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Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story Of The Irish American Gangster (2006)

Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster (2006)

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4.02 of 5 Votes: 4
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0060590033 (ISBN13: 9780060590031)
william morrow paperbacks

About book Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story Of The Irish American Gangster (2006)

The focus of most true crime books is usually narrow, centering on a particular criminal and/or crime(s). Paddy Whacked is a different beast, much more ambitious, taking a healthy swipe at being something larger: a criminal history of a people and culture, starting in the mid-1800s, and coming up to the near present (2003). In this period, author T.J. English provides you with quite a few colorful characters, and mayhem galore. Given the nature of the subject, there's a healthy (but understandable) dose of hyperbole. Some of these guys escape any real history, because their activities are done largely in the shadows. English pretty much has to rely on stories and hunches. Still, the range is impressive, and often surprising. (For example, I was unaware that there was such a large Irish presence in New Orleans.) But basically the book focuses on the cities -- and the crimes, of New York, Chicago, Boston, and Cleveland (which was another surprise). The "hit list" is for the most part obvious: Owney Madden, Dean (not Dion) O'Banion, Legs Diamond, Bugs Moran, Whitey Bulger, etc. And that's all cool, but blood soaked stuff. However, the fascinating layering English adds to this Irish stew are the various characters that operate in a gray area where politics, law enforcement and crime sort of bleed into each other. Political fixers like Thomas Pendergrast (Kanas City), New York City mayor Jimmy Walker, union president Joe Ryan (See On the Waterfront), dirty FBI agent and Whitey Bulger enabler, John Connolly, and more, show a level of corruption that reaches well beyond the mean streets. It also often gave the Irish strength beyond their numbers.Toward the end, I was more than a little put off by English's overly sympathetic portrayal of Mickey Featherstone, a psycho killer for the New York Irish gang called the "Westies." Featherstone, who is probably insane, had killed 3 people before he even joined a gang. But the courts kept putting him back on the street. By then he was ready for a criminal career that involved murder, cutting up bodies in bathtubs, drug dealing, etc. English however likes him, because Featherstone would eventually rat out the Westies. Take comfort knowing that Featherstone is out there somewhere in the Witness Protection Program. On the other hand, and on the wild and crazy side, there's Cleveland mobster Danny Greene. In the 1970s, Greene, who liked to drive around in a big green car, and who fancied himself as some sort of mystical Celtic warrior, conducted a car bombing war with the Italian mob that was straight out of Beirut. They eventually got him, but not before he got a number of them. There's something almost comical (in a Coen brothers sort of way) about a gangster and his girlfriend picking their way out of his blown up house, unharmed, while on the back door, there's still an unexploded bomb that's even more powerful. The luck of the Irish -- on that day at least.But the real bad guy is, and it does seem odd that I could single one out, given the large cast, is Whitey Bulger. Bulger was the model for Nicholson's character in The Departed, and who is still on the loose (at age 81). There's something about a guy strangling a young woman with his bare hands that moves Bulger beyond the other lunatics and crazy micks in English's book. Bulger, and his killing buddy, Steve Flemmi, reminded me more of the Hillside Stranglers. A couple of cold lizards. I hope they eventually catch this guy. He probably has some tales to tell about how the FBI (he was a confidential informant) enabled his years of carnage. All in all, a great read, and highly recommended.

For all the acclaim it's received, I was very disappointed with this book. The general background on the Irish gangster seems well researched but when you get down to specifics the whole effort falls way short. Errors abound throughout (Bugs Moran was actually not Irish but the son of French-Canadian immigrants and Chicago's North Side mob could hardly be considered an Irish gang), fictional dialogue is employed throughout (thankfully sparingly), and the supposed long rivalry between Irish gangsters and Italian and Jewish mobs seems largely speculative and overblown. Where is the evidence for Owney Madden (English-born and far removed from his Irish ancestry) being pressured by the Italians and Jews to turn on his Irish mob brethren? The supposed alliance between Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll and Jack "Legs" Diamond was more newspaper speculation than anything else and English's theory that it constituted a possible Irish combine to rival the Italian-Jewish syndicate falls flat when one realizes that Coll's mob were mostly Italians and Diamond's was also ethnically mixed. And it's really a stretch connecting Joe Kennedy's early bootlegging ties to the JFK assassination which may or may not have been a Mob hit. All in all, it's an ambitious effort that still leaves a lot to be desired.

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This was a well researched and well written book that follows what the author calls the "Irish Mob" in the United States from its beginnings in New York City's Five Points section. English follows it all the way through Prohibition to the demise of what were, arguably, the last two real "Irish Mobs" in America; The Westies of NYC and the Winter Hill Gang of Boston, eventually led by the still fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger. He describes how Irish gangs came into being as a response to anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment in the last half of the 19th and first few decades of the 20th Century, how they operated, grew and expanded into the famed political Tammany Hall-like political machines of the early 20th Century.A very interesting book, particularly to those who, like me, are of Irish descent.
—Michael Cullen

A thorough historical account of the role of the Irishman in America's criminal underworld that spans over 100 years; from the Dead Rabbits gang of Little Five Points (NYC) to Papa Joe Kennedy in the mid-20th Century, and ending with Whitey Bulger in Boston. English does a respectable job of cramming what could have easily filled several large volumes into four-hundred and some odd pages. If you're a fan of history, this is very much worth your while. If you're an American of Irish descent, it's a MUST READ.
—Michael Mcdonald

this was actually a really comprehensive look into the irish-american underworld and where it got started and where it (basically) ended, and gives pretty good insight into that realm.however, it's not the most thorough (though to be so, it would probably be a LOT longer than its already 444 pages), which is a minor complaint seeing as how it is mostly an overview of the history of the irish mob, and, when it boils down to it, true crime is not necessarily my genre.definitely a good book though for anyone really the slightest bit interested in a general history of the irish-american mob.

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