Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster

Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster

by T. J. English

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060590031
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/21/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 128,270
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.24(d)

About the Author

T. J. English is a noted journalist, a screenwriter, and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Havana Nocturne, Paddy Whacked, and The Savage City, as well as of The Westies, a national bestseller, and Born to Kill, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. He has written for Vanity Fair, Playboy, and Esquire, among other publications. His screenwriting credits include episodes of the television crime dramas NYPD Blue and Homicide, for which he was awarded the Humanitas Prize. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Paddy Whacked
The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster

Chapter One

Blood at the Root

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.

It was Morrissey's job to greet these new arrivals and direct them to soup kitchens and boarding houses controlled by the Rynders organization. Mixed in among the many legitimate immigrant runners were dozens of con artists and "land sharks," men who preyed upon the ignorant new arrivals. Later accounts of the era often characterized the job of the immigrant runner as that of a parasite, which may have been a bit harsh. Certainly the position straddled the line between charity and exploitation. Among runners, Morrissey developed a reputation as a tough though fair man who directed hundreds of desperate immigrants to food and lodging. In exchange, they signed voter cards and pledged their support to the political organization that Morrissey represented. On election day, it was Morrissey's job to see that these people delivered on their pledge -- under the threat of violence, if necessary.

Along with tens of thousands of other Irish immigrants arriving in New York City on a monthly basis, Morrissey found lodging in Five Points, the infamous slum neighborhood that dominated the Sixth Ward at the lower tip of Manhattan island. For a time, he lived in a boarding house on Cherry Street and frequented a grog shop, or speakeasy, on lower Broadway known as the Gem Saloon.

Five Points was a lively area though the physical conditions of the district were awful. Laid out on top of what had once been a sewage pond known as the Collect, Five Points had evolved ...

Paddy Whacked
The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster
. Copyright © by T. English. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Paddy Whacked 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
TJ English masterfully ties together 150 years of Irish American criminal history from the desperate hooligans created by the great potato famine of the1850s to their descendants still living in Irish American ghettos today. The American inner city world of politics and crime, in English¿s skilled hands, becomes a sort of ¿new old country¿ in which the reader is completely immersed with brutal stories of desperation and survival. If you are a crime buff of any kind you will not be able to put this book down. If you are Irish American and curious about why we are the way we are, this book is a high powered microscope focused on the primal struggles of the toughest of the tough, trying to get ahead using the only skill they ever learned on the streets of America, violent crime.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read for any Irish-American. I found this book 10 times better than 'The Westies', and that was a great book. I read it in two sittings. A+
Guest More than 1 year ago
A sad but great detailed look into Irish American history. At times it is actually scairy that these things even occured in the U.S. and only blocks from where I had grown up. I enjoyed this better than the 'Westies' , which is one of my all time fav's. Good luck to T.J.
schwager on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting conglomeration of the history of Irish American gangsterism in the United States. English (such an unfortunate name for an author writing on Irish Americans) presents a quirky argument that the root of the Irish American gangster lies in the clan system of ancient Ireland. He doesn't provide the most solid evidence to support this argument, but it's interesting nonetheless. Something about this book just drove me CRAZY, however. Throughout the work there are a large number of grammatical and spelling errors. Really? In a published work? Couldn't the publishing house afford a proofreader? These errors stopped me in my tracks, often causing me to lose the entire story line in the process. If readers are interested in an easy true crime read, this is for them. If, however, you are searching for historical writing you would best be served to keep searching.
lriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A kind of history of the Irish American gangster in the United States going all the way back in time to the 1850's and the Five Points district in Manhattan--and forward to the 1980's and 90's and Hell's Kitchen own Westies and Boston's Winter Hill gang led by the FBI supported Whitey Bulger. English who previously wrote a book exclusively on the Westies gang here explains why the Irish banded together against a native descrimination and formed their own networks social, criminal and political to create new kinds of power through the corruption of the already existing society and as a means to rise upwards from the bottom of that society. In time new immigrants particularly Italian and Jewish will displace them and take over the gangs but not without a whole lot of bloodshed. In between we will have the political machines--the graft--the bootleggers, the lone wolves, the betrayers--the power mad, the corrupt union leaders--a kind of real life background to any number of Hollywood movies from On the Waterfront to Goodfellas. The story here particularly of Whitey Bulger who with the assistance and protection of his FBI handler John Connolly and the help of his brother Billy the president of the Massachusetts state senate knocked off countless numbers of his adversaries before disappearing with a pile of cash and leaving his former friends to take the heat--not that they didn't deserve it--is particularly rivetings.In any case it's a good book and well written and I would recommend it for those interested in true crime stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If uve seen gangs of new york, and liked it, then u will love this read. Plenty of historical facts that take u back when new york was a gangster ran city. Nothing really changes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
learned more than i xpected and very interestin to read .....
tmikeob More than 1 year ago
Slow in places, but a very good read - especially if you're Irish.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The real mobsters in the United States underworld were not, as this book makes clear, the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra. It was the good old paddies from counties Galway, Donegal, and Kerry in Ireland who came over in the mass immigration from English tryanny and entrenched themselves within a generation into the preeminent political force behind the WASPS in our society. Being an Irish American with several other ethnicities, but primarily Irish, I proudly found out that the Irish mob had its fair share of very illustriuiousally colorful but otherwise savage characters in its history like Old Smoke Morrissey, Mike McDonald, Owney Madden, Big Bill Dwyer, George 'Bugs' Moran, the Celtic bomber fatalist Danny 'The Irishman' Greene, Pat Nee, and my personal favorite, Dion O'Bannion, who told Al Capone that those 'Sicilians can go to hell.' The war between the dagos and the micks started into an underground war that reverberates on the streets to this day. Also in this authoritaive paean is back gangland stories of Lucky Luciano and his ushering the Irish off the center stage. Also is the patriarch and the brilliance of the white-collar side of the Irish mob in the form of Joseph P. Kennedy. English has a marvellous chapter on the second-generation Kennedys as they played hardball against the Italians and Jack ended up on the wrong side of the bullet as a resul t of Bobby's crusading and Joseph's dealing with La Cosa Nostra, particularly Giacona. The latter-day Irish mobsters were repugnant, straying from the old ways, being dry snitches and C.I.'s for the government, especially Whitey Bulger. The Westies were the most malicious group of the Irish and the off-the-wall in drug taking and their liquor (a regrettable habit of the Irish), whereas Whitey and his partner Steve Flemmi were nothing but Third World thugs ruling an American borough on the East Coast. Whitey was particularly brutal and evil, quite simply, a killer just for killings' sake because he enjoyed while Flemmi was psychotic especially with women. As English writes, 'Only the demons survive.'
MOVANA More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT !!!!