I am thrilled to announce that TODAY! my young adult, coming-of-age novel CHIN MUSIC RHUBARB is published! Please don’t hesitate to get a copy at the opening week pricing before it goes up.
I’ve been in the book business for a long time, but I’ve never written a book as easily as I wrote CHIN MUSIC RHUBARB. I think that’s because it is based on my actual experiences as a baseball player for Dunedin High School in the mid-to-late 1980s.
It seems like another lifetime ago. Before I had a pen name, I was just Alex Lynch, a troubled kid who moved to Florida from New York when his parents got divorced. There was a part of me that was happy-go-lucky. And another part that was angry. As anyone who remembers me in high school can attest, I got into a lot of fistfights, caused a lot of trouble and even got arrested (for stealing a keg out of the back of a beer truck with a teammate, lol).
So how do you turn a troubled teenage life into a young adult novel? Well, trouble is dramatic, which is great for a book, and there’s nothing like a reversal of fortune story to make people feel good.
With the pre-order results being as good as they are, I’m really excited about the book’s potential. I’ve received lots of requests from Major League Baseball teams (not the Rays, tho) who want to set up giveaways to attract fans back to their parks. Even some pretty famous ESPN commentators requested copies and some are even saying it’s the next best thing for baseball since Moneyball, The Natural and even Field of Dreams. That’d be great, and let’s face it, our national pastime needs a boost. But I tend to think those are just my publisher’s marketing department and publicists trying to gain create excitement though. We’ll see what happens.
But maybe my favorite part of this is Scott Hemond (Coach Glennon in the book), who was, and still is! a legend in Dunedin High School lore for making it to the major leagues. He has a copy and I can’t wait to hear what he thinks since all of us in the mid-to-late 80s looked up to him.
Yes, the book is about my time as a high school baseball player and about the other kids on the team, but it is a fictionalized version of the events. Dunedin’s name is changed to Ellington, names of characters are different too (though some nicknames survived) and the storyline does not follow directly with actual events.
Coach Nichols, or simply Coach Nick, who was a legend himself, is the antagonist. He is as cold as ice in the book, which is somewhat true to form as he was not exactly understanding of me and the difficulties in my home life back then.
In fact years later in 2005 when I was writing for the Tampa Bay Times, I saw him at a game and approached him. I apologized to him for my behavior as a player and that I was trying to become a better person. Well, he sneered and ignored me. Literally turned away from me. For a kid who never had a father, I have to say, that really hurt. So for those of you who may think the portrayal of him is unfair, well, it’s not.
Interestingly, earlier this year I was notified on a Facebook group called “I Grew Up in Dunedin” that someone had found my class ring (I’ve lived in New York City for many years). I had lost it sometime in the early 1990s. Yet it showed up a couple months before the publication of this book. I call that perfect timing. Must be some sort of sign or something.
Please consider getting a copy now. It’s only $2.99 for Kindle and the paperback is $12.99, but those prices are going to go up soon.
Horror/SF Book Series Democracy Jones orAdventures in End Phase Western Democracy.
First book, Democracy Jones: 7/13 to be published 2022.
In the year 2040 a cult-like military general rises out of the Republican Party and spearheads a violent insurrection against a repressive Democratic administration. In the suburbs, General Schenk’s loyal followers brutalize Black and Hispanic neighborhoods while looting the liberal elite. Millions are killed or uprooted. Survivors run to the mountains, national parks and major cities, leaving behind everything. And it is there where they must begin the fight to revive democracy.
Transcription of the audio: “Suppose there’s a superpower at our fingertips, but we fail to ever utilize it? This superpower can literally predict the future, with probabilities. Now suppose our society fails because we never utilize this superpower. Yet it was there all along. What would our legacy be?
“What is the superpower? Well what’s the best way to predict the future, now? Look to the past. Because there are cross-cultural universalities among all humans in every civilization. We should study these cross-cultural universalities as if they were our own psyche, or genetic code. Because that is when tendencies arise. We can have this information and foresee decline. Or even precipitate rise. I can promise you that cultures in the future will utilize this superpower. I hope in order to protect Democracy. Because Democracy must be the future. Democracy must be saved.
“I’m scared for Democracy right now. I’m scared, so I decided to write a horror. I’m scared of mob violence, I’m scared of rhetoric. I’m scared of the righteous responses to mob violence and rhetoric. So, I present to you Democracy Jones, or, Adventures in End Phase Western Democracy.”
It’s only been out a week or so, but young adult, coming-of-age novel CHIN MUSIC RHUBARB has gotten a lot of very good reviews so far.
~”Layton’s story touched me, because I feel like many authors don’t like to talk about the things that Layton goes through. It was a refreshingly new way of writing and when the characters’ arc comes into view, wow, that last chapter. Just wow.” ~JL (Amazon)
~”Considering this book is about baseball in the 80s, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. BUT THE CHARACTERS! Yes, the characters and their struggles made this a very fun read. The storyline is easy enough to follow and offers a nice mix of drama, edged with comedic dialogue. But let’s talk about those CHARACTERS” Janey (Anticipatience Books Blog)
~”It’s funny at times, sad at other times, particularly the times when Layton is searching for a way forward, a way to heal. It’s ultimately an uplifting story that does one’s heart good.” Angela M. (top reviewer) Goodreads
~”From the very first scene, there is a cinematic quality to the writing that makes it easy to picture this as a movie. . . This has all the ingredients of a classic coming of age story as we watch Layton grow up before our very eyes.” Becky (Bookaholic Bex Blog)
~”It is a special occurrence when you find a book that completely hooks you, makes you fall in love with the characters, and lingers long after the last page.” Jade (Amazon)
~”I am so glad that I found this book. . . The lessons and Loyal friendships. The struggles of finding who you are and learning to accept it. Such a great read! This book is amazing, truly amazing.” Ashley (Goodreads)
CHIN MUSIC RHUBARB, a young adult coming-of-age novel, will publish on March 18, 2021 through Shanachie51 Press. It is currently available for a discounted price on Kindle Pre-order now if you follow the linkHERE. Also, you can enter a Goodreads Giveaway HERE.
In the meantime, below is a free teaser chapter. It is the first chapter in the book. Hope you enjoy!
The sun was low, setting over the left shoulder of the right-fielder. In the 1986 Fall Ball season for fourteen- and fifteen-year-old boys, there was no dugout to speak of, only a piece of rotted wood with rusty nails sticking out of it, long enough for six or seven boys to sit on. The infield had no grass, just a big orange mass of clumpy clay. Neither were there white lines to denote fair or foul. The outfield, where Layton O’Her played, was a landmine of sand patches and gopher holes that could snap the ankles of teenagers digging for a deep fly. No scoreboard, either. And the fence abruptly ended in both left and right fields. None of the players wore uniforms. One team wore red shirts. Green for the other. Without any field lights, the games had to be called at sundown.
