Select one of the keywords
And All the Saints    by Michael Walsh order for
And All the Saints
by Michael Walsh
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

And All the Saints is a fictional memoir of legendary Irish crime figure Oweny Madden, as told in his own voice. Michael Walsh has reached into Oweny's head and pulled out his thoughts, fears, dreams and his fearsome ability to make money illegally, and to disregard human life in the process. Oweny was born of Irish parents in England, emigrated to New York and grew up there - a troublemaker who could look out for himself and his own from the very start. He slowly moved up the ranks of that political hotbed Tammany Hall by his wits, and over the bodies of those who got in his way.

In his 30s, after serving a stretch in Sing Sing Prison, Madden walked out of that penal institution and into prohibition - a situation tailor made for the criminal mind. He opened up his own brewery, supplied most of the speakeasies in his part of Manhatten, bought off as many of the police and politicians as he could reach, and then opened up the infamous Cotton Club. 'The things was that folks, our kind of folks, needed a place to unwind late at night, a place you had to dress up to go to, a classy dump where a fella could meet a dame and not to have to worry too much about the preliminaries if you were in the mood. A place where you could have a decent meal and wash it down with some spirits, where you could hear a band and enjoy a floorshow of girls who forgot to wear their overclothes that night.'

Madden knew and influenced (and/or killed) people like Dutch Shultz, Legs Diamond, Mae West, Texas Guinan, George Raft, Rudolf Valentino, Joe Louis, to name a few of a multitude of the famous and infamous. He ran his own band of what I have heard called the 'Irish Murphia' as opposed to the Italian Mafia. Not prejudiced, he would accept anyone in his large network of criminals and the corrupt, if they could benefit him in any way. Killing became a way of life to serve as a warning or as payback or as a necessary step to further his own career. Madden himself was a target for a shootout that left him with debilitating wounds that bothered him the rest of his life.

Madden had a deal going with journalists Walter Winchell and Damon Runyan - they had free run of his club and his girls if they would keep his name out of the press. He gave songwriter Harold Arlen his big break and Lena Horne her first singing job. He had a cavalier attitude about women - although he married a woman who was pregnant with his child. He skipped from woman to woman, but watched over his sister's behavior like a hawk.

Madden's rationale for his life of crime - 'men like me made this country what it is today' - excused himself in his own mind for the killing and corruption with which he was surrounded. He seems to have had many high-ranking politicians in his back pocket - though clearly excluding Franklin D. Roosevelt, who saw that he spent more time in Sing Sing. Ride along with Oweny Madden on his mad and brutal journey through life - to understand the criminal mind, but by no means to emulate it.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews