Review: “He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul”

St. Paul author D.B. Moon’s 1920s adventure competes for a Minnesota Book Award.


Courtesy of D.B. Moon

Book cover for D.B. Moon’s novel, “He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul.” The book has been nominated for a 2016 Minnesota Book Award.

Paul Patane, A&E Editor

Featuring a Roaring 20’s backdrop, Sly and Eightball join forces in D.B. Moon’s 2015 novel, “He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul” as they race against gangsters, mobsters and the supernatural for a great treasure hidden in the Twin Cities.

Part hardboiled crime fiction and part tale of the supernatural, Moon takes readers on a historical journey through St. Paul and Minneapolis, from the lens of an ordinary crook who’s looking to make a name for himself.

Moon’s tale exploits a segment of St. Paul’s infamous history during 1920s Prohibition as gangsters and mobsters have an unofficial pact with St. Paul leadership to inhabit the city, provided they won’t commit violent crimes within city limits.

Sly, the book’s illiterate protagonist, makes it abundantly clear he’s no hero as he’s willing to cross lines and forge desperate alliances to get what he ultimately seeks: a mysterious treasure that he needs help finding. Confessing to being an anti-hero at best, Sly forges a genuine friendship with Father Murphy, a local priest he kidnaps to help find the missing treasure.

As Sly and his team search for treasure, they work to stay ahead of the St. Paul Police Chief, his notorious crimelord of a partner and their mysterious henchmen who are hot on Sly’s trail.

“He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul” features many of the things we associate with the Prohibition era today: including speakeasies, Tommy guns, classic cars, train rides, gunfights and dynamic language that can make just about anyone sound cool.

Not shying away from the fact it’s genre fiction, “He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul” exploits the best of multiple genres to weave together a complex yet elegant tale of crime, passion, friendship, a treasure hunt and a touch of religion, shared through multiple-points-of-view, including Sly and those who hunt him.

Travel back in time with Sly, Eightball and the rest of the cast to explore the seedy parts of the Twin Cities while on a treasure hunt. Connect the dots before it’s too late and brace for impact before crashing into an ending you’ll never see coming. Also enjoy the mostly fresh and well-written prose that does its best to avoid the traditional cliches and stereotypes of such a story by embracing contemporary language and an original plot.

Moon’s novel has been nominated for a Minnesota Book Award in the Genre Fiction category. “He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul” is up against “The Devereaux Decision” by Steve McEllistrem, “The Grave Soul” by Ellen Hart and “Season of Fear” by Brian Freeman. The winner will be announced at the 28th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony on Saturday, April 16 at Union Depot in St. Paul.


He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul

By D.B. Moon
297 pages. $16.95. Three Waters Publishing.