But it was baseball. Old and true. Always there. Everyone respecting the rules. Holding dearly to the traditions. Remembering the names of the game’s legends and seeing their own day’s greats in the light of those legends. Even seeing themselves entering the light with them one day too. Some way. Some day. Dreaming of glory in the major leagues. But on this clay and dirt-patched field, Layton was simply here to play ball. He had no future in the game. Not even a nickname anymore. He had nothing but now.
Screw the rest, he thought. I don’t even care.
“This is it. The end of the line,” Dewey Hinch called from the bench to Layton, who waited in the on-deck circle. “Your last at bat in the last game of Fall Ball. Now you have to face facts, big time. When you take off those cheap cleats tonight, you’ll be just like all the other poor white trash losers in Pinebrook apartments. Oh wait, I mean Crimebrook apartments. Without baseball, what are you going to do with your life?” But Dewey answered his own question. “Probably take after your dad and be a deadbeat.”
Dewey licked three fingers and teased his blond, spiked hair while other players on the bench next to him snorted in laughter. But Sucio Hernandez, one of Layton’s oldest friends, didn’t. “Hey man, come on now,” he said.
Layton used to have a nickname. “Dance,” they called him, because he got into so many brawls. In reality, Layton was a terrible dancer. Too shy and angry to let loose and have fun. It was just one of those weird names that are given to little leaguers. But even though it had been two years since anyone called him that, Layton still loved to dance with his fists.
With one of those mean smiles Layton was once known for, he walked back to the rusted fence to respond to Dewey. “I guess it depends on your definition of a loser, because my definition would be someone who gets all the opportunities in the world to be a starting pitcher, yet still ends up in relief on a below-average high school staff.” Sucio laughed as Layton leaned on the fence. “A 17-plus ERA over 33 1/3 innings Dewey? Really? If two people tried out to be a starter, your odds would still be a thousand to one.”
The other boys on the bench turned to Dewey, who stood up and walked around the fence toward the on-deck circle. But when Dewey got closer, Layton threw a punch. Just as things were about to get out of hand, Sucio grabbed Layton.
The parents in the bleachers looked over as Sucio picked Layton up to get him away from Dewey. On the mound the pitcher had stopped in mid-motion, though the umpire hadn’t noticed the balk because he too was busy staring at the fight that had broken out by the on-deck circle.
“At least I play,” Dewey screamed at Layton. “You just quit. Quit on all of us! Right before the biggest game of our lives. The Little League World Series, and you just quit! Then you didn’t even try out as a freshman last year? Why do you even show up for Fall Ball if you don’t play for the high school team?”
“Because I revel in seeing you squirm.”
There’s only one thing boring-er than a rich townie—a rich townie who makes a good point, Layton thought.
As lame as it sounded, Dewey was right. It was Layton O’Her’s last game. It really was his last at bat. As the lanky fifteen-year-old looked across the diamond, he gritted back a tear and gripped the bat as hard as he could, smacking the end into the dirt as if he was trying to kill every ant in the whole world.
When Dewey retreated behind the fence, and the pitcher again went into his windup, Sucio held Layton from the side real hard and spoke with a Dominican accent into Layton’s ear, “You just love fighting, don’t you?”
“Yes.” The word boiled out of Layton’s mouth angrily.
“Why don’t you tell them what really happened? It’s a perfectly acceptable excuse. Just tell them why—”
“There are no excuses in baseball. Anyway, they don’t deserve to know my truth. I hate them with every single aching thought in my brain. I wasn’t born in Ellington, so they just think they can—”
“I wasn’t born in Ellington either,” Sucio interrupted. “And I get along with them just fine.”
Layton didn’t answer that one, because he couldn’t. “Let me go.”
Sucio released and play-punched him, “Bruh, I’ve known you for almost ten years but it’s like I don’t understand you. Like, how is it that you have the biggest mouth in Ellington, yet you keep secrets? And why do you still play Fall Ball? I mean, Fall Ball is for fourteen-year-olds who want to try out for the high school team and fifteen-year-olds who are already on the team, but you’re. . . Why do you still play?”
Layton blinked and looked at Sucio from under the broad brim of the batter’s helmet. “Because I’d walk in a gasoline suit to keep playing baseball.”
Sucio nodded and smiled. “You always got a comeback. Who said that, anyway? You’re quoting someone again, aren’t you?”
Layton looked toward Sucio with a sudden smile. “Charlie Hustle.”
“Of course, Pete Rose. Your favorite player.” Sucio laughed.
“He’s one of my three favorites,” Layton corrected.
Sucio looked away, then pointed with his lips toward the bleachers. “Coach Nick is here.”
Layton’s stomach turned as he snuck a peek at Coach Nicholson. His long shadow had loomed over Ellington for decades. He was like baseball royalty in this small town. And in this small town, he was the one man who had the power to give and take dreams away from boys.
And he doesn’t even know who I am.
Coach Nick was a disciplinarian with strict rules about everything. It was well known that if you didn’t try out for the high school team as a freshman, when he can best mold you to his demand, then it was too late for you. No second chances for sophomores like Layton. And no excuses. Ever.
“He comes to check on us,” Sucio said. “Make sure we’re not misbehaving, and scout the new freshmen.”
Even though Dewey Hinch was completely mental, he had made the Ellington high school baseball team with Sucio. All the kids Layton played Little League with made the high school team as freshmen last year, but Layton hadn’t gone to tryouts because his mother was sick and he was homeless and living at the Flop. But that’s another sappy story.
Who cares about sappy stories, anyway? Excuses are for stupid rich kids, Layton growled to himself, thinking of his teammates.
In reality, they weren’t all that wealthy. Middle class, mostly. But to Layton O’Her they were rich. And mega-rich in terms of having supportive families and a stable home life.
They don’t even care about what they have. It makes them lazy. Stupid rich kids.
As the waning sun warbled, having moved over the opposing pitcher’s head, Layton looked from the on-deck circle toward the hurler who stood on the rubber and leaned in like a silhouette or a statue. He hid the bruised baseball behind his back as he nodded at the catcher’s sign.
Pinky Roberts was pitching a no-hitter in the last inning of a 1-0 game. Layton had played for years with Pinky, who was on the high school team too. His long legs seemed even longer because he wore tight pants high on his waist and had red stirrups that started above his knee and disappeared inside his cleats. He had big-time movement on his fastball too. Almost as much as an old-timey screwball, down and away on left-handed hitters like Layton. And his slider was tight. Down and in. Everything Pinky pitched was down, down, down.
“Pinky’s twirling a gem tonight, papo,” Sucio said as they watched him strike another hitter out with a low change-up. “That’s probably why Coach Nick is here, to see Pinky strike us all out. You’re up, Layton. Coach is watching.”
“Left fielder, Layton O’Her,” a crackling speaker announced to sparse applause as Layton pounded the handle of the bat into the ground so the donut would fall off.
“Let’s go, Layton,” Sucio’s lone voice shouted from behind him.
Then the voice of Dewey from the bench: “We never liked you anyway, Layton. Good riddance. You think you’re so smart—”
“I’m not so smart, it’s just you’re as dumb as a bucket of curveballs,” Layton yelled back, which made some of the parents laugh aloud. “Thing is, I love this game and it breaks my heart to see dull people like you take it for granted. I’ve had to win games on my own and carry you and everyone else on my back since T-ball. Now I’ll finally be free of you dumb monkeys!”
