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Paddy Whacked

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I was looking forward to receiving this book, hoping for an entertaining tale of underworld gangsters, crooked politicians, and the rise of the Irish Mob in America. And although the author has done an admirable job of researching the subject, I found the presentation somewhat distracting. The overall flow of the story line is hampered by the author’s tendency to bury details under forced eloquence.

“Those were the last comprehensible words before he expired in his bed.

“The next day, Bugs Moran rose late, as was his usual style.

T.J. English seems determined to use six words when two would do, and there are jarringly “cute” phrases that undermine entire paragraphs. This line is used as a transition from a scene of two gangsters talking business, to a scene of increased gangland violence:

“While Winter and Pat Nee were making kissy-face, the Boston underworld was in the beginning stages of a major war.”

Kissy-face? Where does kissy-face come from? Nothing in the surrounding pages indicates that these two men were doing anything other than talking. The story would have been better served by substituting “plans for the future” for “kissy-face”. It would have led me into the next section without an unnecessary facial tick, something I would have appreciated. Almost as distracting is the author’s constant use of similes that don’t quite ring true to my ear:

“He lives in the moment, pursues immediate gratification with reckless abandon, and revels in his own narcissism like a slop-house pig.”

This book does have merit. There are some gritty photographs of some very tough characters, and if you need facts about the history of Irish Gangsters, this is your book. And it gets your attention, not by telling a great story, or a simple story in a great way, but by repeatedly pushing your copy editor button instead of getting on with the story.

What this book needs is a good editor, somebody who will take the time to actually read the book before passing it off to a publisher. It needs an editor willing to tell Mr. English that he shouldn’t get too cute, that he should just tell the story.

Regardless, Paddy Whacked is a valuable compilation of data about the origins and rise of the “Irish Mafia” in America. If you can get past the things that bothered me, you’ll enjoy a detailed history of a cultural metamorphosis, from starving downtrodden immigrants to savvy bootlegging entrepreneurs. And although I learned a great deal about the rise of Irish Gangsterism, this book fell short of being an enjoyable read.

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About Bennett Dawson