Posts Tagged Boston

book review: The Drop

the drp

The Drop by Dennis Lehane. Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks. Mystery/Thriller. Paperback. 224 pages.

Fox Searchlight asked Dennis Lehane to adapt his short story “Animal Rescue” into a screenplay for the feature film The Drop starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini. Lehane was a staff writer for the magnificent The Wire and currently is a writer/producer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. However, this didn’t appease Lehane as he decided to then write a novel based on the screenplay. A ploy for more money that he doesn’t need or he felt he had more he wanted to elaborate on in book form. As I read The Drop, I envisioned Hardy, Rapace and Gandolfini. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

Though mystery/thriller definitely isn’t my go-to genre [I prefer literary fiction, contemporary fiction and memoir] I enjoy reading a thriller from time to time. I read Shutter Island by Lehane knowing that the film version would soon be out. I decided why not read this one too before the film which features James Gandolfini in one of his last performances.

As with other novels, Lehane knows the back streets and neighborhoods of Boston. He painstakingly creates these sad, authentic and stuck characters. Lehane depicts Boston and the people who live in the city with love, pride and truth.

“The traffic had thinned considerably as they drove past Harvard Stadium, first football stadium in the country and yet one more building that seemed to mock Marv, one more place he’d have been laughed out of if he’d ever tried to walk in. That’s what this city did–it placed its history in your face at every turn so you could feel insignificant in is shadow.”

A few days after Christmas, forlorn bartender Bob Saginowski rescues a beat-up and abandoned pit-bull puppy from a trash can. In doing so he also befriends an enigmatic, troubled woman named Nadia and the two become friends through caring for the puppy. Bob works at his Cousin Marv’s bar which is a drop for some Chechens. That means it’s a safe spot for them to stash cash. Marv once ran with a gang of small-time hoodlums but since lost his bar to the Chechens. His name might be on the bar but they run the joint.

“Bob knew something was a little off about Nadia–the dog being found so close to her house and her lack of surprise or interest in that fact was not lost on Bob–but was there anyone, anywhere on this planet, who wasn’t a little off? More than a little most times. Nadia came by to help him with the dog, and Bob, who hadn’t known much friendship in his life, took what he could get.”

When the bar gets robbed, Bob and Marv set out to hunt for the missing money and become entangled with a curious police offer who attends the same church as Bob, some hapless low-level criminals, the dog’s original and creepy owner and the angry Chechens. There’s a fine line connecting every character to criminal activity. It’s dark.

You might want to read this before you venture out to see the film which opens in theaters September 12 if you’re the kind of person who likes to read the book before the film although in this case the film came first which confuses everything.

RATING: ***/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

purchase at Amazon: The Drop

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Why I love Boston and why Boston will remain strong

When I attended Simmons College and for several years after, I’d hang out at an MIT fraternity right in Kenmore Square on Beacon Street for a rooftop party to watch the Boston Marathon every year. It was so much fun. We had perfect viewing position and could run back and forth from the street to the house to refill our refreshments or take a break. I saw the elite runners and so many others pass by every year and cheered them on with a crowd of people. I watched endless other runners pass by—a friend from college, the Hoyts, a former mayor of Boston.

The Boston Marathon and Patriots Day are special to Boston. I always make a point to at least watch the elite runners finish on TV if I’m not going to be watching the race live. The elite marathoners amaze every time. The people who manage to run in three or four or five hours also impress me. Since ruining my ankles playing collegiate soccer, I’ve not been able to run distances. It takes determination to get through a marathon and Boston’s a particularly grueling one. Like many others the bombing shattered me. Why would anyone want to knowingly hurt so many random people in this despicable, cowardly manner? Who would do this? It angered and upset me.

Many think Bostonians are unfriendly, snobby, cold people. I lived in D.C. I’ve heard it before. You know the jokes—Massholes, the worst drivers out there etc. I prefer discerning than any of those things. We’re intelligent. We have big hearts that might just take a while to thaw out. We’re survivors. We were first on the scene way back when. Boston’s known for its academics, world-renowned hospitals, (mostly) winning sports teams and its rich cultural history.

