City of Dreams by Don Winslow
City of Dreams is the second novel of a planned trilogy that began with City on Fire. The first book must be discussed because if you have not read it, you need to rush out now and get hold of it, as it is one of the most outstanding crime novels of recent years. If you have already read it, you won’t be bothering with this review as you will already have purchased City of Dreams.
The series starts in 1986 with a modern-day Helen of Troy emerging from the waves and igniting a war between the Irish and Italian gangster families of Providence, Rhode Island. Any fan of Mario Puzo will love this – as an intergenerational criminal-family saga, it has major The Godfather vibes.
Danny Ryan is a self-proclaimed ‘Mick’ from Dogtown who has survived the action in the first book. In this new instalment, we follow him and his young son as they escape the contract on Danny’s head and end up living in Hollywood. Avoiding all comparisons with Get Shorty, Winslow weaves a highly entertaining tale best described as Hollywood meets real gangsters. As the narrator sagely observes: ‘this is where the film industry and the criminal class intersect. A serene choir in a pitch-perfect harmony of indolence and greed.’
Last year, Don Winslow announced that this trilogy will conclude his writing career, which has been both exemplary and prolific. I find a lot of crime novels to be a little formulaic and/or lacking in ambition. Winslow has never been guilty of either crime. In this suitably brilliant end to his career, he has gone out with all guns blazing. If you haven’t read him before, there is a huge gift waiting for you with his earlier works. But there is no penalty for starting here.