Nancy Oakes's Reviews > The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob

The Westies by T.J. English
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May 16, 08

bookshelves: nonfiction, true-crime
Read in May, 2008

I first became interested in The Westies when I saw a program called "True Crime" on the History Channel. That particular episode was about the Westies and I was somewhat glued to my television (which is very rare ... usually I don't even turn the thing on any more). But this particular episode's story was so intriguing that I felt I had to know more so I bought the book. The Westies was gang that had as its home New York's Hell's Kitchen, home to many Irish-American immigrants and also controlled by a series of Irish organized crime gangs. Traditionally, these gangs followed certain codes of respect and deference, but as the author notes, it seems that after Vietnam, with the rise of a new generation, the old ways sort of went out the door and violence was the rule of the day. Enter young Jimmie Coonan -- a local boy, hotheaded and dangerous, with vengeful ambitions to take out the current head of the Irish mob in Hell's Kitchen, Mickey Spillane (not the author). His idea of killing was not only to do the deed, but then to "do the Houdini" -- meaning making the body disappear by dismemberment. Then add Mickey Featherstone, another local boy who had some serious mental issues & tended to solve his problems with knee-jerk violence. With other people working for them, they began a long reign of violence, extortion, murder, you name it. But Coonan decided that for them to get anywhere, they needed to hook up with the Italian mob. I won't go through the entire story but as it turns out, eventually a betrayal of trust leads one member down the path to become an informer. However, the criminal story is not 100 per cent of this book..English traces the attempts made by law enforcement agencies to take down these guys. I do have to also remark on the sad state of the justice system at the time as portrayed in this novel...Featherstone does several murders and walks?

The details are amazing and this one another one of those books I had trouble putting down. My problems with this book stem from the fact that it seems somewhat biased in favor of Mickey Featherstone, who by his own admission was a cold-blooded, psychopath who did his share of killing. I find it hard to be sympathetic towards someone like this or to excuse their previous behavior just because he may have been rehabilitated later.

All in all, a fantastic book. I'm looking forward to reading more about the topic and more books by this author. Recommended, for sure.
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Taylor Ahern Excellent review, very well written and eloquent. Nancy is a fine and gifted writer with this superb talent for describing the very essence and characteristics of those she has read about, while giving this brief and rather detailed synopsis of "The Westies" that would make TJ English very proud and maybe even envious. Nancy's review is as brilliant as any I've ever read on "The Westies," as she sums up the book beautifully with this keen sense of important facts an details. Taylor!!!


Nancy Oakes Thank you, and oh heck -- I'm not "gifted" and I'm not a writer! I just love to read and keep notes on what I've read. I wish I could write!


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