The term mobsters conjures up in my mind an image of the 1920s and speakeasies and Al Capone. The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob by T.J. English is the story of more recent mobsters, an Irish gang from the Hell’s Kitchen part of Manhattan in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, known as the Westies (because they were on the west side). I vaguely remember headlines in the late 80s proclaiming that violence in New York City was going down and some of that was directly attributable to the takedown of the Westies (as well as a gang of Italian mobsters nearby).
There were things I really liked about The Westies. The killings were told in a very straightforward manner without too much gore (some gore was inevitable since many killings were downright vicious). The author chose to loosely follow one specific man throughout and you know right from the start that he had turned on his friends and was working with authorities which gave it a nice continuity flow even when the timeline was strange. The end included a sum up of what happened to the major players, both mobsters and police/lawyers, which I always like.
On the other hand, there were also things I didn’t like about this book. I didn’t like some of the language. I totally expect bad language when conversations are recounted, however the author would be going along fine and then suddenly there’d be a random f-word or s-word that was truly unnecessary. The timeline was a bit confusing sometimes, particularly in the first half of the book. We’d be going along reading about something that happened in 1975 and then, bam, 1966. The biggest problem I had with the book, however, is that sometimes it just dragged on and on and got rather boring. Many parts were quite fascinating and kept my attention, but those other parts quite literally put me to sleep.
Overall, The Westies is a good book, and one that is unexpectedly also about redemption and the ability to rise above a life of crime. It’s not the best book out there, but it’s certainly not the worst either. Anyone who likes to read true crime or stories about the old-time mobsters would likely enjoy this book.
3 (out of 5) Stars
Book Number: 6
Pages Read: 1523
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