on December 27, 2011
The first novel in the 'Detroit Crime Series' in which the city is treated as an organic entity through various decades of the 20th century, "WHISKEY RIVER" spans from the Prohibition Era to the late 1930s.
Constantine ("Connie") Minor is a Detroit-based journalist who has made a name for himself covering the crime beat in the late 1920s/early 1930s. This was a time in which bootleggers and mobsters carved out Detroit into spheres of influence over which they exerted and established firm control over, not only, the illegal importation of alcohol, but also the numbers rackets, and prostitution. Many of the city's cops often looked the other way, picking and choosing what crimes to solve or ignore (courtesy of a bribe). All the while, Detroit's industrial might (as evidenced by the auto industry) continued to grow, giving the city a dazzling prosperity soon to be tempered by the ravages of the 1929 stock market crash and resulting Depression.
Minor has cultivated a variety of contacts with the city's underworld elements (e.g. Jack Dance, a bold and impetuous bootlegger building his own criminal empire in the city and "Joey the Machine" a powerful and ruthless criminal overlord who will tolerate no challenges to his authority). He brings the reader into the frenzied, at times dangerous, chaotic and colorful lives of the crime bosses, syndicates, police and politicians.
One of the most exciting scenes in the novel is when Minor accompanies Jack Dance and his associates over to Canada one night to pick up several cases of alcohol and convey them back to Detroit across the stretches of the frozen-over Detroit River during the winter of 1930. Amid a flurry of machine gun fire, they barely evade the Prohibition Squad of the Detroit Police Department. In Minor's own words: "... bullets were still hitting the ice. As we sped away from the Packard, having veered too close to its gun for comfort, I watched the battered black Lincoln following our original path with Lon Camarillo standing on the running board, bracing himself with an arm hooked around the window post and pumping away with what looked like a Browning Automatic Rifle at the center of the network of cracks. His face in the moonlight with the buttstock against his cheek looked like the Grim Reaper's...
"... The driver of the Packard was spinning his wheels in a white blur now, frantic to back away onto a better footing. His engine whined, but the car only subsided into a drunken tilt, spoiling the aim of the gunner in back and thrusting its armored prow farther out over the shoal.
"A wheel broke through the car stumbled, then went down on both knees as the ice collapsed under the other front wheel. White floes stood up in shards and slid under the black water. The Packard teetered, rear wheels turning in empty air, a scaled-down Titanic suspended on a cloud of exhaust."
All in all, a very exciting, well-crafted novel.