“An extraordinary thriller about the political gangsters, builders, and bullies who constructed the Empire State Building.” Esquire
“Empire Rising is everything a period novel should be.” Time
“There is a compelling muscularity to his workthe plots barrel along, the characters are wildly colorful.” Joe Klein, The New York Times Book Review
“An engaging book in the grand old realistic tradition, a gripping piece of national history, a nicely felt lovely story, that takes us into the building sites and busy streets . . . that becomes, because of Kelly's convincing storytelling manner, every city.” Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
“New York in 1930 shines through the pages with high resolution.” Peter Campion, San Francisco Chronicle
Construction was started on the Empire State Building on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1930. It was just as the Depression was beginning to squeeze America in its death grip and every job was sacred. Kelly, who created first-rate working-class heroes in Payback and The Rackets, takes a fascinating look at how New York City was run at the end of the Jazz Age-by bribe, kickback and political machination. The characters are tough and vengeful: Michael Briody, steelworker, WWI vet, IRA gunman; Johnny Farrell, a "narrowback" lawyer who functions as the mayor's bagman; Grace Masterson, a beautiful painter who lives on a houseboat on the East River, holds dark secrets and counts both Briody and Farrell as lovers; and Egan, the governor's dour henchman. Historical figures of the time round out the cast: FDR, the governor of New York, making sure that nothing will hinder him on the way to the White House; Mayor James J. (Jimmy) Walker, a dapper rogue and master practitioner of "honest graft"; Judge Joseph Force Crater, stooge of Tammany, destined to be eclipsed in a legendary way; and Al Smith, the "Happy Warrior," a political has-been now in charge of the construction of the world's tallest building. Kelly weaves a fascinating tale that captures the cadences and decadence of art deco New York, where desperate working-class have-nots and powerful elite swells collide violently in a nation on the brink of great change. Agent, Nat Sobel at Sobel Weber Associates. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers has brought renewed attention to the world's tall buildings, and Kelly has written an engaging historical novel about the construction in 1930 of the WTC's preeminent New York rival, the Empire State Building. He chronicles the skyscraper's nearly miraculous rise in just over a year to become the world's tallest building, painting a skilled portrait of the men who sent the building skyward and executing a likeness of New York City as it was during the Depression: corrupt, violent, and heartbreaking in both its sadness and beauty. Kelly deftly arranges a complex plot with a believable romantic twist, centering on Irish immigrant Michael Briody, rivet man and IRA gunrunner. Empire Rising is also a story of New York City caught in a transition of power between Tammany Hall and the Irish mob on one hand and the rise of the Italian Mafia, fueled by profits from the Prohibition liquor trade, on the other. Kelly's characterizations, real and fictional, are vivid, and the plot takes enough turns to escape predictability. Michael Deehy's Irish brogue is perfect; recommended for all libraries.-Vince Brewton, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The construction of the Empire State Building in 1930-a display of "the great industrial frenzy of America" in a time of Depression and Prohibition-forms the background for this savage urban melodrama. Like Kelly's previous fiction (The Rackets, 2000, etc., his third novel is a knowledgeable, vigorously detailed portrayal of big-city political and fiscal skullduggery and corruption, featuring a generous host of brawling characters. Foremost among them are transplanted IRA terrorist Michael Briody, who divides his days and nights between sweating as an ironworker on the rising skyscraper, earning chump change as an amateur boxer, running guns to Ireland-and dallying with freelance artist Grace Masterson, the kept woman of NYC Mayor Jimmie Walker's Deputy Commissioner of Buildings, Johnny Farrell (for whom she also makes illegal bank "drops" under various aliases). Kelly keeps it all moving, juxtaposing worksite scenes high above the city, meetings in miscellaneous smoke-filled rooms, hotel rendezvous between Grace and her married lover Farrell, and violence on the perilous streets where men marked by the city's rival Irish, Italian, and Jewish mobs suffer "justice." The supporting cast includes such nicely drawn presences as powerful racketeer Tough Tommy Touhey, crooked Judge Crater (tucked securely into Touhey's pocket until he undertakes an ill-advised double-cross), and Briody's firebrand Irish Republican landlord, Danny Casey, as well as in cameo appearances by Babe Ruth, a sexually frisky FDR, and heavyweight pug Primo Carnera. Alas, it's all a little too familiar. Flamboyant as they are, the characters are mostly types, and their interactions genre-generic. Kelly does buildconsiderable interest in the choices by which Grace and Briody ensure the destruction of the mutual happiness they seek. But we've seen it all before. Nevertheless, Kelly's mastery of narrative drive holds the attention, and few who start this white-hot novel will fail to finish it. Agency: Sobel Weber Associates