Liam Garrity – Divide the Dawn

Liam Garrity – Character in Divide the Dawn

Liam Garrity tells this story as an old man, but this depiction is of him as a teen in 1915. (art by Guy Denning)

“His uncle was Joe Garrity, the ILA recruiter who was killt after a melee in a saloon that was burnt to the ground in the Donnybrook in Red Hook, 1916, six months after the kid arrived.”
“So he murders his uncle and gains status, interesting.”
Exchange between Daniel Culkin and Jonathan G. Wolcott

Liam Garrity (b. 1901, County Clare, Ireland) also known as Poe or The Thief of Pencils, is one of the youngest members of the early 1900s Irish-American gang, The White Hand. He is the narrator of this story, which chronicles his treacherous journey in becoming the last shanachie of Irishtown. Inheriting an ancient oral storytelling tradition, he breaks the mold and vows to record what he witnessed: The fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that came to pass while he fought to survive in Brooklyn’s Irishtown.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In October of 1915, Liam is sent away from Ireland by his father to work with his uncle Joseph on the docks of Brooklyn. There, he experiences many setbacks when his belongings are stolen on the ship and quickly becomes homeless in Brooklyn after his uncle puts him out. When Vincent Maher finds Liam on the streets, the boy is starved and desperate, and takes him to the wake of Charles McGowan, gang leader Dinny Meehan‘s righthand man. Cared for by Sadie Meehan, he eventually is given work and initiated into the White Hand gang that controls longshore labor. To return the favor of helping him bring his mother and sisters to America, Meehan wants Liam’s uncle murdered.

Having been punched and bullied by Petey Behan, Meehan forces Liam to challenge Behan to a fistfight in order to save his honor. Loyal to Meehan, Liam looks up to the man who dedicates his life to the families of the survivors of the Great Hunger who settled Irishtown in the 1840s. But Liam sees gang members and friends murdered, others drafted and perish in World War I while their territory and incomes erode and his binge drinking becomes alarming. When Liam’s mother and sisters finally arrive from Ireland, he realizes he is in great danger. As the gang weakens, five major elements work against them: big businesses, the longshoremen union, Black Hand Italians, the law and revolt from within the gang. During the Storm of Slanting Snow in 1919, Wild Bill Lovett mysteriously resurfaces after having thought to have died, and murders Meehan’s cousin Mickey Kane, which will cause a bloody gang war, diminishing their power even further. But Liam has only scratched the surface of the meaning of it all when he hears The Gas Drip Bard tell a small portion of a prophecy the old storyteller describes as: “A song to divide the dawn, it’s called, ‘The Keening Croon and the Rising of the Moon.'”

Mam Garrity – Divide the Dawn

Mam Garrity – Character in Divide the Dawn

Mrs. Garrity, known as “Mam” has lost so much of what she created.

“May trouble always be a stranger to ye. Take this Saint Christopher. Put it in yer pocket and touch it when ye please. Ye’ll be grand with it.”
~Mam Garrity

Mam Garrity (b. 1878, County Clare, Ireland) is a mother caught between Ireland and New York who has lost so much of what she created: Two of her children died young, another was beaten by British soldiers and yet another seemingly lost to the streets of Brooklyn. She is closest to her two daughters, Abby and Brigid. Her husband is an Irish rebel who disappeared after the 1916 Easter Rising. Beforehand, she watched her son Liam off to New York to secure passage for America. But with British retribution for the Irish rebellion and World War I creating a blockade, she and her two daughters could not go until 1918. Leaving her eldest son Timothy on the farm, they moved into a humble but clean tenement. Now though, she sees that the gang violence of Brooklyn has changed her teenage son Liam for the worst and fears what price the family must pay for what he had to do to bring them to New York.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now:  USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1915, Mrs. Garrity is crying in the doorway of the family farm in Ireland and gives Liam a Saint Christopher for safe travel. Liam describes the moment as his mother giving him an “American Wake,” believing it quite possible that they would never see each other again.

After sending letters back and forth from Ireland to New York, she and her two daughters finally make the trip in steerage class. They are met at Ellis Island by Liam, who she has not seen in over three years. Liam and Harry Reynolds take them to Brooklyn in a tugboat. She is proud that Liam and Harry renovated a room in anticipation of their arrival. Noticing that Liam is in danger, she fears for what he has had to do to survive on the streets. She overhears The Bard of Irishtown tell the story of Dinny Meehan, who murdered a man to become a gang leader, and knows that her son is mixed up with the killer in the story.

Petey Behan – Divide the Dawn

Petey Behan – Character in Divide the Dawn

Petey Behan is a blathering rowdy and an accomplished cutpurse (art by Guy Denning).

