Here is the shocking true saga of the Irish American mob. In Paddy Whacked, bestselling author and organized crime expert T. J. English brings to life nearly two centuries of Irish American gangsterism, which spawned such unforgettable characters as Mike "King Mike" McDonald, Chicago's subterranean godfather; Big Bill Dwyer, New York's most notorious rumrunner during Prohibition; Mickey Featherstone, troubled Vietnam vet turned Westies gang leader; and James "Whitey" Bulger, the ruthless and untouchable Southie legend. Stretching from the earliest New York and New Orleans street wars through decades of bootlegging scams, union strikes, gang wars, and FBI investigations, Paddy Whacked is a riveting tour de force that restores the Irish American gangster to his rightful preeminent place in our criminal history -- and penetrates to the heart of the American experience.
The American mob has long been seen as run by Italians and their henchmen. Edgar-nominee English (Born to Kill) sets the record straight, emphasizing that Irish ingenuity first established the mob in the U.S. Close to two million Irish inundated the American Northeast in the aftermath of the Irish famine of the 1840s. "[T]he formation of a gang," writes English, "carried with it the whiff of a noble gesture," and the Irish personality--full of resentment, rebellion, suspicion and clannishness--mixed with poverty proved to be perfect for this new way of life. Prohibition--the high point for the Irish mob in America--first was viewed by the Irish as a WASP attack on their way of life, and eventually as a way to get rich. But Prohibition was also the beginning of the end of super-Irish gangsters. English covers the bootlegging escapades of Joseph P. Kennedy and--number one on the FBI Most Wanted List--Boston's Whitey Bulger. But there are also colorful details about the likes of "Mad Dog" Coll, "Two Gun" Crowley and mayors Walker of New York and Curley of Boston. This is an intense, erudite yet sometimes horrifying account of violent Celtic criminals who make the Dead End Kids look like choirboys. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Feb. 15)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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February 20, 2006
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Excerpt from Paddy Whacked by T.J. English
John Morrissey was a young ruffian -- a teenage, Irish punk with no job, no money, and few possessions other than the clothes on his back. The year was 1849, and Morrissey had just arrived in New York City from the upstate town of Troy, where he had been raised after moving from Ireland with his parents at the age of three. In Troy, Morrissey developed a reputation as a brawler and a troublemaker. He'd been indicted for burglary, assault, and assault with intent to kill; served a sixty-day stint in the county jail; and was under constant harassment from local authorities. They said eighteen-year-old Morrissey was a gangster, but the young man knew in his heart that his ambitions were too great for that two-horse town. And so, possessing a restless energy that could not be contained in the placid, confined roads of small-town America, he set out for the great metropolis 160 miles to the south, where pilgrims, immigrants, and refugees were presently arriving in droves.
Morrissey knew exactly where he needed to go: the Empire Club, a gambling parlor and political clubhouse that was famous throughout the state. Located on Park Row in lower Manhattan, the club was the home base of Captain Isaiah Rynders, legendary sporting man, gambling impresario, and political fixer for the Democratic party. Rynders was the employer of hundreds of political operatives, gambling club workers, saloon keepers, and gangsters; his organization was at the heart of a political machine that made the great city hum. Morrissey -- hungry, hard-headed, and propelled by the desires of youth -- was determined to harness the power of Rynders's organization to raise himself out of the ghetto and make his mark in the world.
He arrived at the Empire Club on one June afternoon, stood overlooking the gaming tables and declared, "I'm here to say I can lick any man in this place."
Captain Rynders himself, presiding at a gaming table, looked up at the intrepid young man -- five-foot-eleven inches tall, maybe 175 pounds, with a barrel chest and hands the size of meat hooks; impressive, yes, but not so imposing that he could intimidate with sheer physical presence alone.
"And who might you be?" Rynders asked the young Irishman.
"My name is John Morrissey, and I'm the toughest pugilist on the eastern seaboard. I'm here to prove it."
Rynders pursed his lips in an enigmatic Mona Lisa-smile for which he was famous and glanced around at his fellow club members. He assessed the brash youngster, looking him over from head to toe, then nodded for his underlings to advance. They descended upon the young punk with fists, bottles, chairs, slung shots, and other weapons. Morrissey more than held his own until Big Tom Burns smacked him behind the ear with a spittoon, knocking the young hooligan unconscious.
When Morrissey awoke he was laying on a cot in the back of the Empire Club with a knot the size of an acorn on the crown of his skull. Captain Rynders, dressed in finery the likes of which Morrissey had never seen before, stood over the bruiser and said, "You're a bold, young bastard."
Morrissey felt the lump on his head and said nothing.
"I want you to come work for me. You'll make a fine shoulder-hitter for the organization. You can stay at my boarding house and work the docks."
And so began the political career of young John Morrissey.
He was put to work as an immigrant runner, one of hundreds who worked Castle Garden wharf in lower Manhattan, where the immigrant ships disgorged their human cargo. Each day he watched the arrival of his countrymen, and his heart ached at what he saw.
Having been born in Templemore, County Tipperary in 1831 and raised in an Irish slum in America, Morrissey knew a thing or two about poverty. In Troy, whenever his father was able to find work, it had been at the local wallpaper factory or on the docks alongside other Irish laborers. Young John had grown up believing his family was dirt poor, but what he saw at Castle Garden made him reassess his circumstances. Gaunt, haunted Irish peasants arrived by the boatload, weak from dropsy and gout, clinging to satchels that contained all that they owned. They told shocking tales of the Great Famine that had ravaged the Old Country over the last few years and of the horrific, disease-ridden journey across the ocean in hopes of a better future.