The parents of both teams and even the umpire and Coach Nick looked back toward the bench for a response.
“Well, you can’t win this one even if you hit a home run.” Dewey laughs through the fence. “There’s two outs and it’s almost dark.”
“Oh yeah? I’ll tie it at least, you watch.”
“You’re gonna tie it all on your own?” catcher Bulb McLean said as Layton walked across home plate to the left side. “You’re a scratch hitter and it looks like your mom don’t even feed you. You were pretty good in little leagues, but here you can’t even hit the ball into the outfield.”
“Fat and skinny had a race, around the pillowcase,” Layton said as he got a few practice swings in. “Fat fell down and broke his crown, and skinny won the race.”
“Psh, whatever,” Bulb said.
It was true though. Layton had a hard time just getting the ball in the air lately. In little leagues, the outfield fences were much closer, but ever since they moved up to the big fields in Fall Ball, Layton had been in a continuous slump and became known for hitting bleeders to second base. The book on him was to pitch it outside because he’d try to pull it.
“C’mon, Layton,” Mr. Hernandez, Sucio’s father, yelled in a thick Hispanic accent from the third base coaching box. “Tiguerazo, get under it. He’s throwing those sinker-balls. Get under it.”
Layton gripped the metal bat with one foot out of the batter’s box and stared at Pinky Roberts, who smiled back. Before stepping in, Layton peeked back again to the stands at Coach Nick.
Let’s do this, Layton thought. If I don’t tie this game, these stupid rich small-town goobers will win and I really will be remembered as a deadbeat loser.
“Two outs! Nobody on! Outfield in! Come in!” Bulb yelled, then looked at Layton as he dropped the mask over his face. “You’re the last out.”
Pinky palmed and fluffed the hair that grew like wild weeds out of the back of his cap, then stepped back and held his glove high over his head, crumpled his body low as it swung round, then went high again and yanked a slider downward.
“Strike!” The ump blew in Layton’s ear.
Low claps came from the stands.
Pinky smiled. Layton had hit against him many times, and he always had this silly permanent smile. Not a happy smile, just a natural look on his face that made hitters feel as though they weren’t even there.
“Strike two!” the ump bellowed.
Layton thought it was inside, though it did have movement on it and hit the edge of the strike zone.
A low, tapping applause pulsed gently from behind as mothers gathered their children who’d been playing in the sand pit behind the metal stands. Fathers stood open-legged with arms crossed, watching the final touches of another Fall Ball no-hitter from a talented high school pitcher. The sun was obscured by the low trees in right field.
Layton choked up on the bat. Anything close, I have to swing. No choice but to protect the plate now.
“C’mon Layton,” Mr. Hernandez clapped from the third base coaching box.
Layton was the only one there without a parent in the stands. He hadn’t seen his father in a long time. His father had been gone almost his whole life. So that was that. And Layton’s stepfather, Stan? Well, he didn’t care much for baseball. He didn’t care much about his stepson, either. The worst part though was that Stan didn’t care about his mother, either, and was having an affair right when she needed him most.
Layton’s mother used to come when he was in little league, but she’d been ill again this year. Bedridden and alone.
“Stay under it. Under it!” Mr. Hernandez yelled.
Two years ago. . . Two years ago when everything changed. . . It was two years ago that she suddenly had a seizure and was diagnosed with brain cancer. It had recently spread to her lungs. Layton had been told that when it gets to the lungs, that’s it. Too late. Terminal. As if a grapefruit-sized tumor being removed from her brain wasn’t a clear enough sign.
I know what’s coming next, Layton thought. Everyone knows what pitch is coming next. Outside. Probably low and outside.
“Let’s go home,” Bulb McLean said from behind his mask, punching his mitt.
The ball came whirling from Pinky’s long arm and Layton reached for it awkwardly and barely tipped it on the end of the bat. Fouled it off to the fence.
Bulb grumbled and pushed with his hands on his knees to stand up, then turned around and walked to the backstop to get the ball.
“Two outs,” the umpire yelled, “The count is 0-2.”
“C’mon, Pinky,” Bulb called out. “Throw him a chair.”
Layton touched the metal bat to the bottom of his cleats and peeked back again at Coach Nick. He was standing now, next to the bleachers holding a bat bag over his shoulder with all the parents, who held their beach chairs and purses and rattled car keys in the air in preparation.
Layton wanted to whip the bat at the fence toward them all. He wanted to kick Bulb McLean in the face mask. He wanted to yell at the umpire, but he wasn’t sure he’d have a good explanation for doing any of that.
Don’t freak out, don’t freak out.
He took a deep breath. On the mound, a smiling Pinky Roberts wound and curled himself like a snake and hurled a sinker low and outside. Layton’s knees locked and his balance wavered as he swung weakly. He heard the tinkling sound of the metal bat touching the ball and watched it bound over Pinky’s head, a Baltimore chop that struck the plate after he hit it.
“No!” Layton yelled.
Loser! Deadbeat loser. You’re going to disappear forever if you don’t leg this out!
He ran with every ounce of pissed-off energy he had, grunting to make each stride faster and faster and harder. He pumped his arms like pistons to help gain speed, and watched the first baseman, who began to stretch in anticipation of a throw from shortstop. Layton pumped and gnashed to beat it out until he heard a deflating sound from the benches and the stands. The first baseman stepped off the bag and threw his hands in the air as Layton crossed first base, safe.
Even Mr. Hernandez seemed a bit let down that the ball had bounced off home plate, bounded through the air over the pitcher’s mound and landed directly on top of second base, redirecting the ball’s trajectory and scooting quickly under the shortstop’s glove and into centerfield.
“Base hit!” the umpire yelled as the parents in the bleachers booed, hoping it would have been ruled an error to save the no-hit bid for Pinky Roberts.
Layton smiled at their displeasure. That’s what you get, all of you, for being total jerks.
He chuckled when he heard a young girl complain to her parents, “I thought we were leaving.”
Scotty David, who was acting first-base coach, leaned toward Layton, “It’s 1-0. Sucio Hernandez is up. He’s a good hitter. We need a hit from him, but you can’t get picked off. Take a safe lead.”
“I’m stealing second.”
“No, don’t do that,” Scotty whispered so the first baseman wouldn’t hear him.
This is my last chance to burn them. Layton ground his teeth so hard that his jaw hurt. And leave them all with the taste of ashes in their mouths. Idiots.
Again, Layton looked over to Coach Nick, who’d decided to rest half a butt cheek on the bleachers after the no-no was broken up.
“I’m stealing second on the first pitch,” Layton said aloud and looked beyond his Scotty’s shoulders. “Sun’s almost down. Blue’s gonna call this game soon.”
“He’s stealing!” the first baseman called to Pinky Roberts. “I heard him say it. He’s stealing on the first pitch.”
