In Born Speaking Lies, New York mobster Billy the Kid gets a chance to escape the violent world of 1990s Brooklyn after being shot and left for dead in a Pennsylvania forest by members of his own crew. Billy tries to disappear into small town life with Lora, a local woman who finds him bleeding by the side of the road, but his desire for revenge and his rapidly deteriorating health drives him toward a bloody confrontation with his former friends.
My take on Born Speaking Lies:
I think Rob Lenihan is an incredible writer. I made it through all 489 pages of this thick tome and remained interested during the read. The book started out violently, was violent throughout, and ended violently. What kind of violence? Mob hits, gun battles, arson, fighting, beatings, rape. All the types of violence you would expect from an underworld gang. The books spans decades of a New Jersey/New York City mob ring. The leader of the group is an old man named Matty the Cigar: loan shark, bar owner, survivor. He was shot and paralyzed when he was older and he still wields power with his group of ne’er-do-well guys that he recruited from the neighborhood to do his bidding. His star mobster is Billy the Kid, a guy who finds himself at odds with Matty during middle age, and who is killed in the Poconos by some of his “buddies.” Only he didn’t die. The bullet that grazed him just gave him a head wound and brain trauma. The readers follow Billy from his new life living in the mountains to his desire to seek revenge on Matty and all his gang buddies that he worked with for years. Somehow, you want Billy to reach some sort of catharsis and change his life–he is that likable of a character. Also, I found myself sympathetic to many of the gang members. Most of them just wanted to belong to some sort of family, in a way, and were not complete worthless human beings. Born Speaking Lies has many minor characters that are police beat officers, wives, and girlfriends of the gang. I think Mr. Lenihan captures life in the city growing up with parents who are preoccupied and have their own mental and addictive issues and how these situations can lead young men with no supervision into directionless, emotionally devoid or warped members of society. You can tell Mr. Lenihan grew up in or near the area–he knows the neighborhood, the city, and the Poconos well and is reflected in his writing–a very engaging read. Was I happy or not with the way the book ends? Yes, but that does not mean the book ended as I thought or hoped it might end.
Note: I received a free copy of this massive book in exchange for my honest review.