`Rogue Island` evokes drama of crime reporting

London: Rogue Island, by Bruce DeSilva: Metro reporter Liam Mulligan gets no respect from City Hall as he uncovers a deadly arson conspiracy that threatens the Mount Hope neighborhood of Providence, R.I.

"Why don`t you go cover a traffic accident?" one senior official tells him. "Better yet, have one."

An old-school newspaperman who proudly declares, "I know the cops and the robbers, the barbers and the bartenders, the judges and the hit men, the whores and the priests," Mulligan sets a lively and irreverent tone as narrator of "Rogue Island," the rollicking debut crime thriller from Bruce DeSilva, a former writing coach for The Associated Press.

Adopting a crisp, fast-paced style that echoes the work of Jimmy Breslin, Mike Barnicle and Mike Royko — renowned real-life journalists upon whom Mulligan is loosely modeled — DeSilva colorfully evokes the drama of crime reporting in a gritty, urban atmosphere where rules are made to be broken. "Without the lubricant of graft and personal connections, not much would get done in Rhode Island," Mulligan informs us, "and nothing at all would happen on time."

Like Mickey Spillane`s Mike Hammer, Mulligan serves the cause of justice while drinking, bantering, smoking, fighting and exerting an irresistible attraction on members of the opposite sex. But self-doubt, not swagger, turns out to be his most interesting quality. As newspapers across the country struggle for survival and once-mighty media corporations teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, Mulligan is keenly aware that his cherished way of life could vanish at any moment.

So when a firebug begins torching the neighborhood where Mulligan grew up, it`s more than just a crime story. "I kept digging, double-checking documents and re-interviewing sources," he tells us. "I felt darn right homicidal."

And we have to wonder just how seriously Mulligan meant that boast. As the story develops, he finds himself accused of murder and much else.

Bureau Report