||February 10, 2003
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A Civil Man
Follow the action-packed adventures of Cris Reese, beginning on the eve of World War II, thru his missions in the OSS in the European Theatre, and his deadly conflicts with a Chicago mobster.
"A Civil Man" is an authentic thriller with heart, humor, love and an array of fascinating characters, covering the span of seven years. It's a thrilling ride with full-of-life characters, and unrelenting action played out against the backdrop of World War II.
This great read has as its colorful locales Chicago, South Haven, MIchigan, London, Northern England, and Le Havre, France. It will take you on a trip thru time and space, while you hold your breath, waiting for the next chapter, the next character, and its fulfilling climax.
Atop the huge rocks which served as the barrier to Lake Michigan's ferocity stood two men. Their backs were to the remaining graduates of Loyola School of Law as they faced the inland ocean. From behind, they looked identical: tall and lean, with modestly broad shoulders. They also shared classic German coloring: sandy blonde hair, fair, unfreckled skin, and sharp blue eyes. The older of the two wore the uniform of a police sergeant.
A Civil Man
A Civil Man, By Bruce Barsanti
Reviewed by Barbara Parker, Pacific Book Review
Set among dapper gangsters and Irish cops in Chicago during the days of the St. Valentine Day Massacre, Bruce Barsanti writes a fast moving, action packed, entertaining suspense thriller filled with plot twists and turns in his novel, A Civil Man. He begins with a law graduate, Cris, the son of a cop falling for a beautiful mob princess only to find their lives begin to spiral out of control; what’s left of it, that is. The line in the sand is drawn as the characters posture their machismo, the “Mob daddy” and the “Good son of a cop” willing to duel to the death over the beauty of a women they both love – in different ways. The plot mechanisms take an unexpected turn, analogous to the impact level of a modern day soap opera, like Days of Our Lives meeting The Untouchables, when death begins to chip away at the cast.
The story moves at lightning speed through the written voice of a tough, confident man that knows how the world turns, understands people, has his destiny predetermined and nobody is going to stop him from getting there. Cris joins the Office of Strategic Services, known as the OSS, the intelligence agency which ultimately evolved to the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. During WWII Chris is faced with many challenges in the French theatre which defines the soul of the man he was and is to become. Returning to his neighborhood after the war he then must face, once again, “Mob Daddy,” the man that inadvertently sculpted his destiny.
A Civil Man has a Mickey Spillane attitude with some of Humphrey Bogart’s tough one-liners. It is a book excellently embellished in dialogue; detailed down to the appropriate accents. The text, in the electronic version I read, was large with roomy spacing, so I had my finger on the scroll button continuously while my eyes were viewing the action unfolding. In fact, with the adrenaline stirred up inside during some scenes, I found myself scrolling so quickly I thought to myself it reminded me of those old time Flicker cards flashing sequentially within a viewer showing a black & white silent movie. What fun!
A roller coaster of easily believable characters, where bad things happen to good people, Bruce Barsanti sparks a fire kindled in the reader’s mind prepared by many similar period pieces of Chicago during the prohibition and the French Resistance fighters of WWII. In all fairness Bruce Barsanti does a marvelous job differentiating his character Crispin from many of the stereotypical heroes of other people’s works. In essence he brings enjoyable originality to what may be over-exploited period backdrops.
A Civil Man is an ideal companion book for a trip where you want to have an easy to pick up story with interesting characters, good dialogue, and lots of sensuality, greed and violence. A story with memorable characters defined within the backdrop of war and love, Cris will linger in the mind of the readers far beyond the close of the book. “Here’s looking at you,” said the man in the Fedora.
A Geat Ride
A Civil Man – a great ride.
A Civil Man is one of those books that grabs you from the start and just doesn’t let go. First, let’s talk characters: no cartoon depictions here. Bruce weaves the forces of good and evil throughout his story in intriguing, unexpected ways, never losing his footing in reality to create complex people that are human and flawed. The characters are so vividly drawn, you soon find yourself mentally casting the movie (Bradley Cooper, are you listening?).
Its roller coaster ride of a plot, which takes us from late 1930’s gangland Chicago, to the French countryside during WWII and back to the States, plus its fast-paced, beautifully written dialogue are more reasons why A Civil Man is such a terrific read. Think Wise Guys combined with Band of Brothers mixed with just the right amount of The Young and the Restless (interestingly, Goodbye, Columbus also came to mind at the beginning).
It’s clear that impeccable research fueled the story’s twists and turns. Remember the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and its presence in the European theater during WW II? (Or like me, maybe not.) As an officer of the OSS, the protagonist Crispin brings to life the critical role this organization played in the war’s outcome (now the Central Intelligence Agency).
That brings me to the real kicker. I’m more of an Eat Pray Love type of gal when it comes to my reading tastes; stories about war and organized crime have never topped my list. Yet I enjoyed A Civil Man thoroughly. And here, finally, was a book I could discuss with my husband!* (He also gave it high marks.)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll close by mentioning that the author Bruce Barsanti was a dear friend, whom I miss every day. Whatever bias that brings to my commentary, so be it. But I had the privilege of knowing how much joy Bruce experienced in writing the book – and what an incredibly smart, creative, endlessly curious and ultimately civil man he was. As a great believer in the “joy in joy out” phenomenon, it’s no surprise to me that his book is such a treasure.
Read it. Experience this compelling story in a way that only a book can deliver…before the movie comes out. (Bradley? Seriously, dude.)
*He did not read Eat Pray Love.
There’s one thing I want to say about Bruce Barsanti’s A Civil Man.
Read it. You’ll love it.
It’s an epic tale, with the Chicago mob on the make, jaded cops on the take, and a scorching hot Romeo & Juliet romance that brings them into conflict.
As if that weren’t enough, the middle of the novel takes us across the Atlantic, to World War II Europe, where we careen through a surprisingly dark and harrowing adventure of clandestine missions, Gestapo torture, daring rescues, oh-so-narrow escapes, and above all, heroism.
A Civil Man is intelligent and visceral. It intrigues you with wartime intelligence operations, then pounds you, hard, into Chicago’s gritty pavement. It makes you think, it makes you sweat, and it makes you bleed a little. You read it and say to yourself, “That’s gonna leave a mark.”
Bruce’s book is, like he was, irresistibly compelling. The story snares you on page one and doesn’t let go until the wars—-both the big one in Europe and the smaller, but equally devastating, one back home—-are over.
The characters are real—complex, passionate, idealistic and, best of all, flawed. Deliciously flawed. There is a right and wrong in Barsanti’s world, but sometimes the line is a little fuzzy. And that’s just the way it is, so get used to it.
In A Civil Man, Bruce Barsanti grabs you by the scruff of the neck, wrestles you to the ground and then shakes you around good until you’re absolutely limp.
And then you get up and say, “Thank you, Sir! May I have another?”
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