Gangster Squad

by Paul Lieberman (Pan) ISBN: 9781447222309 

Warner Brothers developed the film Gangster Squad based on the research journalist Paul Lieberman conducted for this book. He spent a decade interviewing surviving members of the unit as well as families and associates of the mobsters. 

The blurb promises that Gangster Squad is a tour-de-force narrative reminiscent of LA Confidential. It isn’t.  Lieberman writes about the lives of the members of the Gangster Squad – ‘eight men who met covertly on street corners and slept with Tommy guns under their beds’ – while they watch the mafia. The problem is the policemen concerned aren't that interesting. Decent dedicated lawmen having dinner do not make a riveting read. He writes about the LA Mafia, but the characters, Mickey Cohen, Jack Dragna, and others, are almost as boring as the men watching them. 

There is a lack of focus and conflict. Nothing much happens. And then there’s the writing. Clichés and twee phrases abound. What self-respecting crime writer pens phrases like ‘There were no guarantees in police work, or in life ...’ or ‘all those men had marvellous dark hair’? I’m sure the film will be better. 

Amanda Patterson

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