Hunger rattled Layton’s stomach. He hadn’t eaten all day. Usually after Fall Ball games, Layton was fed by the moms in the concession stand with leftover hotdogs or hamburgers, but the concessions had been closed already.
Before pitching to Sucio, Pinky threw to first base to hold Layton close three times in a row. Now, in the stretch, he held the glove in his lap with one foot on the rubber and looked over to first base sneakily. And held there. Held it so long that Sucio Hernandez stepped out of the batter’s box.
Pinky stepped off the bump and threw the ball in his mitt, then looked at Layton frustratingly.
“I got his attention,” Layton said to anyone listening. “He’s not smiling anymore.”
“Don’t go,” Scotty whispered.
Pinky got back on the rubber in the stretch. He stepped inward and stood tall, again peering over his shoulder. When Layton saw that he was going to pitch toward the plate, he took off with a violent twitch.
“Going!” the infield yelled in unison.
I love running, Layton thought. Running and running and running hard. Harder!
Layton had been running for years already. The Flop is a place where homeless teenagers like him end up. The mother of the kid who lives there stays at her boyfriend’s house every night. There’s no food, but there are drugs and there’s always beer. Some kids were already sniffing stuff. They said they had to sniff it because they didn’t have needles, whatever that meant. There was a crackhead there too, but most kids just smoked pot. It’s better than sleeping outside, though. Way better.
“Safe!” the umpire yelled.
Layton dusted off his pants and stared beyond the pitcher’s mound while straddling second base. Stared down catcher Bulb McLean. Hard. Because he’s so heavy, he was slow in getting the ball out to second base.
Then Layton looked beyond first base. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon. The field darkened. Precious little time left.
“Man, you’d be out right now if the ball didn’t skim off the base after you hit it,” Shortstop Pizzaface Parker said. His face and neck were pocked with blood-red boils and white pimples. “I would’ve had you dead to rights.”
“Woulda shoulda coulda,” Layton said.
“Stay there!” Mr. Hernandez yelled at Layton from third base, throwing both arms into the air with his palms open. “Two outs. Run on the sound of a hit. Line drive, pop fly, ground ball, just run. You’re the tying run. Short lead off second. Don’t get too far off the bag.”
I’m stealing, Layton told himself, and looked toward Coach Nick again. In the twilight, it was getting harder and harder to see him, but he now had both cheeks on the bleachers and his bat bag lay in the dirt next to him.
“Going!” the infield yelled as Pinky threw toward Sucio at the plate.
The pitch was low and outside and seemed to take Bulb McLean off balance so that his throw to third was late. Layton slid in easily under the tag and the bench and bleachers jumped in excitement. Sucio stood with his mouth open outside the batter’s box and stared at Layton, his bat on the ground in front of him.
“Dance on those bases!” someone yelled. “Just like little leagues!”
Layton saw Coach Nick point toward him and ask one of the parents a question. Coach Nick nodded, then stuffed his arms underneath his pits and watched closely.
“Tying run’s on third,” Bulb McLean yelled toward the infield. “Everyone in! Everyone in!”
The infielders and outfielders came in close. The only thing Sucio had to do was hit it in the air and the ball would most likely get over the outfielders’ heads. Then Layton could score easily, and the game would be tied.
“Tiguerazo, if the ball is in the dirt,” Mr. Hernandez said, flustered. “You go.”
The next two pitches were strikes. Pinky Roberts had rallied from being down in the count, 2-0, evening it up, 2-2. As he slunk toward the pitcher’s mound after Bulb tossed him the ball, Layton took a small lead, then a longer lead after Pinky stepped on the rubber.
“He’s got one ball to throw away before going to a full count,” Layton whispered to Mr. Hernandez as his stomach grumbled in hunger and his legs shook. “He’s going to waste one in the dirt.”
“Careful,” Mr. Hernandez said as Pinky glanced at Layton from the top of the mound.
The sun was gone. The field was black. A couple parents had moved their cars to point headlights toward the field, but it barely helped. One of the cars was as big as a boat, reeked of gasoline, and had some terrible hair band blaring through the speakers.
“Turn that ridiculous music off,” Coach Nick yelled. “Now!”
Slowly the parent in the car turned the music down while staring at Coach Nick, who called out again, “And turn the car off, but leave those lights on!”
The umpire looked up into the dark sky, then behind him where Coach Nick shook his head and growled, “Play ball, blue.”
The umpire nodded, pointed toward Pinky, and crouched behind Bulb McLean.
The pitch was low. So low that it ricocheted off the plate, crawled up Bulb’s left arm and popped high in the air.
“Go, go, Tiguerazo!” Mr. Hernandez yelled.
Sucio stepped out of the batter’s box and waved Layton home, but he was already on the way. The crowd stood on the bleachers between the headlights and the field, shrouded by fog. A mother screamed. Both benches yelled as Layton sprinted down the third baseline while the ball was still in the air over Bulb’s head. As the catcher reached high for it, the umpire whipped his mask behind him and opened his legs while placing both hands on his knees and staring at the plate for the best view. Bulb stepped forward to block the plate as the ball fell in his glove over his head. Layton had no choice. The huge catcher was blocking the third baseline. The crowd panted and pitched and came to a crescendo as Sucio pounded both palms on the ground for Layton to slide. Players on both benches climbed the rusty fences bellowing as Layton tackled the big catcher with every ounce of anger and grit and disgust and hatred and jealousy that had been building inside him for two long years. With a shoulder into the chest, Bulb’s mask and glove and the ball exploded into the air in three different directions as Layton groaned and grunted, even screeched at impact, making the detonation even more explosive.
After the collision, Layton was left twirling on the ground in a circle on his hip, while Bulb had fallen backward and landed between the legs of the umpire, face up. Layton stopped himself from spinning, crawled toward the plate, and slammed his hand onto it.
“Safe!” The umpire threw his arms wide as the ball trickled away.
Before Layton could celebrate with Sucio, Bulb McLean had gotten up and pushed him. In the heat, Layton punched him in the face twice until the umpire picked him up from behind and dragged him away kicking and screaming. He pushed Layton up against the backstop fence amidst the chaos, where he directly faced Coach Nick, who sat on the bleachers watching. Noticing. He’d never forget what he’d just witnessed. The first time he ever saw skinny Layton O’Her was when the kid rabidly fought for a tie. Brawled for a single run.
Should Andrew Jackson be considered Irish-American? The answer is a resounding yes, but with an invisible asterisk, to be sure, to be sure. Why? Would you call a fisherman a “fish”? He may smell of fish, but that is because he kills them.
Every July Ulster Unionists burn the Irish Tricolour flag in effigy. Does that show loyalty to Ireland?
A Twitter battle between myself and Northern Ireland crime writer Adrian McKinty flared up recently. Actually it was more of a slaughter as I was blindsided by his profanity-laced insults, roaring rhetoric and theatrical hysterics that would make even the sainted martyrs blush with embarrassment.
McKinty had posted a comment about an article in the New York Times called Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the Vote of the Irish. His critical analysis (he went to Oxford, so he should know how to analyze and cite text as deftly as he calls strangers “stupid” on Twitter) included the comments, “this article gets it all wrong JFK was not the first Irish American president.”
