Michael Walsh

"And All The Saints"

(Reviewed by Jenny Dressel MAR 31, 2003)

"The reason I wanted to be a Gopher was simple: them gangsters never had to work for a living, because there was no percentage in such nonsense, plus nobody took no guff off 'em either. Even after just a few months in New York, I had already figured out that my parents had been right, that there really was golden coins raining down from the heavens and running down the gutters in New York: you just had to reach down and then pick them up, if only you had the sense to know where to look, the courage to take them and the moxie to keep 'em."

And All The Saints by Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh's new novel is a fictionalized account of Owen Vincent Madden's memoirs. For those who may not be aware "Owney" Madden was one of the first and most successful gangsters to come from Hell's Kitchen in the early 1900's. He ruled New York's East Side. During Prohibition, he was a leading mobster, running breweries and speakeasies. He was the owner of Harlem's famous "Cotton Club."

Read excerptOwen Vincent Madden arrived in New York in 1902 from Liverpool, England, although he was Irish. At age ten, he lived with his mother, his older brother, Marty, and younger sister, May. They lived on Tenth Avenue, in the neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen. Sadly, his father died as they were boarding the ship from England to America. After being in New York, and amidst the gangs known as the Five Pointers, the Dusters, and the Gophers, he knew that his calling was that of a gangster. By age 12, Owney Madden was a dedicated Gopher. He had been taken under the wing of Monk Eastman, one of the most famous gang leaders in the late 1800's. Monk was the "undisputed prince of the Eastside", and taught Owney everything he knew. The boy thought of Monk as a surrogate father. "Monk took it upon himself to drill me in the arts of war, and I quickly became an ambidextrous virtuoso of the Bessie, the pipe and the slingshot."

Walsh has managed to convey Owney Madden as a brilliant visionary of his time. He had high hope for himself and had decided at an incredibly young age that he was gong to become one of America's finest, albeit a gangster. "Therefore, I had also decided that someone was going to have to be around to pick up the pieces when Monk and Kelly finally fell, and furthermore, I had determined that someone was going to be me. The old ways were not my ways, and at the rate things were changing, what gangland needed was someone with youth and vision, both of which I possessed in abundance."

Owney Madden became a beer brewer king during the years of Prohibition, opening clubs all over New York, investing in boxing and swinging political elections through out the early 1900's in New York. He was the quintessential gangster of the 20's. He created and owned Harlem's famous Cotton Club, and drank champagne with the likes of Mae West and Lena Horne. Madden attended the famous Atlantic City Conference in 1929, and was a founding father of the gangsters "Syndicate." He sat on the board with the likes of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky.

He eventually "retired" to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and it is here where we are hearing Madden's story. I loved this book. Walsh developed Madden's voice perfectly, in my opinion, and at times, I felt that I was reading an autobiography, not a novel. The language Walsh used captivated me -- while engrossed, I could hear an old man in the depths of emphysema, speaking about his life.

And All the Saints is a novel which shows gangsters at their most prominent in America history. This is not a novel reminiscent of The Godfather, nor did it remind me of The Sopranos. I found it to be a novel of American history during the roaring '20's, and the memoirs of an icon during that time.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 4 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from And All The Saints at MostlyFiction.com

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About the Author:

Michael WalshMichael Walsh was the music critic of TIME magazine for sixteen years and has also served as the music critic for the San Francisco Examiner and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. In 1995, he was the executive producer and writer of the PBS program Placido Domingo: A Musical Life. He is a guest commentator on NPR's Performance Today, and remains a frequent contributor to many national magazines. He is also a professor of journalism at Boston University.
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