Michael Walsh, And All the Saints (Warner Books, 2003)

Listen up, you mugs.

And All the Saints is about the great and glorious gangster Owney Madden, who give himself the moniker "Owney the Killer" early on (which the press lapped up) and eventually became owner of the legendary Cotton Club. Michael Walsh (aut'or of the Casablanca sequel As Time Goes By) spent over seven years researching the life of the illustrious gangster, who has not reached the heights of infamy of his contemporaries Al Capone and Dutch Schultz because "I liked to keep my name and face out of the papers."

Owney's story is told by the one best to tell it — Owney hisself, which makes And All the Saints sorta the I Claudius of gangster novels. (How's that for a promo quote?) Walsh fait'fully captures the voice of the Irishman who was born in England and rubbed shoulders with such famous folk as Mae West (whom he rubbed more that shoulders with, if you get me drift) and George Raft (who lifted his trademark mannerisms directly from Owney hisself).

Owney knew he wanted to be a gangster from the very beginning:

I knew that Ma was hoping I'd shoot high, all the way for priest, because the job was steady and the pay was regular. But I'd somethin' else in mind, something better than priest. Something that would combine the toughness of a fighter, like my Da had been, with the cannon-enhanced authority of the cop and the suasion of the padre, although morality had nothing to do with it.

Making his name on the streets under the tut'lage of Monk Eastman, Owney learned all about the gangstering life from one of the best — vital things like which coppers couldn't be bought, which ones could, and which ones, once bought, would stay bought.

Walsh writes like gangbusters (which, in this case, is a good thing) and And All the Saints is a book even a mug like me — what with me busy schedule and all — can find the time to read cause it's such a grippin' story. His words is pretty as a picture and the voice is real. It felt like Owney had come back from the grave to tell me his story. And you can't say much better about a book than it raising the dead and yet not scaring the holy bejesus outta you, I'm telling you.

[Craig "The Scribbler" Clarke]

When you're taking a break from numbers running, bootlegging, and the like, there's a coupla good Web sites out there with more learnin' about Owney Madden:

Hell's Kitchen Irish Mob
The Lawless Decade: 1928

And you mugs can read the first chapter of And All the Saints by exercising a little "influence" at the Time Warner site.

Can't get enough of lawbreakers? Read me take on Pretty Boy Floyd.