Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “It Happened In Boston?” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
It Happened In Boston?
Russell H. Greenan
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

It Happened In Boston?

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  404 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
Originally published in 1968 to critical acclaim, Russell H. Greenan s brilliant, audacious mystery novel "It Happened in Boston?" quickly became an underground sensation and has emerged over forty years later as a genuine cult classic. In this breathtakingly imaginative book now appearing in audio for the first time we enter the mind of an unnamed artist of prodigious tal ...more
Published (first published 1968)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about It Happened In Boston?, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Robert Fass This great review of the audiobook appeared on the site of book blogger

"I had never heard of It Happened in Boston? before…more
This great review of the audiobook appeared on the site of book blogger

"I had never heard of It Happened in Boston? before narrator Robert Fass contacted me about this project. After hearing Fass’ story on publishing the audiobook and doing some research on author Russell H. Greenan, I decided it would be worthwhile to give this audiobook a listen. I hadn’t gotten far into the audiobook at the time I interviewed Robert Fass about the project, but I was already enjoying it. The novel’s narrator, a man who gives many names to his neighbor’s son but remains unnamed throughout, is a magnificently talented painter living in Boston in the 1960s. He was trained by a classical painter and from the very beginning I was delighted by the passages describing art and the making of art. I don’t consider myself an art lover, but novels about art and artists are some of my favorites. For me, It Happened in Boston? paid off from the beginning.

When the novel opens, we meet the narrator as an artist who no longer creates art. We learn along the way that he has become consumed by personal heartbreak and spends his days in what he calls reveries, daydreams so vivid he almost believes he’s traveled to points across the globe and time with the automatic ability to speak the native language. There is something off about the narrator and, while one wonders what is real and what is fantasy, I was intensely interested in the unfolding story of his life and work. He was a highly ethical man who talent that could have net him fortunes if he weren’t. As he and his friends are met with misfortune, his desire to hold God accountable grows. In his heart he asked a question asked by so many. He wanted to know why good people suffered. As the complete story unfolded it was horrifying to see the lengths that the narrator would go to to show God how unjust and wrong God was.

Robert Fass worked hard to make this audiobook edition of It Happened in Boston? a reality. It came to me as no surprise that this passion for the novel would come through in his narration. This was my first time listening to one of his audiobooks and it was a pleasure. He gave voice to characters both young and old distinctly and well. I especially love his work with the character Beels, whose role in the story was wonderful in and of itself. For me, discovering this book and Fass’ narration were equal gifts.

While this audiobook was just released last month, reading this book cemented my resolve to focus on backlist titles. I have become too focused on new, shiny releases and, while many of those are excellent reads, I’ve never read anything quite like this. I love books about art, but in this book Greenan created some of the most beautiful and arresting works of art in my mind. I would love to be able to see the narrator’s classical paintings or Littleboy’s Birth of Death with my eyes, they are forever now in the gallery of my imagination. They are just as real there. I know this for sure because there are moments in this book that tore my heart out. Then there was the narrator and his determination to meet and destroy God. As that story line developed, his thoughts on God and justice turned into a twisted Don Quixote quest which overtook him. I couldn’t help but be fascinated and horrified.

If you haven’t read It Happened in Boston?, you must. This novel provides so much to think about and replay in your mind. Robert Fass’ narration provided the perfect medium for experiencing this story of art, betrayal, and the desire to punish God. Once you’ve read it, you will want others to as well. This is a book you need to talk about."
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Tyler Jones
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Italo Calvino, in trying to pin-down what we meant by the "classics" of literature, suggested picturing an imaginary bookcase on which the forces of time and fame determined which books earned a place. Some books come and go, while others seem to have found a permanent home there. Perhaps there are many other such metaphysical bookcases for books other than classics; more modest, perhaps, but each with its own merit. Perhaps there are as many as there are readers. The bookcase we must imagine no ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: splendicity, weird
Russel H. Greenan's It Happened in Boston ? is nothing short of perfect. It is a truly magnificent story of artistic genius, paranoia, deceit, reveries and murder.
The author's quite impressive range of vocabulary, his frantic narrative style and all the endearing (or not so likeable) characters made this reading experience exquisite.
I haven't read a book quite like this one before. It really is genre-bending.
In a nutshell, if you're into bizarre stories with unreliable narrators and brilliant
Apr 27, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF. I truly despise all those intellectual-experimental writers who vomit brilliant philosophical ideas at you in no particular order and call it a novel. A good novel has to make you feel something. It is not an intellectual stage to help you prove what a genius you are. This is not literature. Not for me, thanks.
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
The first time I read "It Happened in Boston?" I was in high school, and it was assigned to my creative writing class. I was reminded of how much I loved this underrated gem of a book last week, when I stumbled across it at a book fair. Mind you, what I found there was a 1968, first edition of "It Happened in Boston?" which cost me only a dollar, and oh what a find! After reading it again so many years later, I realize that Greenan's exquisite prose and his unique imagination have not lost any o ...more
Paul ataua
After finishing, I read through so many five star reviews and they really surprised me. I was further surprised by the number of people who mentioned how fantastic and compelling the opening line was. I had to actually go back to look at it and try to work out why reviewers felt so in love with it. Maybe this is a book I would have really enjoyed when I was in my teens or maybe it is just not my cup of tea. It was well written and had its moments, but it really didn’t grab me.
Jack Strange
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great novel which crosses genres, breaks rules, pushes boundaries, and ends with a breathtaking deus ex machina - and actually gets away with it!

