Eddie McGrath was a very interesting character, he seems to be not as well known as some of the other characters that ruled on the Westside before and after him but that doesn’t mean he was to be underestimated or discounted, Eddie McGrath was every bit as dangerous and ruthless as any of the others.
Its quite a good book to be honest. Its an interesting story filling in the gaps on the Westside of Manhattan between the reign of Owney The Killer Madden & Hughie Mulligan, Mickey Spillane and The Westies.
The story about Eddie McGrath is unusual in the fact that unlike most mobsters he was educated, came from a good home and he got involved in crime a bit later in life than most of his contemporaries but he made up for lost time when he did become involved. The book starts with his childhood and upbringing and really gets going when he did become involved in crime, initially he started in bootlegging and worked his way up to the top.
As McGrath and his gang made their way up through the underworld they weren’t afraid to use violence and had no problem making sure people got the message. The opening of the book starts with a robbery gone wrong and then gives the impression of just how easily someone could easily be murdered and their body dumped, when the gangs hit man, Andrew “Squint” Sheridan showed up on the docks to make sure everyone got the message about snitching, after someone on the docks told the police about a stash of weapons.
The book centres mainly around the ILA, International Longshoreman’s Association, which was a highly corrupt organization, at least the leadership was highly corrupt. It tells the story of how mobsters easily infiltrated and became leaders of the union and how they had the power to hire and fire, put their guys into the leadership places they wanted, to maintain their dominance on the Waterfront.
The book covers quite a lot but its written in a way that doesn’t overwhelm or lose you along the way, its a straight forward to read and understand what is going on at all times.
Another interesting line in the book is the when the gang splits and a war between the factions breaks out and the body count starts to rise. Its quite surprising that McGrath and his henchmen, John “Cockeye” Dunn, Andrew “Squint” Sheridan and the rest are not as mentioned as some of the other names.
Another interesting part of the book is who Eddie McGrath was in the company of, Frank Costello, Jimmy Blue Eyes Alo etc in fact McGrath & Alo would become lifelong friends. Such as the power McGrath held over the docks that sometimes the only person the Italians could turn to for help was in matters concerning the docks was McGrath.
Finally the book leads us to McGrath retiring to Florida and the investigations and harassment from the FBI in particular. McGrath was one of those rare mobsters, that could retire, spend his ill-gotten gains and die a free man. He did spend some time in prison when he was younger but from sometime in the 1940’s until the 70’s the most time he spent in jail was 30 days.
Overall this was a really good book, very easy to read and in my case, as I had a lot of things to take care of so I had to put down the book for weeks at a time, it was very easy to jump back in where I left off and still be able to follow along.
Its well written, well researched and its a good look at what happened in the years after Prohibition ended. I was also very surprised with the violence and murders that took place in the book too, I didnt think there was going to be as much detail as there was, I had assumed that the theme of the book would deal with union corruption and the politics of the docks so I was quite surprised by the bloodshed, armed robberies and other criminality that was part of the story. If you like books about the Irish Mob, this should be part of your collection.