I read The Westies years ago. When The Departed came out, I had a fixation for anything to with the Irish Mob and randomly found this in my local Borders (RIP). I remember it being interesting at the time but I wasn’t into it as I was tales of Whitey Bulger and Boston, who I thought had a more compelling story. So it sat in the recesses of my mind for years.
On another organized crime kick, I decided to re-read it. Even though I didn’t retain much of what I read before, I remain fascinated with the idea that there was this violent gang operating amidst slum-like tenements just blocks away from one of the most famous zip codes in the world. Sure, Times Square in the 70s and 80s isn’t what it was in the 50s or is today but still…it’s Times Square! And these dudes were hacking people left and right just a stones throw away.
Anyway, I liked this a lot more and I think that’s due to the author. TJ English knows what he’s doing. He’s not a sensationalist, he has good prose, he backs everything with essential sources. I appreciated his efforts. I also got a deeper look into Mickey Featherstone. English uses his sources to form Featherstone into a fully-realized person, rather than just the violent, zonked-out war vet he was often portrayed as being.
On top of it all, English brings a neighborhood to life without going over the top. I got a great sense of what the dregs of Manhattan were like in the era of the Westies. Still surprised by its proximity to midtown Manhattan but that’s what happens when you have bad zoning laws and horrible housing policies.