Eager to see the “paper of record” make a mistake, I read the article and found that it never said JFK was the first Irish American president. At all. Ever.
When I pointed this out to McKinty, you would have thought I threatened to cut off his genitalia and set them alight on a bonfire in Portadown. He took it as an opportunity to put himself on the cross and proclaim everyone has Irish-American history wrong. Real Irish-American history is Presbyterian. That old Papist version of Irish-American history has gotten it wrong all these long years (even as no one had argued that point but him).
Religious sectarianism may be something that is familiar to McKinty in Northern Ireland, but in the states it’s a bit old-world (we prefer to get our dander up over racism and sexism). Americans do not take kindly to having history rammed down our throats with a cross like an Ian Paisley speech on the streets of Belfast. Our history is not solely about religion. Religion is a mere aspect of history, not a deciding factor.
Loyalty to Ireland – My main contention, and the contention of millions of Americans is; How can people call themselves Irish if their sole purpose is to solidify a union with colonial Britain? It’s even in the name of their organizations such as the Ulster Unionist Party, Protestant Unionist Party and the modern Democratic Unionist Party, parties that have proudly sought to undermine the Republic of Ireland and strengthen ties to England, who had oppressed Ireland for hundreds of years. As another person on the thread (@planetcarnival) mentioned, “It’s sophistry to define descendants of Ulster Scots as Irish Americans.”
No one disputes that Presbyterians from Scotland were “planted” in Northern Ireland centuries ago by the English crown after Irish Gaelic Lord Hugh O’Neal was defeated in the Nine Years’ War. The Scots were planted, as in given land in Ireland, to shift power from Irish-speaking natives to a group of people loyal to the colonial English crown.
There is no religious or ethnicity test for being Irish-American. I would contend you are Irish-American if you see yourself as Irish-American. That’s all it takes.
But if you are invested in dividing Ireland, via religion and colonialism, yet call yourself Irish, what should we say?
It’s a little bit like if Andrew Jackson calling himself a Native American, (the same Andrew Jackson who signed the Indian Removal Act, which forcibly relocated most Native American tribes to outlier territories, which resulted in widespread death and disease).
Yes Andrew Jackson was the first Irish-American president (John F. Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic president). But let Jackson have an invisible asterisk like Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs to beat Babe Ruth’s home run record, though it took him eight more games.
Hint, there never was an asterisk, it was implied.
Eamon Loingsigh is the author of historical novel Divide the Dawn.
A popular new book called Divide the Dawnfeatures the Irish White Hand Gang, one of many that once ruled the streets of industrial era Brooklyn.
In 1876, the New York Times described the conditions across the East River before the Brooklyn Bridge connected Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“Desperate outrages by organized gangs of ruffians have been of frequent occurrence in Brooklyn.”
The words “gangs” and “Brooklyn” go hand in hand, though you wouldn’t really know it since the Manhattan gangs, particularly from the Five Points section, have traditionally gotten all the press over the years. In reality, street and dock gangs flourished in Brooklyn in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In fact the most famous gangster of all time called his home Navy Street just outside of Brooklyn’s Irishtown in what now is called the DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, Navy Yard area. Al Capone, or “Scarface Al,” eventually became a rising star in the Italian mob, was forced out of Brooklyn by the infamous Irish dock gang called “The White Hand.”
Al Capone lived on Navy Street and Garfield Place in Brooklyn until the Irish White Hand Gang scared him off to Chicago.
The Irish gang “played too tough,” and Al Capone was too valuable, so he was sent to Chicago where he made his name, instead of in his own hometown, Brooklyn.
Without the world realizing, Brooklyn has always had the best gangs. And I am here to prove it. For the first time, we have a comprehensive listing of Brooklyn’s gangs unearthing the meanest, rowdiest, drunken, fist-fighting corner loafers, bounty jumpers, bank robbers, highway robbers, political bullies, dock wallopers, pierhouse rats. . . The most rugged young larrikins the world has not remembered. Until now. With monikers like Joe Grapes, Scabby McCloskey, Pegleg Lonergan, Goose McCue, Pickles Laydon, Skinny Wilson, Yeller Kelly and my own personal favorite, Cute Charlie Red Donnelly.
Jackson Hollow Gang– (1840s-1901)One of the most prevalent and certainly long-lasting gangs in Brooklyn. The area formerly known as “Jackson Hollow” was the gang’s home turf. An 1858 article in the New York Times, which wasessentiallya crude census of the “inmates” of the squatters in the area was described thusly, “Upon Grand Avenue, North of Myrtle Avenue, there are 44 shanties having 230 inmates… Between DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues, 20 shanties having 90 inmates… A total of 340 shanties having 1,427 inhabitants of the Hollow… How this large number contrive to subsist at all is a wonder.” It had many gangs, but one in particular dominated from their original arrival in the 1840s due to The Great Hunger in Ireland to the turn of the century when they were still committing crimes in Brooklyn, the Jackson Hollow Gang… In July of 1876, the Jackson
Crime scene circa 1916
Hollow Gang made a big splash in all the New York dailies, including the New York Times, when on the corner of Steuben and Myrtle avenue, they killed on Officer Scott of the Fourth Brooklyn Precinct. When Officer Scott told “a gang of rowdies” to disburse, they verbally abused him and then crushed his skull with a brick thrown at him. Still in operation during the elections of November, 1901 where the gang was planning to perform robberies while the police were busy at the poll stations. One of the gang members William “Solly” Ryan, who was a very well known boxer, beat up and bit officer John Egan at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street. A second officer arrived and helped subdue, then arrest Ryan. The gang was described as “an organization composed of the most desperate criminals in the city. Hardly a day passes that some outrage is not traced to the agency of these ruffians. Scott is not the first policeman who has been sent to an untimely grave by this band of outlaws.” Neighborhoods they roamed: Clinton Hill, Downtown, Irishtown, Navy Yard, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg. Some of the gang members were: James McQuaid, George W. Sanders, Edward Wheelihan, John Hurley, Edward Hill, Christopher Callahan, James O’Neill, John Conlon, Philip Craddock, Thomas McGuire, Peter McCabe, James Connolly, Thomas Baldwin, John Connors, John Gallagher, William Phalen.
