NEW NOVEL TAKES PLACE IN PROHIBITION-ERA CHICAGO OF 1920s
David Mamet's new novel, Chicago, takes place in the prohibition-era Chicago of the 1920s, and, according to Ron Charles' review in the Washington Post, includes a cameo by Al Capone:
Although the characters in David Mamet’s new novel, “Chicago,” never sound like real people, they always sound like David Mamet people, which is a strange indication of his success. We would recognize these guys in a dark alley, not from any actual experience in dark alleys but from “Speed-the-Plow,” “American Buffalo” and “Glengarry Glen Ross,” plays that have explored 86-proof masculinity for decades.
In “Chicago,” Mamet returns once again to the city where he was raised and where he started to work in theater. The novel also marks a return to the Prohibition era of “The Untouchables” (1987), Brian De Palma’s gangster film for which Mamet wrote the screenplay. But what’s striking is how little difference the time makes. Past or present, Mamet’s men must always contend with the rapidly changing currents of the day. The moment you hear Mamet working in 1920s Chicago, it’s obvious that this bullet-ridden era fits him as comfortably as a newsboy cap. Yet he’s often felt like an on-the-money writer, catching the zeitgeist even before the cigarette smoke clears the room. Remember that “Oleanna,” his deeply unsettling play about sexual harassment, opened just months after Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court. And now, while releasing this novel set 90 years ago, he’s working on a script about recently disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
“Chicago” is not overly inconvenienced by the actual history of the 1920s. “Received chronology,” Mamet notes at the opening, “has been jostled into a better understanding of its dramatic responsibilities.” (Leave it to Mamet to be more responsible than God.) But if this isn’t the exact history of Chicago, it’s still the city you think you know. Italian and Irish gangsters rule competing halves of the town. Al Capone makes a cameo. With alcohol illegal and ubiquitous, the city government is an institution of organized influence peddling. Every crime scene is picked over by sticky-fingered policemen shopping for their wives and girlfriends.