"Cross me heart, I could have written a whole essay on how much
I loved Rogue Island. Imagine Don Winslow peppered with Peter
Dexter and you'd have the flavour and pace of this novel. The
writing has a balanced poise that is perfectly suited to the
narrative, there are no tidy solutions, and the ending leaves
a fierce chill lingering. A terrific slow motion burn of a novel."
-- Ken Bruen, critically acclaimed Irish master of noir.
"Fans of Michael Connelly and Robert B. Parker, rejoice. L.S.A.
Mulligan is on the case. Rogue Island is full of high spirits,
low cunning and barbed wit. A wry and entertaining debut in the
grand hard-boiled tradition from Bruce DeSilva."
-- Peter Blauner, critically acclaimed author of Slow Motion
Riot and Slipping Into Darkness.
"Bruce DeSilva knows exactly how thrillers work, and he pulls out
all the stops in this impressive debut. With a powerful and authentic
sense of place, DeSilva peels back the curtain and shows us the
real deal; a Providence as gritty and corrupt as any big city,
and deadlier than most. "
Sean Chercover, award-winning author of Trigger City.
"Rogue Island is a tense, terrific thriller and a
remarkably assured debut from Bruce DeSilva, an author to watch."
-- Dennis Lehane, best-selling author of Mystic River and
"I can't believe this is a debut -- DeSilva writes with a master's
understanding of the genre. The dialogue is spot on, the humor
is wry, and the world is gritty enough that I still have dirt under
my fingernails. Rogue Island is a winner."
-- Marcus Sakey, bestselling author of The Amateurs.
"Even the title to Bruce DeSilva's fiercely entertaining novel
is a comic play on words. For Rogue Island is really Rhode
Island, and no one knows that roguishness better than Mulligan,
reporter who drifts just high enough above its moral squalor to
glimpse its battered charm. A debut novel as witty as it is intelligent,
smoothly written and wryly told, a gem."
-- Thomas H. Cook, critically acclaimed author of Red Leaves and
Master of the Delta.
"Bruce DeSilva handles a keyboard the way a samurai handles a sword.
A stunning debut. Authentic, hilarious, and compelling. I’ve
read hundreds of crime books, but this one bleeds the truth. I
haven’t been so impressed with a crime novelist since I discovered
some guy named Robert B. Parker."
-- Ace Atkins, critically acclaimed author of Devil’s Garden and Infamous
"DeSilva knows his crooks, his snobs, and his working joes, knows
what they do and how they talk about it. He also knows the newspaper
business in all its sunset glory, and he’s intimately acquainted
with the nets of power, crime, and money woven into the fabric
of Rhode Island. This is a series I'll be following."
-- New York Times best-selling author S.J. Rozan.
A Masterpiece of Irreverence and Street Savvy
“The serial torching of Mount Hope, a deteriorating Providence,
R.I., neighborhood, sparks an investigative reporter's mission
to smoke out the firebug in DeSilva's promising debut. Journalist
Liam Mulligan, a Mount Hope native, smells arson in the ashes of
tenement fires that have claimed the lives of several friends.
