Lieberman’s looks at the special unit formulated to stop the wave of mobsters heading to LA promised to be a bare knuckle, bruising and bloody affair. It had it all; colourful mobsters (Cohan at least started out that way while Jack Whalen’s history was slowly building via his criminal genes), ruthless cops who wouldn’t think twice about stepping over the line to enforce justice, and sultry women hanging off the arms of the bad guys. In other words, GANGSTER SQUAD was reading like a well detailed pulp, brimming with interesting back story, multiple plot threads, and intriguing police cases (later the Black Dahlia case comes up only to be mentioned in passing). It maintained this premise for the majority before becoming bogged down at times with filler content – while seemingly thoroughly researched; I felt it had a tendency to push the entertainment value to the side in order to pursue a more journalistic angle (Lieberman is a journalist, and this story did, in part at lease appear in serial form in the 1990’s).
Supposedly focused on this elite group of lawmen, I found it more a book of Cohan and Whalen’s journey to crime and subsequent deaths. While Lieberman hit the mark for the most part, I would’ve liked to have seen more of a focus on the squad themselves (O’Mara and a few others have adequate page time but I was still left wanting more – a good sign).
There are many interesting factoids within GANGSTER SQUAD, from their success rate, influence, relationship with the FBI and their individual members. All added a picture perfect snapshot of the real LA noir. There is a lot of re-read value without a doubt.
Despite enjoying GANGSTER SQUAD I got the feeling it was watered down to curb the violence, particularly as the story progressed as the squad members themselves fell in line with LAPD policy. If Lieberman had written more about crime and punishment over back story and lives of his character studies then I wouldn’t hesitate in giving GANGSTER SQUAD 5 stars.