Don Winslow follows up his crime family sagaCity on Fire with City of Dreams. Once again, there a loose allusions in the plot to Greek tragedy. While City on Fire riffed on the Trojan war and the stories of the Illiad, City of Dreams digs into the Aenead and other stories based on the aftermath of that conflict.
While the narrative ranges across a number of points of view, the centre of the action is once again Danny Ryan. When the City of Dreams opens Danny is on the run from a double cross involving a drug shipment but also from the FBI. With him are his father who is suffering from dementia, his young son and a few loyal followers. They end up in San Diego but they cannot hide for ever and in order to secure some more government protection Ryan agrees to rob a major Mexican drug dealer to put him out of commission. As a result of the actions of his henchmen, and using the stolen money, Danny becomes involved in the production of a movie based on the events in City on Fire and in a very public relationship with its star, a situation which brings with it a whole range of new problems.
City of Dreams continues in the same vein as City on Fire. Full of profane, violent wise guys constantly on the make, looking for the next woman or the next big score, often putting greed or desire ahead of common sense. Underneath it all is the vein of Greek tragedy, with the violent story of Agamemnon (in this case Peter Moretti) and his family after the Trojan Wars playing out in Rhode Island and hints of the Odyssey playing out in Danny’s story. The Hollywood section of this book is the most enjoyable but also the most meta with real life gangsters meeting the people playing them, and Danny running foul of the organised crime families that either run the studios or skim off them.
Winslow has an easy yet heightened style. Much like the Greek tragedies they are based on, his characters are more archetypes than real people. But they are fascinating as much for what they represent and the things they do as for who they are. This project trilogy has now moved from Rhode Island to California, with one book to go and the Chicago mob still looming it will be interesting to see where Winslow goes for the finale and what stories he draws from.