- Paperback: 303 pages
- Publisher: Amika Press (July 26, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1937484130
- ISBN-13: 978-1937484132
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,136,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dialogues of a Crime Paperback – July 26, 2013
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About the Author
John K. Manos lives in Evanston, Illinois. He makes his living as a writer, editor, and musician.
KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)
In Manos’ crime drama, Michael Pollitz must decide whether to protect the mobster who has protected him.
When Mike, a college student in 1972 Illinois, is arrested on drug charges, his father insists he use a public defender. His childhood friend’s father, Dom Calabria, head of the Outfit in Chicago, wants to help Mike by providing a first-rate lawyer, but Mike goes with his father’s wishes. The outcome is a plea bargain for a short stay in Astoria Adult Correctional Facility—but after he’s brutally beaten and raped by three inmates, Mike spends most of his sentence in the infirmary. He doesn’t give up his assailants’ names but threatens their lives right before he’s set to be released. When Mike is picked up by the head of the mob, people notice.
Flash forward to 1994, when Detective Larry Klinger begins investigating the murders of two former Astoria inmates who were violently killed shortly after being released. An informant—the third man who beat Mike—tells Klinger that the murders were committed by Calabria, the kingpin whom Klinger would like to see taken down. Klinger investigates, coming in contact with Mike, and the two form a friendship. When Klinger realizes that Mike will never give up Calabria, he begins to wonder whether it’s even worth investigating the murders of such evil men.
Manos is extremely deft at allowing the characters to reveal the story and what motivates them. Klinger captures this particularly well; he ponders his role in the reality of crime and punishment, and Manos allows him to grow in the process: “Interviewing scumbags has to be the most tedious damn thing in the world, Klinger thought, as Bobby Andrews jumped back and forth over the same explanations, tripping over one lie after another.” The characters are rich in their speech, experiences and motivations, which the measured, purposeful writing only enhances.
A character-driven crime novel ruled by complex men facing the past.
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The book opens with a snapshot of a brutal crime in progress. Then the narrative switches to the story of college student Michael Pollitz being caught up in a drug sweep in 1972. Michael, who comes from a blue-collar family, quickly learns that the justice system is radically different for those who have money than it is for him. He tries to do the right thing, but what happens to him is anything but fair.
Fast forward to 1994. A lifelong criminal facing serious time tries to buy some leniency by saying he has information about a couple of cold cases--killings that occurred 21 and 22 years earlier. Detective Larry Klinger doesn't exactly trust the guy, but the information is intriguing enough to make him open up an investigation that leads him straight to Michael Pollitz. Is the former student now turned advertising executive cool enough to hide the fact that he's a murderer? Or is he covering up for an old friend--mob boss Dom Calabria, who's the father of his grade school buddy?
The story is a page turner; I read it straight through in two days. Yet it touches on interesting issues of justice, guilt, and loyalty. Given the current controversies over the privatization of prisons and the consequences of strict guidelines for sentencing drug-related crimes, this novel has contemporary relevance in spite of being set in the past. Anyone who likes mysteries and crime novels will enjoy reading Dialogues of a Crime.
Now that I've finished the book I'm left with an after-taste that's not so satisfying. Yes, there were dialogues and yes there was a crime -- or two -- so there's no deception in advertising. But to what end? A bad thing happened and an act of revenge followed. Who did it? Well.... that's the focus of the cop Klinger. But he's faced with Michael, a man in an emotional deep freeze from whom he can get nothing other than a meal. And another meal. And some drinks. Is it enough to watch someone work a puzzle and get frustrated? As part of the action, sure, but that kind of psychological analysis can't carry the whole show. It tells us something about Klinger but then what?
While I thought those two characters were well-drawn, the rest of the population in "Diaglogues of a Crime" were from central casting with few distinguishing traits. In fact, not only do they speak in canned mobster patter, our main character Michael repeatedly points out this fact, as if Manos were trying to cover his blatant use of the cliche by blaming the characters for their own lack of imagination. I'm not sure that's how it works. Certainly didn't work here. It's one thing to create caricatures of mobsters, it's another to have other characters make fun of them for being caricatures. Makes Michael look mean and his friends look like cartoons. Given the title of the book, you'd think the writer would have made extra effort on this score.
In the end -- and no spoilers -- I'm not sure this book went anywhere. I saw the scenes clearly, I can picture the place and at least the central characters well. But it's like those Saturday morning black and white mob movies I used to watch when I was a kid. They blend together in a generic blur of tough-talking men and wise-ass women. For me this book fades into that blur.
"Moving forward to 1994, the reader is introduced to Chicago cop Larry Klinger. Klinger stumbles upon a link between the mob and Pollitz that promises to open up the opportunity of solving an old murder case. With the help of the state attorney Dan Whittaker, Larry begins to peel back layers of guilt, confusion and ambition as he tries to understand Pollitz and the other central characters. One surprising twist after another leads Klinger deeper into the complex relationships of the personalities. And he is even forced to take a fresh look at his own life.
"In Dialogues of a Crime, John Manos causes the reader to weigh the sometimes conflicting balance of guilt and the need to move on in life with loyalty and honesty, and of truth and convenience. It is not always pleasant, but it is always challenging. Manos introduces enough side characters and situations to keep the reader guessing as the story develops. The build-up towards the end of the novel opens old wounds for the central characters and the reader will most likely not anticipate the conclusion. It is all written in a skilled manner and the reader who likes novels of this genre will love this one!"