Boyos deserves a special place in crime fiction. The author, Richard Marinick, grew up in the 80’s running his own crew in South Boston during the Whitey Bulger era. He served 11 years in jail for an armored car heist. While in jail he turned himself around earning Bachelors and Masters Degrees. In his introduction he reveals himself to be a natural storyteller and a born writer scribbling this story during stolen moments while working odd jobs. Perhaps more revealing though was his hesitation to write crime fiction in fear that reliving his past experiences would make him slip into his old ways. It should also be noted that the only character that has a good heart and redeeming qualities shares the same name as his wife. Perhaps a subtle thank you for his reason to stay on the straight and narrow.
I for one am glad he survived his youth and put his experiences to good use in crafting this riveting tale.
Boyos presents a compelling slice of Southie life from the lowest levels of the blue collar citizens who place bets and use the loan sharks to make it to the next payday to the highest levels of the Italian Mafia in the North East. In between we get realistic portraits of all the shylocks, tough guys, enforcers, robbers, drug dealers, users and fences that inhabit the world of South Boston. It is in these portraits, the way that these characters talk and interact, that Marinicks experience comes into play. While reading Boyos you become so immersed in their world that it feels like you’re reading a non-fiction account of that life. Which shouldn’t suggest a dry recitation with slightly altered facts; Southie lives and breathes in these passages. This is a book unlike any other that is amazing in its scope and presentation.
At the center of the story is Jack “Whacko” Curran and to lesser extent his younger brother Kevin. They are both successful earners in the Irish Mob and their careers are on the rise. They are tired of paying tribute to their boss but little do they know that he has plans of his own for them also. It becomes inevitable that these two paths will cross.
Boyos starts out as an ever widening spiral with Whacko at its center. As the spiral continues around him and getting further away we continue to get introduced to more and more characters. Then the story becomes a kind of parabola with the large cast coming and going as Whacko comes into contact and interacts with them.
Just like its real world Southie counterpart everyone in Boyos is expendable and you’ll never be able to guess who lives and who dies. There are no black and white absolutes in Boyos, only shades of grey.
Without giving away the specifics the weakest part may in fact be the ending. You get the feeling that Marinick is giving Whacko the ending that he himself wishes that he got. Given what we know of Marinicks past life though perhaps we can forgive him this one indulgence while at the same time being glad that he did do his time if only since we can share in his story