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Posted October 20, 2003
The chapters are well written and the characters are, by and large, memorable if not completely fleshed out as one might like. The first-person narration of this novel woefully limits the scope of description the reader requires for such an unfamiliar time in American history. Madden's voice is convincing, but sounds flat sometimes as though Walsh is afraid to slip into cliches of the era. The relationships between Madden and some of the characters who appear later on in the book aren't explained enough and seem forced. Famous people like Duke Ellington, Mae West and the like seem to just walk through and wave, leaving this reader asking for more. Madden's involvement in Hollywood was too rich to gloss over as Walsh does here. However, the dialogue is crisp and entertaining and the slang sharpened to perfection. Walsh succeeds in giving the reader an ear for the way people spoke back in 'dem days without seeming obvious or trite. Overall, a good effort that misses the greatness in its grasp.
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Posted December 9, 2008
In 1892 Leeds, England Owney Madden was born to Irish parents who decided to cross the Atlantic and make their fortune in New York. However, Owney¿s dad died before he left the British Isles, but his mother went ahead with their dream. Accompanied by her three children, she moves to New York¿s Hell's Kitchen. By the time Owney turned ten, he belonged to the Gophers, an intimating Irish gang. His prime lesson in Hoodlum 101 was that the real money existed in politics. So he turned to Jewish gang leader and Tammany Hall big shot Monk Eastman as his mentor. Advancing to Hoodlum 201 and 301, Owney learned the art of a well-placed bribe and what to do when the heat became too hot. He was involved with bootlegging during Prohibition and later turned to show business. Ultimately even after the Feds gave him an advanced lesson on closing the books, Owney cut a few last deals before moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas where he died in 1964. This biographical fiction blends the known facts of Madden¿s life with delightful period vernacular and tidbits into a strong account of one of the more famous twentieth century gangsters. Readers who enjoy tales like the Untouchables or Scarface will want to read Michael Walsh¿s fast moving story that is so loaded one must keep saying this is fiction as it seems as if the author interviewed and quoted the gangster. Where is Robinson or Raft with Mae West to play herself because this character and book will fascinate the audience including Hollywood. Harriet Klausner
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Posted July 5, 2014