Thursday, October 31, 2019

Crime Audio: "The Force" by Don Winslow

Crime Audio: The Force by Don Winslow, 2017, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

You've read it before: Noble cop goes crooked and tries to redeems himself. But, Winslow writes very well and spins a great tale.

Denny Malone is from a Irish cop family on Staten Island. His firefighter brother was killed on 9/11.  Since that death and some work related issues Denny had been devoted to work. He is separated from his Staten Island wife and rarely sees his two children who live with the wife. Denny now hates Long Island and spends all his time working in Manhattan and boinking his new live-in girlfriend. He is addicted to the excitement of Manhattan and busting crooks and being on a task force that admits 0.001% of NYPD cops. 

The task for is The Force or Da Force. They are known across the city and the island. That fame transcends daily life of cops and robbers. Da Force makes the papers and the TV news. Da Force gets into any restaurant and is comped free drinks. Da Force has juice and power.

Denny is a famous cop on a famous task force and Denny has been on the take for years. He works for and with organized crime, street gangs, carries bribes from defense attorneys to prosecutors, bribes to city politicians, and more. One night Denny gets grabbed by the Feds after a payoff the Feds start squeezing and squeezing. Denny is facing prison but refuses to talk about fellow cops.

Hell, Denny has worked with informants for 20 years, "I can turn this my way. Those stupid Feds don't know shit about real police work. I'll never turn snitch." Denny is wrong of course. Denny gets panic attacks. Denny says he will never snitch on fellow Officers but is slowly crunched by the feds and circumstance.

Throughout it all Winslow does not try and give a full bottom to top view of the various power structures in New York City. We get a sample of corruption's reach as Denny interacts with other corrupt - and rapist and murderous - Officers, on-the-take TV reverends, mobsters, so on, so forth. Denny knows who is on the take but the strict power hierarchy means he can only exert control on those below him. He cannot make demands or threats on those above, those people have too much power and can toss him to the wolves.

The whole corrupt set-up is depressing to read about. A crime victim is rolling the dice calling 911. If the perpetrator is connected the victim may be told to skip it or shut up. Or, if a fairly honest cop takes the case another cop may lose the evidence or pay off the prosecutor or judge. Sure things are periodically cleaned up but it all surges back. The structure is built to protect itself. The crooks at the top only let other crooks advance - you cannot promote a do-gooder who will investigate your rackets. Cops can either share the money or shut up. The PD is built on trust and loyalty and everyone learns that informing on another cop - even one who also works as a hired killer or gun runner - is forbidden and means ostracization from all your friends and most of your family.

Anyhoo. Denny is a very angry man. Angry about his dead firefighter brother. Angry at a drug kingpin who had an entire family murdered. Angry at people who do not realize the wave of violence he and other cops push back against. 

Denny is not a hero. He lies all the time. He murdered heroin dealers and kept 50kg of heroin to sell later. He accepts the gun running cop's plan to sell arms to fuel a upcoming gang war. Denny is 60% cop and 40% mobster. And the cops are mobsters, they are just a different type than the goombas.

The story moves on and Winslow arcs the tale to a conventional finish. Very entertaining. Winslow is always excellent at incorporating current events and issues into his fiction. 

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