Review | The Boys From Biloxi : by John Grisham

When I think of Biloxi, I envision Gulf Coast beaches, seafood restaurants, shrimp boats, reports of hurricane destruction, however, this novel draws the reader into a much darker side of the region. Grisham relates the experiences that shape and mold two families, of Croatian descent, the Rudys and the Malcos, through eight decades, from 1912 through 1985. It is a story told by a third person narrator. It is a story of good versus evil.

Beginning with both family’s ancestral arrivals in the early 1910’s, the story quickly moves to the second generation and how changing times shape their lives. Jesse Rudy and Lance Malco are growing up in Biloxi, Mississippi. A city that is “maturing” due to prohibition in the 1920’s and the establishment, in 1941, of a military training base. The growing reputation of Biloxi for corruption and vice, everything from gambling, prostitution, bootleg liquor and drugs to contract killings, leads to the birth of what comes to be known as “the Strip” along Biloxi’s coast. Underrcover, illegal activity was notorious. Everyone was making money and the greed permeated into the police and the elected officials. By the 1950’s, a gang of violent thugs, nicknamed the Dixie Mafia, settled in Bioxi. Jesse and Lance also matured during this time. Lance became the “Boss” of Biloxi’s criminal underground and Jesse became a legendary prosecutor, determined to “clean up the Coast”. Jesse and Lance also became fathers of sons at about the same time.

Enter the third generation of the Rudy and Malco families. Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco grew up in Biloxi in the sixties and were close childhood friends. Both excelled at baseball and together were Little League all-stars. However, during their teenage years they began to drift apart. Keith went to law school and Hugh preferred life on “the Strip” and worked in his father’s clubs. The division between them grew wider and wider. The families, fathers and sons, were headed for a showdown that would culminate with both generations in courtrooms.

This novel is rich with well researched history, including in 1969, the catastrophic category 5 hurricane Camille, that wiped away the Biloxi Strip. Even Camille couldn’t wash away the corruption. It returned to thrive again with Lance Malco to nurture it. One family thrives on crime the other fights to eliminate it.

As a dual family saga, the Boys From Biloxi offers characters whose lives are intertwined by circumstances and choices that leave life itself hanging in the balance. The theme of good versus evil is ever present throughout the chapters.

I enjoy a John Grisham read and the bit of legal education he offers for me as the reader. The death penalty is sensitively broached and sustained as again good is weighed against evil.

“The law by nature, creates drama, and a new Grisham promises us an inside look at the dirty machineries of process and power, with plenty of entertainment.”

– Los Angeles Times –

The Boys From Biloxi is hard to put down and will keep you turning pages. Count on not getting much done until you turn the last page. The momentum of the story grows and Grows and GROWS.

Published by Audrey Newhall

I am an avid reader and contributor to Penna Book Reviews

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