Most people think of Boston as a city of culture -- filled with art, history, music (and baseball). But the city has a dark side too -- gritty neighborhoods of tenement houses, dark alleys and street corner hangouts. This side of the Hub is the stage for real-life crime bosses like Whitey Bulger, infamous leader of South Boston's Irish mob, brother of the state Senate president and one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives; and Raymond Patriarca, longtime head of New England's Mafia. It also serves to inspire crime writers from Robert Parker to Dennis Lehane, who have mined the city's streets for their stories.
Richard Marinick's new novel, Boyos, emerges from the same gritty material, but with one critical difference - Marinick actually lived the kind of life he writes about. He spent years as a tough guy in the heart of South Boston and even worked a stint as a Massachusetts state cop before returning to the far-more-lucrative world of armored car robbery. During one heist, his best friend was shot and killed, but Marinick continued his life of crime until he got caught after robbing an armored car in western Massachusetts. In prison, he entered Boston University's Prison Education Program and emerged from his 10 years behind bars with a master's degree and a desire to write. Boyos is his first novel.
Marinick drops his readers into the middle of Boston's underworld through brothers Kevin and Jackie "Wacko" Curran, a couple of minor players in South Boston's mob who seek to claw their way into bigger and better scores. There's no psychological search for meaning or motivation with these guys; they simply follow an inarguable street logic. They show no remorse or regret for their actions, and they don't stick around long enough to witness the aftermath.
As the up-and-coming crime leader, Jackie Curran is ruthless, organized and disciplined. He doesn't use the cocaine he sells; he lends money, but won't borrow; and he doesn't go for bling. He's profane, mean, and coldhearted, and yet he's oddly sympathetic. Like all good Irish boys, he loves his Ma and he's sweet and kind to his friend, Elaine, who's not part of the criminal world.
Boyos doesn't have the rich psychological drama of Lehane's Mystic River, but the story unfolds with the inevitable forward lurch of a road accident. It's harsh, visceral and real. And when one of Jackie Curran's guys gets gunned down in an armored car heist gone wrong, you know the author knows what he's talking about.