Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: "Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster" by T. J. English

Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish-American Gangster by T. J. English is both the reason I rarely read any non-fiction, but highlights some of the personal biases I have toward the format that I wish didn’t keep me from enjoying it. This book does read very easy; maybe not like a novel, but it doesn’t bog you down with too much distracting information, and gives you just enough historical tidbits that will leave you wanting more, especially if you are like me and are fascinated by the idea of the American Gangster, and with a last name like Delehanty, I am very interested in reading about Irish gangsters, who have a very different history than that of Italian gangsters. In the Irish mob, if you can call it that, there really is no hierarchy or any kind of archaic codes that these criminals live by. They have gained success and legendary status through hard work and determination despite stereotypes, and they would be inspiring figures, if they didn’t have a long trail of innocent blood staining their coattails. This book is really an introductory work, spending no more than 50 of its 450 pages on a single time period or person. It begins in the mid-1800’s, where the potato famine brought many impoverished Irish people to the US. We learn about John Morrissey, the first true Irish gang leader, and his famous boxing match with William Poole, the basis for Billy the Butcher in Gangs of New York, and follows with stories ranging from little known activity in New Orleans, to prohibition legends like Owney Madden, Dean O’Banion and Legs Diamond, to Westies gang, which I found most fascinating, to Whitey Bulger, still on the run when the book was published. The book can drag, especially when it gets into politics and business, but ultimately this book rarely disappoints in telling a story that in recent years, has gone untold.

Rating: 5/5

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