Tillary Street Gang – (1849-1881) Originated in the late 1840s, was a politically motivated gang within the Brooklyn Republican Party representing the newly arrived Irish, the gang was described as “the hardest gang in the neighborhood of City Hall.” In the area from Tillary Street to Hudson Avenue in Irishtown, “no policemen dared to patrol that beat alone.” Known for political intimidation, some members were also charged with robbery. First appearing in the newspapers in 1849 at City Hall during a Republican nominations meetings, the Tillary Street Gang, described as “mostly Irishmen” stormed the front row and “had evidently prepared themselves for a row.” Twenty years later in 1869 we find them again amidst a riot between them and another gang in front of a saloon on the corner of Johnson and Navy streets where one James Dunnigan was shot and killed. In 1870, a 19 year-old member of this gang snuck into a lodging at night and when confronted by the occupant, shot at him, then fled. When police went to the young gangster’s home, his mother complained to them about not being able to control him. In 1876, a gang member shot at saloon-keeper Philip Duffy, missing him. After being arrested at a local rookery where the Tillary Street Gang hung out, the gang member was
Brooklyn streets where two bridges loom over the industrial neighborhood c. 1905
released as Duffy refused to press charges. In 1881, the Tillary Street Gang crowded around the polling places in Brooklyn, which the reporter stated were intimidating pollers that supported Democrat “Boss” McLaughlin. A few years earlier, a Tillary Street Gang member broke up a Fourth Ward Republican Association meeting by storming to the podium and shaking his fist in the face of the association’s president. The meeting was quickly adjourned. Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown, Fulton Street Landing (DUMBO), Navy Yard Some of the gang members were: James Curry, Robert Berry, Pat Foley, Thomas Howard, James & Mathew Carberry, John Kilroy, Thomas Kilmead.
North Fifth Street Gang – (1860s) A gang that centered its operations around bounty jumping during the Civil War. Members would accept money to go to war so that a richer boy wouldn’t have to, then go AWOL with the money in their pocket. Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg Some of the gang members were: “Punch” Devlin, Jack McCormack a.k.a. “McAlpine.”
Pete Rogers’ Gang – (1860s) Were involved in the robbery and bounty jumping business during the Civil War. A clever, expert burglar, Rogers had a crew that followed him. After robbing a bakery on Union Avenue, Rogers disappeared until he was implicated in a New Jersey robbery, for which he escaped and was never heard from again. Neighborhoods they roamed: Williamsburg Some of the gang members were: Pete Rogers, “Matches” Read, Charley McGarvey
The Velvet Caps of Irishtown – (1860s-1870s) Not too much is known about this gang, but what is known can be attributed to Michael J. Shay, a.k.a. The Gas Drip Bard, who often wrote into the Brooklyn Standard Union’s Old-Timers‘ section. He described The Velvet Caps of Irishtown as famous for wearing skin tight pants, like real “dudes” of the era, with blue shirts and caps made of velvet, obviously. In a 1924 article, he wrote about “The Seige of Irishtown” when the Marines were sent into Irishtown in 1873 through the Navy Yard in order to put a stop to the illegal distilleries that made Irish “poteen” and was sold without Uncle Sam’s gaining his tax from it. “Whiskey was the prevailing beverage down there, water was mainly used to wash with,” The Gas Drip Bard proclaimed. So when the Velvet Caps of Irishtown, a local gang close to the distillery owners, found out the Marines were on the way, the gang took a large still and attempted to throw it into the East River until the siege was over. The Marines caught up to them however and a terrible fight ensued for which they had neither the weapons or the numbers the Marines did. The Gas Drip Bard was there when it happened, he says in the 1924 article. No doubt a young and impressionable youth at that time, however. He then repeated the poem written by one Johnny Manning, a previous Irishtown bard and “the leading literary genius of Irishtown in those good old days.” Here’s an excerpt:
“The first place that was taken was in Little Water Street, The Dutchmen with their axes were a fearful crowd of beats, They dragged a still out carelessly and threw it on the ground, Saying ‘Soldiers, watch those Velvet Caps, they’re the boys of Irishtown.’” (The “Dutchmen” were the Marines under Revenue Officer Silas B. Dutcher) Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown
Battle Row Gang – (1871 -1890) This gang, according to an 1875 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was “composed of the scum of the Fourteenth Ward (Williamsburg).” They were known mostly as “fighters and rowdies” who hung out at “Crow” McGoldrick’s saloon on Union Avenue and North First Street.The Battle Row Gang became famous in the area when Henry Rogers in July of 1871 killed an officer Donohoe and became the first person in many years to suffer the death penalty in Kings County by hanging. In June of that year, two opposing elements of this gang had a horrendous fight where
“pistols, knives, fists and slungshots were freely used and the battle raged furiously and unrestrained” for thirty minutes. It started in what we now call Highland Park when one gang pushed a trolley on its side while filled with their opponents. One dying member, Patrick Cash, was asked to name his assailants, to which he replied “I’d die with the name of the fellow in my throat, before I’d give him away.” In 1879, two members of the Battle Row Gang were charged with many thefts from chicken farms in Queens. After stealing them, they sold them to butchers in their Williamsburg neighborhood. Neighborhoods they roamed: Williamsburg, Bushwick, Queens, Some of the gang members were: Patrick Cash, “Buck” Doolan, The Powell family, Richard Brien, Edward Kane, Patrick Head, John Pieman, George Fleming, William & James Carberry, John Dougherty, Johnny Reynolds, John Donohoe, Nellie Larkin, Patrick O’Mahony, Patrick Carney.
North Sixth Street Gang – (1870s) Former Forty Thieves gang leader “Skinny” Wilson was one of the leaders of this gang. Some of the elder gang members were also one time members of the Battle Row Gang. They were notorious for burglary and highway robbery. Leaders often spent long stints in Sing Sing, which led to a lot of turnover. Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg, Some of the gang members were: “Skinny” Wilson, “Goose” McCue, “Sugar” Van Wagner, Jack Dunne, Jim Kirwin.
Atlantic Avenue Gang – (1870s) A gang that was “about as hard a looking set of young desperadoes as one could meet in a day’s travel.” Members of this gang were arrested in 1875 for mugging a man on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Boerum Street. Neighborhoods they roamed: Cobble Hill Some of the gang members were: James Harrigan, Thomas Hays, Thomas Thornton, Charles Nesel.
Myrtle Avenue Gang – (1872-1885) Known as simple hooligans who were charged with assaulting many police officers and drunken rowdyism. In 1883 In 1885 one member interrupted a Civil War Veterans picnic at the old High Ground Park (no longer exists) at the corner of Myrtle and Throop. He was “put out” three times, the third time he punched the officer who clubbed and arrested him. The gang assaulted another police officer also that year by throwing paving stones and fighting him while “working the growler” and getting themselves drunk and loud by singing old songs. At one point the gang split in two, the “Dusters” supported by the much bigger Jackson Hollow Gang, and the “Barkers,” who clashed at a saloon at 254 Myrtle Avenue. Neighborhoods they roamed: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Some of the gang members were: Joe Grapes, Paddy Burns, Scabby McCloskey, Patrick Lally, Pierce Keating, Maggie McGrath, Dan Callahan, John McCann, John March.
Patchen Avenue Gang – (1876-1881) Burglars & bank robbers. This is not necessarily a Brooklyn gang, though it’s most famous leader “Red” Leary was famously apprehended there by the Pinkerton Agency. In 1876, this gang successfully robbed the Northhampton Bank in Northhampton, Massachusetts of $1.6 million. In 1879, Leary was arrested and by 1881, the rest were rounded up by Robert Pinkerton, son of Allan Pinkerton who created the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Neighborhoods they roamed: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Fort Hamilton Some of the gang members were: “Shang” Draper, “Red” Leary, Robert “Hustling Bob” Scott, Gilbert Yost, Thomas Dunlap, Billy Porter.