It contains horror for the horror fan, suspense for the thriller fan, and more than enough profound thought for those who want to be challenged intellectually by their reading matter. If you don't want that challenge, you can read it for pure enjoyment.

Everyone who loves literature should read this book.

What are you waiting for?

tortoise dreams
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant if anachronistic artist begins to lose touch with this reality and determines to confront God.

Book Review: It Happened in Boston? embodies the beauty and necessity of used-book shops. This is the kind of book that will never make the best seller lists, will not stay long in print even when revived as here, but when accidentally discovered on a dusty shelf will make someone's day and may change their life. Originally published in 1968, this edition is part of the Modern Library's 20th
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book in a thrift store in Texas. I had this tendency when I lived there to go to the thrift store and open books whose titles or covers or descriptions interested me and read the first chapter. If the first chapter grabbed me, I would generally pick up the book, as even the hard covers were only a dollar. So a little warning to those who dare look into this one: it will start getting to you before you even finish the first chapter (which is one page long).

If you've ever longed for a
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the single most influential book - influential, that is, on my own reading tastes - that I've ever read.

It has one of the most compelling opening lines in any novel ever written. and it just gets better with each page.

The quality of the prose alone is enough to make it worth reading.

It has a great story, mystery, suspense, amazing characters and a satisfying (if perplexing) denouement.

I defy you to find a more bizarre and compelling novel. It can't be done. It doesn't exist. I know that
Elena Alvarez Dosil
Review originally published at:

I was offered a copy of this book in audio format from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

This is the story of an artist with a twisted mind which, after some tragic news, decides to take revenge for all what happened, and tries to find God and kill him, because how can God allow for such misfortunes?

This book is like nothing you have ever read before. It cannot be categorized and it seems to bend several literatu
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just recently rediscovered Russell Greenan--I read this book when I was a kid (book was published in 1968 and I had the paperback so I probably first read it in '69 or so) because my mom handed it to me--what was she thinking?! I mean, just because the protagonist is a serial killer, that's no reason a ten year old shouldn't read it, right? The thing was, I loved this book and have probably read it about a thousand times over the years, but probably not once in the last twenty, since I lost my ...more
What a strange and wonderful novel. It's hard to describe but it kept my interest to the very last page. Perhaps because its main character was a painter, the book interested me even more, with its descriptions of the painting process and history of art. It's not a traditional novel in any sense, nor can it be categorized. Is the narrator mad or living in another plane or experiencing supernatural powers? What is going on? All I know is I couldn't stop reading it as the questions of how it would ...more
David Rickert
It now costs $80 to get a copy of this out of print masterpiece, but I'm tempted to say it's worth it. A weird novel, but it's craftily written, deftly plotted cross between John Kennedy O'Toole and Nabokov. It's been a while since I enjoyed a novel this much and I can't wait to read it again. Probably in my top ten books of all time.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really had no idea where this book was going. It starts out with a man who sits on a park bench and experiences "reveries" which seem like lo-fi time travel (or basically a vivid imagination transporting oneself to another era). Then we get all kinds of backstory about this man's life as an artist. From there things get wild. Scandals! Murder! Backstabbing! Pretty delightful..
Gordon Scott
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this when I was 16, not long after it was published. It remains my favourite novel of all time. A few years back I received a Christmas card from Russell, hand written, in response to a comment I made on his web site. What a treasure. I can't add anything to the reviews here, only join with the others to recommend you read this book without delay.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Disturbing. It was a difficult novel to wade through and it took me a few weeks to finish. I suspect the main character to be autistic. The ideas presented and storyline were quite unlike anything else I've read and the language was wonderful.
Robert Fass
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
It Happened in Boston? is one of those books that stays with you forever. Vivid, fantastic, clever, audacious as hell. Wonderful.