Boston’s a city filled with a well-educated, well-read and diverse population. It’s a small but not too small city. I like being in the midst of discoveries, research and academic prowess. It’s a perfect blend of brain and brawn. Intellectual for some. Sporty for others. A nerdy paradise. That blend suits me. While I’m more interested in intellectual pursuits, sports serve a purpose to bring a community together. Sports teams motivate. Boston’s fans stick with their teams. Combine the braininess and the perseverance of the sports teams and Boston’s not going to be frightened easily. The world saw Boston come together as the bombing occurred to help those injured in the blasts. Once you get to know us we’re loyal to the end.

If Boston has all those things going for it, it’ll survive. It will get through this.

I love you Boston.

Boston Strong.

–Amy Steele


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Boston Calling Music Festival

boston calling

Boston’s first music festival will be held May 25 and 26 at City Hall Plaza.

A few of my favorite bands will be performing:


The Shins


The National


Of Monsters and Men



The Shins
Marina and The Diamonds
Matt and Kim
Portugal. The Man
Ms Mr
St. Lucia
Bad Rabits


The National
Of Monsters and Men
Young the Giant
Andrew Bird
Dirty Projectors
Ra Ra Riot
The Walkmen
Youth Lagoon

Tickets on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Info at Boston Calling website.

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book review: FACE TIME

Author: Hank Phillippi Ryan
ISBN: 978-0778327189
Pages: 288
Publisher: Mira (August 1, 2009)
Category: mystery
Review source: author
Rating: 4.5/5

Two glasses of champagne later, I high-five the air as I trudge up the last flight of stairs to my apartment, the third floor of a restored old Mount Vernon Square brownstone flat of Beacon Hill. My live shot was a success, we have our ratings story, and we’re going to get an innocent person out of prison. Not bad for one day.

A young woman sits in a jail cell at Framingham-MCI [the oldest women’s prison in the U.S.—these books aren’t just engaging but very educational] in Massachusetts convicted of killing her husband. Investigative reporter Charlotte “Charlie” McNally gets a tip that the Constitutional Justice Project [CJP] believes Dorinda Keeler Sweeney may be innocent and wants Charlotte to help on the case. This will mean huge ratings for Channel 3 and maybe another Emmy for the hard-working reporter. FACE TIME is the second Charlotte McNally novel and Phillippi Ryan falls into an easy-going groove with this one. The characters are becoming more developed and fascinating. Charlotte now has a boyfriend, prep school teacher Josh, who lives in Vermont [and she has to deal with becoming friendly with his 8-year-old daughter].

The best part is the little details that Phillippi Ryan adds. Charlotte might be a top notch reporter but she’s worried about losing her job to someone younger, she’s dealing with a mother who’s constantly telling her not to eat and to get face work done, and the pressure of constantly pulling in an Emmy-worthy story certainly adds stress to her life. But she has great friends and takes it in stride. The title FACE TIME has a dual meaning: her mom is in the hospital recovering from a face lift and Charlotte struggles each day for that bigger, better story than every other news station and newspaper in Boston gets. She has to be first. What seems like a slam dunk turns out to be a huge challenge for Charlotte and her sidekick producer Franklin. No one wants the truth to come out. There have been cover ups that could cost political positions and if Dorinda were to be set free, someone else has to pay for the crime. But who? During the investigation, Charlotte gets attacked, verbally threatened, and the station comes under fire. But nothing will deter Charlotte from uncovering the truth once she’s started to put some of the pieces together and these pieces really make an absorbing picture. One that will be complicated for the community.

FACE TIME provides the reader with a whodunit supreme with everyone under suspicion from the daughter of the accused to the involvement of a politician to an ex-boyfriend. Charlotte grows on you and makes a compelling and often funny [“my hair looks the same on both sides”] crime solver. She’s independent, strong and fierce. Phillippi Ryan keeps the reader flipping pages and asking questions right up to the end. FACE TIME is a thrill to read.

note of apology to the Emmy-award winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan: Sorry I even questioned the accuracy of ANY piece of information you would put into one of your books. Of course you’d be right and I’d be wrong. JOUR 101 reminder for me, look it up and THEN email the author. I was born in Concord, Mass and have 04 social security. But you don’t have to get social security cards immediately and although we lived in tony Westport, Conn., my mother struggled to support us because I had a deadbeat dad who never could keep a job. She told me she couldn’t afford to get SS cards right off and probably mailed away at one time to get all three (for me, and my two brothers). She was born in Boston and has 01. I learned about my past as sad as it was. Full circle for me, I started off with nothing and have nothing now but a great education. How fitting.