The Kettle Gang – (1877-1886) These “youthful highwaymen” in Williamsburg once roamed in an area known as “Pickleville” and were called the Kettle Gang. They got their name from the empty kettles or growlers they carried with them as they sat outside small businesses to beg, annoy and threaten people for enough money to fill their kettles up with beer. This practice, according to the New York Herald in 1885, eventually became known as “working the growler.” In September of 1877, two men were involved in a prize-fight inside a shanty that the gang occupied. August Baxter of Melrose Street and “Wopper” Seidler of Bushwick Avenue were both arrested. A crowd of gangsters and their followers attempted to wrest the two boxers away from police at Bushwick Avenue. There were multiple complaints of this gang mistreating women over the years. In 1879, a man was knifed in a robbery at Bridge and Tillary streets. Police blamed the Kettle Gang. In 1881, three men were raided in their hangout because they “disturbed the whole neighborhood by their orgies.” Which probably meant they were drunk and disorderly, instead of naked and copulating. The Kettle Gang also ran around the Wallabout Bay waterfront area and the Upper East Side of Manhattan where they were known to have long feuds with the police, including throwing rocks and paving stones at them from building tops, known as “Irish confetti.” In 1886, two Kettle Gang members were arrested for offering a Polish man employment, then choked and robbed him. Neighborhoods they roamed: Williamsburg, Bushwick, Irishtown, Wallabout Bay waterfront, Upper East Side-Manhattan Some of the gang members were: “Pop” Reilly, “Crook” Connorton, “Snow” McLaughlin, “Rake” Kelly, “Buck” Walsh, “Brock” Harrington, Thomas “Fat Farley” White, Charles Kleka, James McGarra, John Seitz, Robert Garrity, Henry Frank, Andreas Brennis, John Somerendyke, Andrew Wheeler, Edward McGuire, Joseph Betts, Adam Scharf.
Meeker Avenue Gang – (1870s) Their hang out was Sullivan’s Saloon, which was located
at the corner of Meeker and Graham Avenues. Members of this gang were also in the North Sixth Street Gang after being driven out of Sullivan’s Saloon, although in 1875, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported this gang forced entry into a saloon to get free beer. Some of the elder gang members were once in the Battle Row Gang. One member was charged and convicted for stealing a pair of shoes valued at $2. In 1873, the gang invaded a saloon at 333 Devoe Street and trashed it, taking the owner and his wife as hostage when the police showed up. An Officer Ward’s face and cheek was grazed by a bullet from the gang. Neighborhoods they roamed: Greenpoint, Bushwick Some of the gang members were: James Carmen, Daniel Powers, James Kiernan, Abe Gibson, Thomas Brady, Tom McDonald, Jim McGuire
Gang of the Green (1885-1892) – The “green” referred to in this gang was the “open space between Bushwick and Greenpoint,” The New York Herald reported. An off-shoot of the infamous Battle Row Gang, this was a small-time gang known for highway robbery, drunken revelry, fighting with police and muggings who had a headquarters on Union Avenue. In 1885, a gang member simply known as “Bender” attempted to rob a taxi of its cash box. In September of 1886, on the corner of Union and North Second Street at a bar called Fagin & McDonald, one of the owners was challenged to a fight outside by a patron. A donnybrook ensued and five men were arrested. In June of 1891, a drunken gangster brawled with a police officer, kicking him multiple times in the head before eventually being subdued. In November, another gang member robbed two Chinese men who owned a laundry store at 337 Second Street. One of the gang members was stabbed in the neck with a pen-knife, then arrested. After sentencing, the judge said to him, “I know… that you are a member of the notorious Gang of the Green. I want to say that every time a member of your gang is convicted before me, I will give him a long sentence. I consider it my duty to do all that I can to break up the gang.” The next month, another gang member was arrested at the corner of Graham and Driggs for a stabbing. In 1892, a gangster kicked several teeth out of a policemen’s head while being arrested for “assaulting his mother.” In 1896, businessmen and reporters blamed the gang for a riot and ruining seven trolley cars by blocking the tracks, throwing rocks and shooting at the trolley cars. In reality, the violence was spurned by a union strike which didn’t stop the trolley company from hiring scabs to continue service. The gang had been broken up by this time, but the trolley owners had no problem equating unions with the behavior of gangs. Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick Some of the gang members were: Bender, Charles McDonough, Felix Farmer, James McDonald, Frank Bradley, Jerry Quirk, Timothy Hubbard, Edward Powell, Edward Stillman, George Kennedy, William Mannion.
Richie Lonergan was a leader of the White Hand Gang and a character in Divide the Dawn
Rainmakers Gang (1894 – 1904) – A gang that lived under the docks along the waterfront of North 1st and North 4th streets and in tenement basements. Known as “dock rats,” they stole from factories, barges, railroad freight yards, brawled with police and assaulted and robbed local Jews by throwing bricks and cobblestones at them (hence the moniker “Rainmakers”), then demanding money. In 1900, two members were arrested for asking for a drink at a saloon owned by Samuel Goldstein, then grabbing the whiskey bottle from him. In 1903, this gang was blamed for starting a fire at 288 Wythe Avenue, beating a patrolman and mugging residents for “beer money.” In 1904, the gang started a riot with local “Hebrews” at the corner of Wallabout Street and Harrison Avenue. At the signal, the gang through paving stones and other missiles at “defenseless” Jews. Other local Jews returned the favor and a riot ensued. Neighborhoods they roamed: North Williamsburg, Greenpoint Some of the gang members were: Peter “Captain” Mulholland, John Sullivan, James Quinn, Thomas Powers, Michael Moylan, Robert Molloy, Patrick Murray, John Cunningham, John Kiernan, Francis Enright, Harry Fisher, Thomas Sanders, Charles Samm, John Woods, Henry Lehman, John Ricker.
The Dump Gang – (1890s) In March of 1894, seventeen of the gang members were arrested after a raid by police underneath a pier at the garbage dump on the waterfront where they lived during the winter. The officer told a judge they “lived like water rats.” By covering up holes in the pier with canvas and using coal fires, they stayed warm. The leader, “whose proud boast it is that he never worked and never will” along with the others were sentenced at the Tombs Police Court. For food or alcohol, they begged and filled up soda bottles with cheap whiskey or beer growlers. They often stole things like rope from ships along the East River and traded it in for cash. In 1898, a man was beaten to death and had his eyes gouged by this gang. Neighborhoods they roamed: Newtown Creek, Greenpoint and Long Island City, Queens, Lower East Side-Manhattan. Some of the gang members were: “Nigger” Jack, “Yeller” Kelly, Patrick Corcoran, William & Dennis Young
The White Hand Gang – (1905-1925) The most infamous gang of Brooklyn acted as an
Wild Bill Lovett was also a leader of the White Hand Gang, and a character in Divide the Dawn.
umbrella organization for other Irish-American gangs that paid tribute to it, including the Jay Street Gang, Red Onion Gang and the Frankie Byrne Gang and others. Known as a dockland gang, they forced longshoremen and local factories, warehouses, ships and pier houses to pay them “tribute.” They were also known for “ginzo hunting” and their hatred of Italians was legendary as they even named their gang in reaction to the Italian “Black Hand.” Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown (headquarters), DUMBO, Navy Yard, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook. Some of the gang members were: “Wild” Bill Lovett, “Pegleg” Lonergan, Dinny Meehan, “The Swede” Finnigan, “Cute Charlie, Red” Donnelly, “Non” Connors, Matty Martin, Tim & James Quilty, Petey Behan, Harry Reynolds, Garry Barry, Philip Large, Mickey Kane, Eddie MaGuire, Eddie Lynch.
