Fans of author Dennis Lehane know that his novels are smart, sharp page-turners. They’re thickly plotted, laced with violence, and frequently populated with working-class characters living lives of quiet desperation in and around Boston. And, as any movie buff can tell you, they are particularly well suited to great film adaptations (see: the brilliant, melancholy Mystic River and the haunting Gone, Baby, Gone).
The forthcoming film based on his latest novel, The Drop, is sure to be no exception—but the book is also excellent. It’s no surprise that it’s mesmerizingly cinematic, since it’s based on the screenplay for the film (which was adapted from a short story called “Animal Rescue,” which was itself based on an unfinished novel. Try saying that three times fast). A lightning-fast read that propels you at breakneck speed to the last page, The Drop tells the story of a sad-sack loner, Bob Saginowski, whose life takes a dangerous yet invigorating left turn when he discovers an abandoned, abused pit bull puppy in an alley.
Before he finds the puppy, Bob has spent years drifting through an achingly lonely existence, tenuously anchored on one side by his dedication to his local church, and on the other by his vague involvement in money laundering through the hangdog local bar he works at, which used to belong to his Uncle Marv. The bar is now owned by Chechen gangsters, although it is still operated, resentfully, by Marv, who feels shut out of the action. The violence that this criminal association brings to the story is always simmering just below the surface, and rears its head every so often in a jarring display of brutality.
The narrative dips in and out of the perspectives of this cast of intriguing (if also variously wretched) characters. In this way we observe the bleak inner life of Uncle Marv, who suspects that his glory days are behind him, even as he dreams of a final big break that will rescue him from a disappointing life of seedy violence and unfulfilled promise. There’s also a dour detective, Evandro Torres, who is brought in to investigate the bar (which has been the scene of more than one chilling incident), and the hard-bitten Nadia, who teaches Bob to care for his new puppy, even as her presence in his life attracts the animosity of a dangerous misfit, the frightening psychopath Eric Deeds—who, with his pithy list of rules to live by, will remain in your head long after you’ve finished the book.
Through it all, Lehane weaves threads of loss, redemption, and of lonely souls trying desperately to connect with those around them. Even the least sympathetic characters are real and flawed, and their struggles and desperation are surprisingly relatable, even universal.
The film version of The Drop, which stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and James Gandolfini in his last film performance, will be in theaters on Friday September 12. I can’t wait to see how Lehane’s latest tough, gritty novel is brought to the big screen.
Do you plan to read The Drop?