‘46, CHICAGO by Steve Monroe


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From white-hot rising talent Monroe (’57 Chicago, 2001), a punishing cops and robbers tale that won’t win any prizes for subtlety, though there’s much to admire in its two-fisted directness.

In post–Capone Chicago gangsterland, crooked-as-a-rattlesnake policeman Gus Carson is having a hard time adjusting to Windy City life after a particularly grueling tour of duty in the Pacific Theater. Relieving some stress in a whorehouse, he inadvertently gets into the middle of a murder. The lawyer in the room next to Gus is gunned down, and Gus ends up having to take out the shooter in the stairwell. The brass aren’t too happy with his location at the time of the incident and so suspend him. Being as Gus isn’t just any old cop but an old-school operator who used to be best friends with the infamous South Side Sam—and is connected with everyone from Bronzeville numbers bosses to North Shore society types—his vacation isn’t very restful. Soon he’s working a private eye gig for the wealthy Arvis Hypoole, a Republican who’s thinking of a run at being the city’s first non-Democratic mayor in ages. Arvis sends the rock-fisted and dead-eyed Gus out to get to the bottom of who kidnapped Ed Jones—who’s big in the South Side numbers business—as a way of embarrassing his Democratic foes. Not that the politics matter much to Gus, who’s busy sucking down beers, grimly assessing his meager assets, eating the fists of goons set out to thwart him, reliving his hellish war experiences, and bedding high-society dames with a taste for rough trade. Monroe has taken the nightmarish post–Chandler crime operas of James Ellroy and distilled their rough-and-tumble style through the two-dimensional worldview of Mike Hammer, bringing everything down to the core essentials of graft, sex, violence, and realpolitick.

The same old dirty-cop-in-a-dirtier-city tune is made to sound like something completely new.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7868-6731-0
Page count: 272pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2002