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pic from author's web site

pic from author's web site

A professor of journalism and co-director of an investigative reporting clinic at Boston University, Dick Lehr, an attorney, also works for the Boston Globe where he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting. Lehr co-authored the New York Times bestseller, Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, which won the 2001 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book. A film based on the book, directed by Jim Sheridan [In America, In the Name of the Father] is currently in production.

Lehr is also co-author of Judgment Ridge: the True Story of the Dartmouth Murders, which was a finalist in the 2003 Edgar Awards for Best Fact Crime book, and The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family.


Title: The Fence
Author: Dick Lehr
ISBN: 978-0060780982
Pages: 400
Release Date: June 23, 2009
Publisher: Harper

The Fence, Lehr’s most recent book, is about a police cover up along racial divides and among its own ranks. In 1995, Michael Cox, an African American plainclothes officer, was brutally beaten by his fellow police officers after he was mistaken for a murder suspect. During the attack on Cox, Kenny Conley—an Irish American officer from South Boston—was chasing down the actual murder suspect. After the incident, Cox waited weeks for reparation from the Boston Police Department and federal authorities. Instead he faced lies and road blocks. Lehr exhaustively delved into the issue, interviewing Michael Cox, Kenny Conley, and others involved at the time.

Steele: Massachusetts is known as the bluest of the blue states. How can Boston be so racially divided?

Lehr: Boston is not exempt from the same historical racial divisions that are part of American life, in US cities everywhere, but especially in older cities like Boston where neighborhood and ethnic identities run so deep.

Steele: How did you become interested in this story?

Lehr: As a reporter at the Boston Globe, I began writing about the Cox case in connection with a year-long investigative series about corruption in the Boston Police Department.

Steele: Why did you decide to write this book?

Lehr: For many reasons. The drama of the police chase, the horror of the beating, and the fact cops left one of their own bleeding on the ground were jaw-dropping. Being fascinated with the blue wall of silence and a police culture of cover-up of wrongdoing, I saw this quintessential case through which to examine those issue – which, by the way, are hardly unique to Boston but are part of policing everywhere.

Steele: Are you particularly interested in Irish-Catholic Boston [Black Mass] or is that just a coincidence?

Lehr: Coincidence. I’m interested in Boston, present and past.

Steele: How does being an attorney influence your investigative journalism?

Lehr: It’s helped in terms of research, knowing my way around the courts and with legal procedure.

Steele: You write about very sensitive topics. What is the biggest challenge in investigating the stories? How do you get people to talk to you?

Lehr: The biggest challenge? Getting the information – the documentation – to tell the story in a dramatic narrative, which is my goal, to write the story so that it reads like a novel even though it’s fact-based, as a the best way to get at the underlying issues and themes. There’s no one way to get people talking. Sometimes it’s a call; other times it is having someone call in your behalf, as a sponsor of sorts; sometimes it’s a letter; sometimes it’s a knock on the door; and sometimes nothing works.

Steele: When was the investigative reporting clinic at BU established? Can you give me more details about it? [I attended the University of Maryland from 1993-1994 and took a computer-assisted-reporting class [with Bill Dedman] which was considered cutting-edge. Then I finished my master’s degree at Boston University in 1995.]

Lehr: With a colleague, I started the clinic my first year of teaching at BU, in 2003-2004. It’s a graduate-level course where students work on real stories, or at least investigate tips, and if they pan out then we see it through to publication. Our stories have run in the Boston Globe and the Boston Phoenix.

More recently, the Journalism Department is now home base for the new New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR). People can find out about through the Journalism Department’s website.

Steele: What do you tell your journalism students now as newspapers are dissolving and the face of reporting is rapidly changing?

Lehr: We’re in the midst of a huge paradigm, and it’s not clear how it’s going to look when it’s over, but I believe there will always a be a need and demand for trained journalists – people who know how to report, validate and write and tell a compelling account of events unfolding in the world around us.

Steele: I look forward to meeting you in person on Monday night.

Lehr: Sounds great.

Dick Lehr will be speaking on the Conversations About Race panel– Monday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. as part of The Concord Festival of Authors.

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