The Jay Street Gang – (1904-1914) Originally an Irishtown gang from the 1870s who were
A 1925 photo from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Richard “Pegleg” Lonergan and Cornelius “Needles” Ferry at the location of their murders.
a collection of “vulgar bruisers,” according to the Brooklyn Daily Union in June, 1871. “Wild” Bill Lovett was a young leader in the 1910s. Although he was small, he was a ferocious fist-fighter who commanded a group of about 20 young longshoremen along the Brooklyn waterfront in the mid 1910s. They forced other laborers to pay “tribute” to them after a day’s hard working, or forced them to pay for the right to work. They also were known to shake down gambling joints or warehouses and ship captains. Eventually Lovett (although never charged) probably killed Dinny Meehan, the leader of the much bigger White Hand Gang, who Lovett was more than likely paying tribute to. Lovett then took over the White Handers after going on the lam for a while in Chicago. Some doubt whether he ever accepted Meehan as a leader in the first place, though most believe the Jay Street Gang was one of the many Brooklyn waterfront gangs that lived under the White Hand umbrella. Neighborhoods they roamed: Irishtown (headquarters), DUMBO, Navy Yard, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant. Some of the gang members were:“Wild” Bill Lovett, John Lonergan, Richie “Pegleg” Lonergan, “Dago” Tom Montague, “Cute” Charlie “Red” Donnelly, “Pickles” Laydon, Jim Healy, Arthur & Charlie Johnson, Belle Marion, Daniel Hustis, Charles Stanton.
Enter for a chance to win a copy of historical novel Divide the Dawn.Divide the Dawn takes place in Brooklyn circa 1919. The families of an old Irish neighborhood suffer when the Spanish Influenza tears through the old shacks and the contracts that employ longshoreman have dried up after World War I ends. To top it all off, a storm buries the city in snow. As resources dwindle, young women and men band together to dominate the remaining jobs and sources of food.
The story of a few of them comes to the fore: The wife of a gang leader flees the city with her son. An aging detective is overwhelmed by a superstitious Irish prophecy. A teen ascends in a gang’s ranks. A young woman fights through rampant sexism to understand her place in the world. A man hopes to support his baby and Italian immigrant fiance while in hiding. A veteran of World War I must decide which gang his union should support. And a young patrolman makes brutal decisions to grasp power.
This sweeping novel takes you back to the dark and dangerous New York City streets. But it is not so much about gangs or violence as it is about the lengths we will go to feed our family.
Divide the Dawn is named Kindle Bestseller in the category “Historical Novel Pre-Order.” The book is about Irish families in early 20th Century New York. Go HERE to find out more.
They said my great-grandmother was stunningly beautiful, had a whip-smart sense of humor and thought of others before thinking of herself. Yet she was also known for diving into a deep sadness that would quieten her. Even set her to trembling.
Honora’s journey is my journey. And the journey of all of us, whether they are Irish, as she was, or any of the immigrant groups that journey to America for a better life.
They say it’s not about the conclusion of a story, but the journey itself. And in this story it is the journey that made her.
She was born Honora Kelly in the year 1880 to a large family on a small farm on the banks of the Shannon River estuary.
~ Labasheeda, the village where she was born, was a tiny farming community that was still reeling from the horrific Great Hunger (also known as the “potato famine”). It had only been thirty five years since the Great Hunger had begun, and as many historians will tell you, the blight on the crop may have improved, but emigration out of the impoverished Irish countryside remained unabated.
From all accounts Honora was a gorgeous baby, but it couldn’t help her to fight against the hunger that raged in her little belly. She was one of many children, and because her parents could not feed her she was given up for adoption to an orphanage in Ennis, the capital of County Clare. ~ I often imagine her: A beautiful little girl, starving and parentless. Thrown into a dorm
A recent photo of Labasheeda Bay
with many other girls, forgotten. Then I remember that her ability to fight is what gave me a chance at life.
By the time she was a teenager she must have realized that there was nothing in Ireland for her. County Clare was continuing to get pummeled by terrible economic conditions imposed upon it by the absentee landlords. A colonial government in London exasperated the situation by its steadfast commitment to a Laissez Faire policy which both handcuffed Ireland, and forced the people to pay their own way.
By twenty-one years old Honora had somehow, miraculously, according to some in my family, saved enough money to emigrate to New York. Yet her problems were not over.
On the ship to New York she was huddled into the steerage compartment with many other people. Her beauty had attracted some of the crew and the worst thing imagined, actually happened to her. Honora was lured away and trapped. Taken advantage of.
I learned this fact from a great aunt and uncle. They were in their 90s when they mentioned this. During their day, something so tragic and personal was never spoken of, but they wanted me to add it into the genealogical story I had been collecting.
In New York Honora found work cleaning homes and making sandwiches in saloons in Greenwich Village. She then became associated with groups that raised money for Irish freedom. ~
One night in 1902, at a dance ball put on by the local Gaelic Athletic Association and the
Lynches Tavern in the 1950s.
County Claremen’s Evicted Tenant’s Protective and Industrial Association, she met a very tall and imposing man.
At 6’4″, he was a giant back then. With a deep voice and a stern demeanor, Thomas Lynch was known in Greenwich Village for running a clean saloon named Lynch’s Tavern on the corner of Barrow and Hudson streets. He didn’t take any crap from anybody, including police officers looking for handouts.
For whatever reason, he approached Honora, towering over her, and gently extended his hand to her. She must have been so nervous, though she allowed him a dance.
When he had proven, over months of courting, that he did not have a mean bone in his body, particularly with her, she agreed to continue seeing him. Never again would a man take advantage of Honora, especially as she was escorted everywhere by a giant, mean-looking man whose reputation preceded him.
The rest is history. They had six children, including my grandfather. After living above
That’s Honora in the back. I can’t tell if she is smiling or if she is sad! My grandfather is the youngest boy on the right. Photo: 1919.
the tavern for a few years they moved to Brooklyn and lived a moderate, working class life.
Eventually two of their sons became lawyers and saved the tavern when it was foreclosed during the Great Depression.
My grandfather, the youngest boy, took over the tavern from his aging father and kept it in the family until the 1970s. It’s still there, in fact, though under different ownership (It’s called Barrow’s Pub now. I still go there sometimes!).
Honora lived a long and comfortable life after her arduous journey. She was loved by one and all, even when her thoughts went dark and she became quiet while thinking of the past.