Gangster Squad - Story

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Tales from the Gangster Squad

Director Ruben Fleischer is bringing Paul Lieberman's Tales from the Gangster Squad to the big screen as Gangster Squad. Another gangster film based loosely on historical fact, Gangster Squad casts Sean Penn as real-life mob boss Mickey Cohen, Josh Brolin as Sergeant John O'Mara and Ryan Gosling as Sergeant Jerry Wooters. When the East-coast Cohen moves to California in order to build a West-coast empire in the 1940s and '50s, a renegade group of cops go off the books in order to bring him and his operation down.

Published as a seven-part serial that ran in the Los Angeles Times in October 2008, Lieberman originally began his research into the story when he was contacted by O'Mara himself. "In 1992," he recalls, "I got a call out of the blue from a reader wanting to correct an article that discussed the history of a police division accused of questionable snooping. The caller, clearly an older man, said we'd failed to mention the Gangster Squad, formed in 1946. When I asked how he knew about it, he said, 'Well, I was on it.'"

After tracking down as many of the other surviving members as possible, Lieberman took to cataloguing all of his research on the Squad and then eventually convincing the editors of the Times that it was a worthwhile approach to finding new readers.

The resulting serial is a candid exploration of the tales that John O'Mara and his crew recounted to Lieberman about their run-ins with Cohen. Described in gripping, almost novelistic detail—at one point, Lieberman throws in a casual mention of Cohen's neurotic, "uncontrollable urge to wash his hands"—the writer takes the memories of the various members of the Squad and weaves them into a series of compelling stories.

The seven installments—each of varied length—cover a period between 1946 and the end of the 1950s and focus heavily on what Lieberman deems a "personal crusade" by O'Mara and Wooters against Cohen—the former by sneaking into Cohen's home and marking his guns so they could be traced, and the latter by forging a "secret alliance with one of Cohen's rivals, hulking Jack 'The Enforcer' Whalen," as Lieberman describes it.

The narrative does not take long before an all-out war between the mob boss and the Squad is raging, with bodies piling up on both sides—and non-lethal casualties of the cause an equally common scenario. As the war between the two factions becomes increasingly heated, political and bureaucratic complications become as dangerous as bullets.

In addition to the exhaustive serials, the Times included a fair amount of interactive media embedded right next to the literature: interviews and videos, slideshows of old photography and interactive maps and character connections are all at the disposal of fans of the material.

~Devin Garabedian

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