Random House Australia, Oct 2006
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith
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.
February 2007 Review first published on Murder and Mayhem
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