Aside from being a Don Winslow fan and already looking forward to reading his latest, having a cover blurb from Stephen King, the grandmaster of all, likening the book to The Godfather, well, that was one helluva an endorsement. And folks, Uncle Stevie’s assessment ain’t wrong.
Winslow’s The Force, set in a present day, post 9/11 NYC, is an in-your-face lesson of the realities of life and politics in the Big Apple so vivid you can smell the garbage. And if anything, The Force has a lot of it, including, at times, the book’s protagonists. Winslow, by way of Manhattan North Special Task Force lead Det. Sgt. Denny Malone, plays host to and opens a tour of Harlem – the eateries, the theaters, and also the projects, crack houses, safe houses, hospitals, and precincts – all through a clipped, narrative slang that would make Raymond Chandler proud were he alive and reading in the 21st Century.
The Force, consisting of NYPD blue bloods Malone, Russo, and Montague, are kings of their kingdom. Tolerated by those they seek to protect, hated by the skells they are up against. They rule by fear, by strength, and are sometimes even in alignment with the law. They seek power by taking power, as well as few token items as spoils of war, being victors and all that. Yet they are brothers. Family men. Lovers, and jesters. They want to do right for their kids and succeed enough to shower off the filth of the day. But things go wrong and kings often become conquered. Think The Shield but East Coast style.
Winslow does more than simply present another tale of cops gone bad. He tells how. He tells why. And he even attempts to provide justification, albeit through the Hollywood convenience of showing others as more reprehensible than those of the hero cops. The Force does question the blatant lack of values, and demands a return to uphold a higher honor in truth and justice. Winslow sidesteps that repetitive theme, proclaiming instead that the end justifies the means. Except it often doesn’t. In real life anyway. In Winslow’s New York? Being a bad ass with a shield of gold and fists of tempered steel might just make you the coolest cat this side of Vic Mackey.