11 April 2010

Review: CORONADO, Dennis Lehane

This review was originally published elsewhere.

Random House Australia, Oct 2006

CORONADO is a set of five short stories, all very different, and a play script. The stories vary in their content, length and quality. The book takes its name from the play script. It was difficult to discern a theme to the collection, although perhaps it is the social consequences of America's involvement in wars such as Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Running Out of Dog - Many of the boys in the small town of Eden, South Carolina went off to the Vietnam War. Some came back, some didn't. One who missed out on the experience was Blue. He got the job of killing the town's stray dogs.

ICU - Daniel, a seemingly innocent man, is stalked wherever he goes by what appears to be an organised gang. ICU is a play both on the acronym itself and the places in which the victim, Daniel, takes refuge.

Gone Down to Corpus - Boys from the poorer side of town decide to trash the house of one of the richer kids in their football team while the family is out of town for the weekend.

Mushrooms - Her neighbourhood is a dangerous place to live, with constant gang warfare. And her new boyfriend, KL, recently returned from Afghanistan, is a killer for hire.

Until Gwen - A father collects his son from prison where's he's been for three years. The son had never felt alive until Gwen came into his life, but now, five years later, she has disappeared, and with her the diamond they took in their last robbery.

The quality of this collection is patchy, and one of the things that really disconcerted me was that in three of the stories the author never gave the central character a name. But the biggest disappointment for me was to find that the play script Coronado was an expansion of the last story Until Gwen. Until Gwen had been commissioned for an anthology, and Lehane says, in an introduction to the script, that "the story never quite let go." The cast for two of the play's productions are listed. It premiered in a Greenwich Village theatre in late 2005, and then was produced again in Florida in January 2006. There are variations to the story in the play, extra characters are introduced, but the script is far too bald for me.

I have read Lehane's earlier novels MYSTIC RIVER and SHUTTER ISLAND, enjoyed both of them and anticipated enjoying this one. Even when I realised CORONADO was not a novel, I felt sure I would enjoy it. However, as I waded through the play script I felt that on some level I'd been cheated. Others will no doubt enjoy it. Don't get me wrong - two or three of the stories, especially ICU, are quite good, so perhaps it is a book to dip into. And let me be the first to admit the play may be much better in production than in script form. But for me CORONADO is far from Dennis Lehane at his best.

My rating: 3.0

Dennis Lehane's website

February 2007 Review first published on Murder and Mayhem


Bernadette said...

I always struggle with play scripts as, if they're any good anyway, they're the input to a performance rather than something that is meant to be read.

Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. I agree with Bernadette that it's hard to really be absorbed in a play script, even if it's an excellent play. Plays are just meant to be viewed, not read, I think.


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