The deeper he digs into suspicious circumstances surrounding the
blazes, though, the more resistance he meets from police, politicians,
landlords, and lawyers. Soon, Mulligan himself is fingered for
the fires by the same sleazy authorities he's investigating. Smart-ass
Mulligan is a masterpiece of irreverence and street savvy, and
DeSilva does a fine job of evoking the seamy side of his beat through
the strippers, barkeeps, bookies, and hoodlums who are his confidantes
and companions. They all contribute to the well-wrought noirish
atmosphere that supports this crime novel's dark denouement. A
twist in the tale will keep readers turning the pages until the
– Publisher’s Weekly
A Blistering Debut
"The smallest state bursts with crime, corruption, wisecracks and
neo-noir atmosphere in DeSilva’s blistering debut. Someone’s
set seven fires in the Mount Hope section of Providence. Arson
for profit is all too common in the city’s history, but these
buildings were owned by different people and insured by different
companies. So Ernie Polecki, indolent Chief Arson Investigator,
and his incompetent assistant Roselli, the mayor’s cousin,
assume that they’re the work of a firebug. So do the DiMaggios,
the vigilante crew who patrol the nighttime streets with baseball
bats. But not seen-it-all reporter Liam Mulligan. His festering
ulcer, estrangement from his harpy wife Dorcas and romance with
his young Princeton-trained colleague Veronica Tang, who won’t
have sex with him till he gets tested for HIV, haven’t absorbed
all his energy. Shrugging off the insistence of city editor Ed
Lomax that he file a story on a dog who ran across the country
from Oregon to rejoin his relocated owners (a hilarious episode
that shows just how desperate his professional situation is), Mulligan
homes in on the developing story.
His interest is fueled by the number of interested parties he just
happens to be close to—from his prom date Rosella Morelli,
now Battalion Chief of the fire department, to his burned-out bookie,
Dominic “Whoosh” Zerilli—and by the arsonist’s
apparent determination to torch every structure in Rhode Island’s
capital. At length the mounting toll includes homes, storefronts,
people and Mulligan’s questionable peace of mind. When the
lead he’s supplied investigators goes sour and his own life
is threatened, he has no choice but to trust the cub reporter he’s
been saddled with—the publisher’s son, whom he calls
Thanks-Dad—and the mobsters who’d be perfectly willing
to set fires themselves, but who draw the line at killing women
and children. Mulligan is the perfect guide to a town in which
the only ways to get things done are to be connected to the right
people or to grease the right palms.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Rogue Island raises the bar for all books of its kind
"Providence, R.I., in the winter, with a serial arsonist setting
working-class houses on fire, sometimes at the rate of four a night – that's
the setting and the occasion of Rogue Island, Bruce DeSilva's lively
first novel. Narrated by a local investigative journalist named
Liam Mulligan, who has won some prizes and suffers from stomach
ulcers, the book captures in sound and spirit a location not often
The fact that his old neighborhood is going up in flames, and adults
and sometimes children and firefighters are dying in the fires,
pushes Mulligan into a quest to find the arsonist. DeSilva writes
such an engaging first-person story, making Mulligan come to life
line by line by line, that most readers will be pulled into following
The going gets tough in an early scene of the book when Mulligan
sets out to interview the city's chief arson investigator. "From
the outside, the drab government building looked like randomly
stacked cardboard boxes. Inside, the halls were grimy ... The johns,
when they weren't padlocked to save civil servants from drowning,
were fragrant and toxic. The elevators rattled and wheezed like
a geezer chasing a taxi ..."
You don't just get the picture of local government sunk deep in
its own impoverishment of physical plant and spirit, you see the
picture, you hear the sound of it. DeSilva empowers Mulligan to
get to the bottom of this story and find a motive for the arsonist
and, possibly, find out if anyone else is behind the torching of
his old neighborhood. He allows us to take delight in the way he
tells it, in as lively a manner as any recent debut novelist writing
about crime, politics, love and mayhem in an urban American setting.
The deeper Mulligan digs into the ethics of Providence, where a
bribe is required to obtain even AIDS test results in less than
two months, the more energy the character generates on the page.
And the more delight – if that's what you can call the effect
of reading a terrifically well-managed story about betrayal, theft,
graft and chicanery – he brings to the reader.
I don't want you to think this novel comes across as too somber.
DeSilva creates lively dialogue, mostly in the vernacular, which
means R-rated speech, and Mulligan's declarations on urban decay,
graft in the civic realm, the history of the state of poor little
Rhode Island and the state of love make for good reading. A first
novel of liveliness that shows off the skill of a mature craftsman,
Rogue Island raises the bar for all books of its kind."
