Chicago is as linguistically rich as Glengarry Glen Ross — in fact, as any of his previous work in any medium ... In its scope and ambition, Chicago feels like one of the great American male novelists of the late 20th century — Updike, Mailer, Bellow, Roth — trying his hand at writing a genre novel. But unlike those novelists' somewhat less sure-footed lunges, Mamet lands this with aplomb. This is high genre, a 1920s gangster story, that manages to entertain and engross ... Mamet's ear for the dark poetry of the American male id fuels Chicago. His dialogue here is as sharp as any of his stage plays, and he is unique in that he finds or creates the lyricism that we all like to imagine exists in the patois of every class.
That Mamet is able to bring to vivid life this often-mined era and place is credit not only to his skill with words, but to his agile mind’s ability to enliven even seemingly familiar stories ... Mamet’s Chicago is a harsh and unforgiving place but captured with knowing affection and peopled by a colorful cast, from cops to illegal nightclub owners and their wives and mistresses, safecrackers, crooks, mobsters and hookers ... There are no heroes here. Everyone is flawed. But there are real people here, so real as to be unforgettable and thus fully deserving of that spot on your Chicago bookshelf.
...all this insider knowledge is called into question by the way Mr. Mamet plays fast and loose with history. Generous readers of novels set in particular eras don’t expect precise fidelity to every fact, and small changes to the historical record are not dealbreakers. But Mr. Mamet scrambles his 1920s setting in ways even casual readers could balk at ... Assuming one can put such concerns aside, Mr. Mamet’s narrative has a powerful momentum as he explores Hodge’s conflicted inner life...Every character is defined, and defines everyone else, by race, class, gender and ethnicity. But Parlow, Peekaboo and others speak with complex, three-dimensional, fully human voices ... Mr. Mamet’s novel is alive and interesting, but enjoyment for many readers may pivot on historical veracity.
Leave it to David Mamet ... to take a flower shop and the legend of the 1920s Chicago underworld and fashion a fresh take on a milieu one would have thought literature had thoroughly exhausted ... Alas, the plot takes too many unnecessary turns. The first half of Chicago somehow manages to move at a breakneck pace yet takes far too long to get where it wants to go. Narratives aren't required to follow a linear path, but even digressions should feel as if they belong on a narrative through-line. An abundance of asides, especially before a book's momentum, mood and main characters have been established, creates confusion rather than nonlinearity ... even if the novel isn't the bouquet Mamet fans had hoped for, it's nonetheless a vivid evocation of Prohibition-era organized crime.
Mamet offers a master class on dialogue as the witty repartee and newsroom banter mimic the syncopated pop of the infamous tommy gun while adding rich visual texture. The prose is economical yet lustrous, perfectly capturing a time when facility with language was prized. In brilliantly staged vignettes, reporters and cops share stories peppered with humorous anecdotes about unfortunate souls. As Hodges unravels the mystery surrounding Annie’s death, leading him deeper into the underbelly of greed and power, his journey offers subtle commentary on class, religion, race, and politics.
This is where you might start if you want to get a handle on Mamet’s writing — with the language he crafts: snappy, allusive and implicate, and often slippery with sententious affectation from characters who can’t seem to stop talking. In those moments where Mamet’s language soars, Chicago can be spellbinding. His virtuosity in constructing dialogue, plot-advancing or otherwise, is often most evident in his long sequences of one-on-one exchanges ... Even so, the plot may not advance as compellingly as some might hope. Fans of traditional detective fiction are certainly accustomed to scenes where the hero(ine) and another character verbally volley their way to all-clarifying discovery. But for readers attuned to another flavor of thriller — with hard-driving, less-reflective plots and spare conversation — well, maybe there’s not so much delight in store for you with this book. So, if you tend to zone out during scenes of clever repartee and mutual reflection, you might want to take a pass on Chicago ... Slow-moving but richly revealing, Chicago won’t please everyone who picks it up, but many readers won’t want to put it down.
The story careens ahead at a lightning pace. Big ideas and themes are woven into the narrative. Grief, Guilt, and Hodge’s wartime history all make for a meaningful and layered text. The desire for truth, retribution, and solace are his main motivators. You can’t help being pulled into the heaping emotion that saturates each page ... You will be in love, really frustrated at times, confused, and mesmerised by what is done in these 300-plus pages ... Recommend for fans of literary crime fiction, James Ellroy, and classic American noir.
Mamet had plenty of gangster bona fides following his fantastic screenplay for 1987's The Untouchables. What he does really well in Chicago is root a riveting crime drama in a throwback journalistic world, a time when you could yell for a copy boy to bring you Dixie cups for your illegal liquor. But this novel has a romantic heart, and the emotional stakes complement the whiskey-drenched whodunit.
There’s no questioning Mamet’s talent. Which makes the faults of Chicago all the more curious. By the time we meet Hodge, some of the best parts of the story have already happened ... Mamet does a masterful job 'showing' important details in other parts of the story. A little more showing and a little less telling would have made a good book even better.
Chicago is a master class in the author’s trademark 'Mamet speak,' made famous by his Pulitzer Prize-winning screenplay Glengarry Glen Ross. Every page is layered with sharply drawn, often biting dialogue. Some of the conversations are so thick you may have to read them twice to catch everything, but they’re so good you won’t mind one bit.
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 ... There’s a lot of that winking playacting. If only Mamet had taken the city editor’s advice: 'We require bold, clear words and gruesome pictures.'
The story moves at a careening pace, drawing on a small but memorable cast of characters, with cameos by a few historical figures; the palaver isn’t as snappy as, say, House of Games, but it’s brisk and believable. Readers should note that there’s scarcely an ethnic group that doesn’t come in for a slur along the way, but that’s part of the verisimilitude ... An evocative, impressive return that Mamet fans will welcome.
All this is basically just an excuse for the author to exercise his patented talent with dialogue. Unfortunately, this works better in his plays than here, where the highly charged conversations slow down the haphazardly plotted story. But Mike proves himself the spiritual kin of Chicago reporter Hildy Johnson from Hecht and MacArthur’s The Front Page, and Mamet’s Chicago setting is immersively evoked.