Breaking news update: It will be my honor and pleasure to narrate the audiobook of It Happened in Boston? which will be released at the end of 2014.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book 4 or 5 years ago & remember loving it enough to pick it as my Staff Selection at Green Apple. So far, my fond memories seem justified.
பிரசுரிககபபடடபின ஒரு புததகததின பயணததை யாராலும எளிதில கணிகக முடியாது. சில நூலகள முதலிலேயே விமரசக/வரவேறபபை பெறறு, காலம செலல அதன முககியததுவம குறையலாம. சில, வெளி வநத காலததில கவனம ஈரககாமல ஒரு தலைமுறை கழிதது கூட புகழ பெறலாம, அதுவரை ஒரு சிறிய வடடததிறகுளளேயே இநத நூல அதிகம பேசபபடடுககொணடிருககும . சில நூலகள வெளிவநத காலததிறகு மிக நவீனமானதாக இருநது அபபோது ஏறகபபடாமல போகலாம, அதறகு நேர மாறாக ஒரு காலததின நாடியைப (zeitgeist) பிடிததுப பாரதது நலன சொலலும நூலகள அடுதது வரும காலகடடததிறகு அநநியமாக இருககலாம. அலலது ஆசிரிய ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While the pace of the book drags a bit in the beginning, it picks up to a pitch-fever that thoroughly engages. The novel contains numerous plot twists that are unpredictable and at times shocking when they reveal themselves. The main character is an extremely well-developed cross between a brilliant artist and one who's possessed. Do NOT jump to the final chapter and read it without reading the rest of the text because it will destroy your anticipation for the end. Highly recommend this novel.
Marie (UK)
To be honest i am not altogether sure what happened in Boston. The narrative was all over the place and it was certainly difficult to listen to on audio. The narrator was ok but the pronunciation of some words left me a little bemused. One minute an artist the next a murderer, one minute in Boston the next in Europe or was he just meeting a european? I am afraid i cannot tell you. I listened to it all but lost the thread many times
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I wrote the opening line. It hooked me right away. I didn't love the book the way my husband did, but the protagonist IS a compelling person to follow around. The section about how the artist created his own paints was really informative and interesting for someone with an appreciation, but no skill for the fine arts.
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing concept of time-travel from a park bench in Boston. Fun to "travel" with the author around the city and elsewhere. Perfect Halloween season read. Author note 35 years after he wrote the book, explaining its genesis, bumps this from a 3-something to 4.
Brent Legault
While reading this novel I often stopped to think, "Is this a flawed masterpiece or is it just a silly novel with veins of genius?" I never could decide. It's certainly a novel of linguistic excess, sometimes to its detriment. For example, many pages are devoted to what are, in effect, montages, meant to move the plot along without having to do much in the way of scene. In a movie, montage might hold your attention or it might be a good time to get more popcorn. In a book, it always makes me ski ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure how to rate this audiobook. The story itself was phenomenal and the narrator was excellent, but the app I had to use (downpour) to listen to the book was so awful, it really ruined the listening experience. If I could have listened to it on a different app, like audible or overdrive, I could easily have given the story 5 stars. It took me 2 months to get through the bookn when it should have taken a week (because I kept getting frustrated with the app and switching to another ...more
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In spite of its literary brilliance and its narrative genius, there will be people who won't like Boston?. I don't say this as a lofty proclamation or to cast aspersions on those folks. Consider a five-star restaurant's most expensive and well-touted fresh salmon entree. It may, in fact, be a meal of the highest quality and finest ingredients, but, hey, some people just don't like fish.

This book is populated by intriguing characters (our artistically brilliant and unnamed protagonist's goal is t
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strangest book I've ever read.

Let me try to sum it up. An extremely talented artist is going insane after some very unfortunate events happen in his life. The book goes from the past, where he is learning his craft and becoming somewhat famous, to the present where he's given up artistry to pursue his new life goal of becoming God, killing the old God and rebuilding the world to better suit his views. Also he likes to sit in the nearby park and reverie. During this state, he lives the life of s
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-the-crapper
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because of the curious title, the interesting cover art, and a back cover blurb that mentioned time travel.

Whether or not time travel is a part of the plot is debatable.

The event depicted in the cover never actually occurs in the story.

But I still really liked the book despite feeling somewhat conned by the marketing department. Sprawling and enthralling, with a clever resolution to the mini-caper that sneaks up on you and a very nice twist towards the end where the story th
Justin Mitchell
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My second time reading this, and it remains one of my favorites. While Greenan's other books are so-so, this one, his first, is a masterpiece that hits so many of the major chords of twentieth century literature but manages to be thoroughly entertaining at the same time. It's basically the story of an artist going insane in the way only an artist can--seeking to overcome and replace God by having absolute power over the world. However, he learns by the end the limits of his ability and how at th ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's The Name o...: An artist kills seven people so he can meet God [s] 11 84 Feb 07, 2014 04:24AM  
  • Out Of Their Minds
  • Darkest Light (Half World, #2)
  • Fata Morgana
  • Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story
  • The Household Spirit
  • How Mirka Caught a Fish (Hereville #3)
  • Turnabout
  • Whale Music
  • Prince Ombra
  • One More River
  • Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel
  • Skullcrack City
  • Mobius Dick
  • My Less Than Secret Life: A Diary, Fiction, Essays
  • Jesus Saves
  • A Million Versions of Right
  • Lost Empires
  • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
Greenan grew up in the Bronx, had a tour of duty in the US Navy, and after attending Long Island University on the G.I. Bill, went to live in Boston in the early 1950s. For several years he worked as a traveling salesman selling industrial machine parts in remote corners of New England. His savings enabled him to travel to Nice, France where he stayed for a year to write. On his return to Boston h ...more
More about Russell H. Greenan...

Share This Book