--The Dallas Morning News
Rogue Island, by Bruce DeSilva
The day they buried Ruggerio “the
Blind Pig” Bruccola, I wore a black hoodie to the funeral.
White letters splashed across the front read “Your Message
in This Space.”
Six hours later, I was sprawled in a fake-leather chair in somebody’s
idea of a classy bar on the top floor of the Biltmore. Outside
the streaked plate-glass windows, the city skulked in a drizzle.
Vinnie Giordano strolled in, looked the place over, and dropped
heavily into the chair across from mine. He was wearing the Providence
wise-guy uniform: Tapered LouisBoston suit, black shirt, white
silk tie, white leather belt. He flashed me his hard look, something
he probably practiced in the mirror daily. It still needed work.
Wear that to the funeral?” he asked.
Lucky nobody shot you.”
I saw you there this morning, whispering in the mayor’s ear,” I
said. “Didn’t know the two of you were tight.”
We ain’t. He grew up on Federal Hill, same as me and Bruccola
and your asshole buddy Whoosh, but since he got elected he’s
been acting like he don’t know us. I was surprised to see
him there, so I was just thanking him for paying his respects.”
* * *
The day had dawned clear and unseasonably warm. A low March sun
vaporized the snow banks, conjuring a dense gray fog that drifted
over the shoes of the mourners. The women’s Sergio Rossi
and Prada pumps, the men’s Ferragamo wingtips, and my Reeboks.
To the west, the spire of Pastor’s Rest Monument, the tallest
in Swan Point Cemetery, floated over the fog, marking the final
resting place of the city’s leading nineteenth- century ministers.
To the east, the gray surface of the Seekonk River crinkled like
old skin. A yellow tug churned upstream with the tide.
At least one thousand mourners, a Who’s Who of Rhode Island
crime, politics, business, and religion, had gathered in a grassy
clearing still patched with snow. All about them, an undergrowth
of laurel, rhododendron, and azalea shivered in the southerly breeze.
Alongside the gunmetal-steel casket with its gold-plated handles
was a bonfire of funeral wreaths. Figuring an average of three
hundred dollars each, it must have set the assembled back a cool
hundred and fifty grand
All the Providence city councilmen were in attendance. Enough state
legislators for a quorum. Three state Supreme Court justices. And
Ilario Ventola, bishop of Providence. Funny. I hadn’t noticed
any of them at the twins’ funeral.
Brady Coyle, my teammate on the 1990 Providence College basketball
team that finished 11 and 19, stood just behind the mayor and Giordano.
At six foot six, he towered over them, bending to murmur something
in Giordano’s ear, the mobster another client of Coyle’s
thriving criminal-law practice. Whoosh was there, too, one arm
draped over the widow’s quaking shoulders. Near as I could
tell, he was wearing pants.
Sixty yards away, a pair of state troopers steadied telephoto lenses
on the roof of their black Crown Victoria. The two FBI agents and
a photographer from the paper were bolder, moving in close behind
the rhododendrons to snap their pictures.
I watched as Bruccola’s body was lowered into the same ground
that held H. P. Lovecraft, Thomas Wilson Dorr, Theodore Francis
Green, and Major Sullivan Ballou. I was surprised they didn’t
get up and move to a better neighborhood.
But for Rhode Island’s grieving criminal class, Swan Point
Cemetery had been the place to be and be seen this morning. It
was the social event of the season.
* * *
“ We gave the old man a hell of a send-off,” Giordano
“ You did. And I won fifty bucks in the running newsroom
pool on next prominent Rhode Islander to get his ticket to Hell
“ In that case, the drinks are on you.”
He flagged down a waitress and ordered Maker’s Mark straight
up. I ordered another club soda, and he made a face.
“Ulcer,” I said.
Giordano’s eyes got big as he tried to imagine life in Rhode
Island without the solace of whiskey. He called the waitress back
and asked her to make his a double.
