperAudio
- Audible.com Release Date: September 14, 2011
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005MVMHJO
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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A Drink Before the War Audiobook – Unabridged
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Others will no doubt write about plot specifics. I will not because I do not want to spoil the read for people who buy the book. I do agree with those who compare if to the Godfather book. There are some differences because Coughlin is obviously not Italian and his father is a cop. But Lahane develops a great story based on Coughlin's life starting as a petty criminal and going on from there.
As I've seen some of the movies made of lehane's work, the strong sense of setting and place were expected.
It’s the story of Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston police official who grows up to become a criminal. One of the book’s major flaws is that it we never learn why its protagonist chose the “wrong” path, as opposed to following in his father’s and older brothers’ footsteps. Set during Prohibition, the book begins in Joe’s hometown of Boston and ends up on the west coast of Florida, where Joe becomes a kingpin rum runner, with a couple of trips to Cuba in between.
The book is thoroughly researched and thought provoking. Joe seems to be more a man of thought than a man of action, which is rare among literary gangsters.
During the course of the book, Joe falls in love twice — the first time with a woman who is thought to have been killed during a police chase that ends up underwater. Predictably, the woman shows up at the end of the novel, and does not do much.
The second love, with a Cuban woman, is his great love. But we never really understand why he falls for this woman. Graciela is married to alcoholic loser in the home country whom she cannot and/or will not divorce. Yet she stays with Joe and confesses her love for him.
The story of Joe’s crimes and his misadventures with his partners and adversaries is nothing unusual. If you’ve read other books about gangsters, this one won’t move you. The book is well-researched, particularly if you want to learn something about early 20th century Tampa or the beginning of Battista’s reign in Cuba.
By the end of the book, I’m not sure Joe has grown in any major way. He’s killed, he’s been wounded, he’s become a father, but he is still, as one character alludes, his father’s son — a lonely little boy waiting for someone to pay attention to him.
I would give this book three stars for readability.