The Trouble Boys by E.R. Fallon has left me pleasantly surprised. I do not often choose gang crime novels, or particularly historical ones, but I am glad that I chose to read and review this one. The plot is fast-paced with excellent characters and raw, gritty events. The Trouble Boys will be published on Thursday by Urbane Publications.
The Trouble Boys tells the story of Colin, who’s family moves from Ireland to America in the hopes of getting better job opportunities and living better lives. Living in the Bowery proves tough for Colin’s family, and the men of the family turn to organised crime to help them get by. Colin makes friends with half-Cuban and half-Irish Johnny who looks out for him. After a series of unfortunate events leads Colin to the Irish mob, he finds himself turned against his best friend and losing friends and family.
What I liked
I absolutely loved the context and settings of the book; having never experienced 1930s – 1950s America, including novels or films previously, this book gave me an excellent overview of the lower classes in this time period. I enjoyed reading the story from the Irish immigrant perspective, as it provides the reader with explanations for goings on. Had the story been told by an American-born man, the narrator could have assumed knowledge on the part of the reader, so I liked discovering the setting with Colin.
I also enjoyed the way it was told over two decades of Colin’s life, as I could see the long-term effects of the environment and how power can become a person unwittingly. Colin is neither someone with whom I sympathised or hated, but his unwitting, apparent innocence and general ignorance made him a nice character to tell the story. He is not evil, yet doesn’t regret many of his actions.
I personally liked the portrayal of the women who ended up without Colin, as they move on and work their lives out without him on board, yet still have a soft spot for him when they see him again. I actually preferred Johnny’s character in the beginning, as he appeared to have a deeper understanding and lacked Colin’s ignorance. I liked the accuracy of the portrayals of life in this time in the lower classes in America. The lack of sugar coating makes it harder to read, as it is so realistic, but I liked the candidness of the narrative.
What I didn’t like
The only thing I didn’t like in the narrative was Colin’s lack of character development. He goes from crime to crime, woman to woman, and ends the story moving toward more uncertainty. His lack of emotion toward his crimes and the enormity of death in his life would be worrying to any reader and makes it difficult to connect with him as the narrator.
Overall, I enjoyed the story a lot. It was easy to read, fast paced and generally enjoyable. I liked reading about a whole other world which was once a part of our own world and discovering the harrowing realities for mob members in America. This novel makes it easy to see how children can easily spiral down the slope of organised crime, as it offers financial security for their families. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to explore this era and setting for the first time, as well as regular readers of Irish mob fiction. I received The Trouble Boys by E.R. Fallon in the form of a proof copy from Urbane Publications in exchange for an honest review.