“ So what happens now?” I said.
“ With what?”
“ Succession. Arena’s the obvious choice, but he’s
going down on that federal labor- racketeering rap. Last time there
a power vacuum in Providence, wiseguys were found stuffed in car
trunks at the airport and floaters clogged the river for a year
before Bruccola took over.”
“ Man, you’re talking thirty years ago. Shit like that
happen no more. Goombahs like Arena and Grasso and Zerilli are
too old for that mess. Younger guys like me and Johnny Dio and ‘Cadillac
Frank,’ we got business degrees from PC and Boston College.
I’m a real -estate developer, Johnny’s in construction,
Frankie sells cars. We don’t shoot people no more.”
“ How about garroting them with piano wire or caving their
heads in with lead pipes?”
“ Fuck you.”
“ So those are the contenders, you, Dio, and Cadillac Frank?”
“ Me? No way, pal. I cleared a million five from my business
last year. I don’t need the money, I don’t need the
headaches, and I don’t need the heat.”
A kid with a bag of newspapers shuffled in and made the rounds
of the tables. Giordano tossed him some coins, glanced at the headline--POLS
PAY RESPECTS TO DEAD MOB BOSS--and slapped the paper down on table.
Jesus Christ, Mulligan. This ain’t no way to make a living.
How about you and me find a nice piece of land, put up some condos?”
I promised my mother I wouldn’t sell out till I’m forty,” I
said, “so let’s talk about this again in October.”
Still not tired of life at the bottom of the heap?”
The money sucks, but you meet a better class of people.”
Like government clerks? I hear you been at the secretary of state’s
office checking out the owners of the buildings that burned down
in Mount Hope.”
How’d you hear about that?”
A clerk I know. Also hear you’ve been snooping around the
neighborhood at night.”
How’d you hear about that?”
A cop I know.”
He took a pull from his drink, slipped a Partagas from his jacket
pocket, and snipped the end with a silver cigar cutter. The ban
on smoking in public accommodations was still hung up in committee,
cheating him out of an opportunity to flout it. I leaned over and
gave him a light with the Colibri.
Nice,” he said. “Get that from Whoosh?”
He drew on the cigar and blew a cloud of fragrant blue smoke in
the general direction of a frowning matron. “Tell you what,
Mulligan. You did me a good turn last year, keeping my nephew’s
drunk- driving bust out of the paper. He’s doing great, by
the way, majoring in business at URI, running the campus sports
book for Whoosh, clearing two grand a week. So you done a good
thing there. Let me do you a favor now. Stop wasting your time
in Mount Hope, and I’ll toss you something better.”
There’s one of them big journalism prizes in it for you,
Mulligan, a nice plaque you can hang on the wall of that dump on
America Street. Think it over, and call me if you’re interested.”
Before I could ask how he knew where I lived or what the hell he
was talking about, the mob lightweight hauled himself to his feet
and lumbered toward the elevators. I almost felt sorry for him.
It must be hard having Godfather dreams that never come true.
On the TV above the bar, Tim Wakefield chucked knuckleballs at
a diluted spring- training lineup. In my mind, I could still see
him trudging off the mound after giving up a walk-off home run
to Aaron Fucking Boone in the 2003 ALCS. Of all the ways the Red
Sox had found to lose to the Yankees over the years, that one was
the most heartbreaking. Two World Series championships in the last
five years had not erased the memory. All over New England, fans
still grieved the loss like a death in the family.
I sipped my club soda and looked out the window. It was getting
dark. The Independent Man, Rhode Island’s state symbol, gleamed
in his spot of golden light atop the statehouse dome. I chuckled,
remembering the time they hauled the grand old statue down and
lent it to the Warwick Mall to lure Christmas shoppers.
Beside the dome, the state flag, featuring an anchor and the motto
Hope, drooped in the rain. If we were true to ourselves, we’d
haul that sucker down and run up the Jolly Roger.