“Petey Behan has short legs with a long torso and some power in his shoulders, thin hips and a box face with a mouth that never stops its blathering.”
~Liam Garrity

Petey Behan
(b. 1901), also known as Petey Cutpurse is a teenage thug and a rowdy. He is a follower of Richie Lonergan‘s crew.  By the time he was eleven years-old, he was a master at cutting the strap off women’s purses and running off with them. With the Lonergan Crew, he was the most accomplished thief of what was known as the Sands Street Gimmick. The Sands Street Station was a heavily trafficked three-story train station at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge close to Irishtown. A man once caught him stealing from his wife. At first Petey apologized, but when the man looked around for a patrolman, Petey punched him under the jaw, knocking him out.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1915, Petey was recruiting children at an abandoned building where many orphans were squatting. He sees immigrant Liam Garrity‘s stolen alpaca coat and rips it off his back, claiming that this is the rent he charges for staying in the building. After burning down a saloon during the Donnybrook in Red Hook, Liam attacks Petey and tears the coat in two.
Many White Hand gang members wake up in jail after rioting in Brooklyn. After being released, Petey blames Liam for helping gang leader Dinny Meehan frame Non Connors and punches him, but Liam runs away. Meehan then makes Liam challenge Petey to a bareknuckle fistfight to save his honor. Petey beats and bloodies the Irish teenager, but Liam does not quit, and repeatedly comes back for more.

The Gas Drip Bard – Divide the Dawn

The Gas Drip Bard – Character in Divide the Dawn

The Gas Drip Bard, Irishtown’s shanachie of the late 1800s, early 1900s (art by Sebastian MacLaughlin).

“The Bard slowly sits in his rocker and pushes back his long brows, tilts the candle to redden his cuddy and leans forward to a place where myths still carry. And where words are like birds in their flight from Irish to English.”
~Liam Garrity

The Gas Drip Bard (b. 1839, County Mayo, Ireland) also known as The Bard, is the augur and shanachie (storyteller) of Irishtown who summons the storied past of the Irish in Brooklyn and interprets the visions. With sea-green eyes and an animated personality, he is very popular with children and the aging famine survivors who originally settled Irishtown in the 1840s. When he was eight years-old in County Mayo, Ireland, his mother keened for him while he was dying of starvation in 1847, yet he awoke on a leaky ship headed to Brooklyn. Shoeless and emaciated, he lived in a scalpeen in Jackson Hollow with thousands of motley survivors from the Great Hunger.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

He worked at Brooklyn Union Gas Company for fifty years in Irishtown, witnessing the violent gangs that defended the waterfront neighborhood’s borders from the Anglo-American, who they distrusted because of their similarities to the British. When despised gang leader Christie Maroney came to power in 1900 Irishtown, he and other aging famine survivors fell to ancient prayer for a hero to save them. As they chanted, a storm came at dawn and a ferry capsized in the East River where they found a drowned child. The women began to sing the old keening songs over the boy and the next day, he disappeared. He was seen with brothers Pickles and Darby Leighton soon afterward under a rotting pier. The boy’s name was Dinny Meehan.

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1918, wanting to spend more time with kin, a few gang members (including Liam Garrity) brought their families to listen to Irishtown’s shanachie tell stories, as had been done for centuries back home in Ireland. After the children fell asleep, The Bard told the story of the sensational murder trial of 1912 when Meehan and the White Hand gang murdered Maroney and took power in Irishtown.

The Swede – Divide the Dawn

The Swede – Character in Divide the Dawn

The Swede terrorizes Brooklyn in the name of the White Hand and violently protects Dinny Meehan (art by Guy Denning).

“The Swede makes his territory: The fighter’s circle. Daring a cross of it; until finally he puffs his long trunk and the angular slant of his splayed chest and shoulders for a grunt in the air that of a bull ape’s summoning.”
The Swede (b. 1889), is not Swedish at all, but is a gangly 6’5″ Irish-American with blond hair and gigantic fists. Born James Finnigan, The Swede is an enforcer for White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan. With a permanent “gaunt scowl” and a ferocious temper, he is known in Irishtown for his raging tantrums and is inordinately protective of Meehan. In the early 1900s he lead a group of young thugs in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In 1912, Meehan paid the Italian Black Hand a $500 ransom when The Swede’s sister Helen was kidnapped. Afterward the gang, including The Swede, robbed a Black Hand undertaker of thousands of dollars. He beat Darby Leighton “to death’s door” after the sensational trial for the murder of Christie Maroney. When Charles McGowan was killed by Pickles Leighton in Sing Sing, The Swede became Meehan’s righthand. Rumors of his having a child with his sister Helen have persisted after the ransom for her was paid. In fact The Swede is known to have such a deep and enduring love for his family that it crosses into the taboo.


Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1915 The Swede beat an Italian immigrant to death at the Fulton Ferry Landing. He also led the way during the Donnybrook in Red Hook.

In 1917, Wild Bill Lovett secedes from the gang and claims part of the White Hand’s territory. After a swarm of enemies surround the gang, an ominous warning from Detective William Brosnan, and building pressure to provide for his family, The Swede attempts to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart. Now his left arm is lame, taking away his ability to fistfight while the pressure continues to mount. Later he, along with Meehan, Vincent Maher and Lumpy Gilchrist are arrested for robbing a shoe store when Mickey Kane is murdered.

Thomas Burke – Divide the Dawn

Thomas Burke – Character in Divide the Dawn

Thomas Burke desperately needs work, but feels trapped in the coming gang war for leadership of the White Hand.

“Harry looks down toward the parlor where the Burke boy stares and groans, his mother speaking to him in warm, sweet tones even as we can see her cold breath in the room. She rubs her hand up and down his arm to keep the cold off him, then looks toward Harry and I.”
~Liam Garrity

Thomas Burke
 (b. 1893) known simply as Burke, is small of stature, but has a large family. Having stumbled into the White Hand gang and the Brooklyn underworld, he is apprehensive and nervous about their shadowy, often violent dealings. Living in a rundown building by Prospect Park, Burke had terrible difficulties finding regular work to feed and shelter his wife and four children. His eldest son, stricken with what is deemed “The Palsy” in Irishtown (Multiple Sclerosis), is in need of serious medical treatment. Wanting to help, two White Hand gang members offer him a job as a longshoremen. Even though he is not strong enough for the type of physical demands required to unload ships, he is eager to work and his wife becomes friends with a gang member’s family, securing his position. Burke wants no part of the violence the gang is involved in, but he is in too deep now.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: As Harry Reynolds and Liam Garrity fix up a dilapidated room in anticipation of Garrity’s mother and sisters’ arrival from Ireland, they notice an eight year-old child strapped to a chair, which is strapped to a wall. Later they notice the chair and table are missing. Burke tells Reynolds and Garrity that due to the severe coal shortage in Brooklyn, they burned the table and chairs in the fireplace during a freezing night. Hearing this, Reynolds offers Burke a chance to work on the docks and proves himself loyal and hard-working. As tenement neighbors, the Burke and Garrity families become close. When several gang members are jailed and Liam is forced into being a dockboss, Burke watches fearfully as Garrity and others beat immigrants who challenge them. With a gang war looming, he feels trapped.

William Brosnan – Divide the Dawn

William Brosnan – Character in Divide the Dawn

Detective William Brosnan fears his son-in-law Daniel Culkin has fallen into an arcane, malevolent prophecy.

“They’re comin’ now, just slow. Gatherin’ up like a giant swell, they’ll swallow ye like the great suck o’ the ocean and leave ye bathin’ in a welter o’ yer own blood and bones, all o’ ye. Oh they’re comin’, sure enough. Slow and sure o’ themselves.”
~William Brosnan

William Brosnan
 (b. 1864, Dublin), also known as the Tunic, is a detective with a dark past and father-in-law to eager, blackjack-swinging Patrolman Daniel Culkin. While his young wife was giving birth during the Great Blizzard of 1888, Brosnan was on patrol in Irishtown when he found a baby in the rubble of a fallen tenement. He desperately ran the baby to a hospital, where he found out his wife died during childbirth. Moments later, he was told the baby he found in the fallen tenement survived. Despondent, Brosnan came to believe that a darkness followed him. The baby he saved turned out to be Garry Barry, the grimmest, most malevolent of street urchins. Barry, Brosnan believes, is a wraith and has a role to play in the dark, pre-Christian prophecies he heard as a boy back in Ireland, “When the veil between life and death is thinnest during the storms of dawn, we are exchanged like pieces on a chessboard.” Brosnan concludes that his wife’s life was taken for Barry’s to fulfill a prophecy that has its origins in Ireland’s Great Hunger (potato famine) where “the keening songs of the banshees croon hastens an ascension, like the rising of the moon.” A single father, Brosnan raised his daughter on a patrolman’s salary until she married the eager Culkin. Since Barry was reported to have died in 1918 of injuries from a White Hand gang beating, Brosnan’s superstitious fears were allayed. But in 1919, during the “Storm of Slanting Snow,” Culkin finds Barry alive. Shaken again, Brosnan is convinced another death must be exchanged for Barry’s life and worries it’ll be Culkin. Or worse, as his daughter is pregnant.


Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1915, Brosnan and Culkin show up in the Dock Loaders’ Club after Wild Bill Lovett murdered an immigrant for pulling a cat’s tail. Before the Donnybrook in Red Hook, Brosnan was forced to accept payment from the White Hand to look the other way.

In 1916, Brosnan is promoted to detective for getting the conviction of Non Connors, who wrongly was named leader of the White Hand. A year later he is publicly reprimanded by the Waterfront Assembly’s Jonathan G. Wolcott and the newspapers for looking the other way while gangs run the waterfront. Brosnan and Culkin show up at the Dock Loaders’ Club and make demands of White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan for an increase in their hush money and angrily describe how they are all going to fall prey to the Anglo-American ascendency, who has the real power in New York.

Sixto Stabile – Divide the Dawn

Sixto Stabile – Character in Divide the Dawn

Sixto Stabile was raised in South Brooklyn, educated at Harvard.

“They shooed the whore away an’ tied me to the bed. Then this Ivy League dago comes in, duded up like he’s some gaudy business man with a pinky ring. But you can’t put a blond wig on a guerrilla and convince me her name’s Mary.”
~Vincent Maher

Sixto Stabile
(b. 1893), also known as the Young Turk, is a self-assured, sardonic and overly polite South Brooklyn Italian who graduated from Harvard University. Sixto’s Italian-born father paid for his schooling via the bawdyhouse (brothel) he owns, called the Adonis Social Club on 20th street & 4th avenue, which is protected by Frankie Yale and the Black Hand. In 1916, Yale’s man Il Maschio was murdered by the Irish White Hand. Still angry that Red Hook is populated with Italians, yet the dock winnings are collected by the Irish, Yale decided to temporarily emphasize friendlier relations with the powerful White Hand Gang’s Dinny Meehan. Highly educated Sixto was a perfect fit to smooth things out. Working with the ILA’s Thos Carmody, Sixto helped put together a brilliant three-way peace deal, which gave the Italians the southern terminal of Red Hook in exchange for the (failed) murder attempt of Wild Bill Lovett, while both the White and Black Hand longshoremen unionized.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: With the assistance of Jonathan G. Wolcott‘s NY Dock Co, and headquartering his new gang in Red Hook, Lovett seceded from the White Hand in 1917. Dinny Meehan was backed into a corner, so Sixto sprung into action. At the Adonis, Sixto and Carmody kidnapped White Hand enforcer Vincent Maher and gave him peace terms that would break Lovett’s stronghold in Red Hook and kill Wolcott’s strategist and muscle, Silverman. The plan succeeded. Even though Lovett survived, he was sent to the Great War in a plea deal after murdering a Black Hand assassin. In 1919, after Maher is jailed, Sixto and Yale visit him and offer him a job in Chicago, warning him that Meehan plans on setting him up for the robbery of the Hanan & Son shoe factory, just as he’d set up Pickles Leighton, Non Connors, and even Lovett before him.

Sadie Meehan – Divide the Dawn

Sadie Meehan – Character in Divide the Dawn

Sadie Meehan must choose between her husband, and her son (art by Sebastian MacLaughlin)

“Sadie looks up into my eyes and smiles. She wipes a tear away and hugs me. And so does L’il Dinny, hugging me by the leg. She whispers to me, ‘Now you need to start makin’ a plan for yourself an’ your family, to escape Brooklyn.’”
~Liam Garrity

Sadie Meehan (née Leighton, b. 1891) faces a terrible decision: Staying with her gang leader husband, or leaving him in order to keep her son safe. Sadie was raised in the terrible poverty of East London. In 1910, her cousins Darby and Pickles Leighton paid her passage to Brooklyn, New York where she again lived in desperate conditions. She was courted by both Dinny Meehan and Harry Reynolds of the White Hand gang, but when Meehan was arrested for the murder of Christie Maroney, Harry came to her the night before the trial. Her cousin Pickles was then convicted, while Dinny, McGowan, and Vincent Maher were exonerated. Feeling closer to Dinny and seeing that he could best pull her out of poverty (Meehan also promised to get her cousin out of prison), she shunned Harry. Sadie cared for three orphans that Dinny brought home and helped groom them as productive gang members. Within months of Meehan’s release, she gave birth to a son, Li’l Dinny.

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: Sadie takes in the homeless immigrant teenager Liam Garrity.
Later she gives Liam a haircut, flowers and advice on courting women when Dinny attempts to betroth him to Anna Lonergan. She is startled when her cousin Darby sneaks up on her and L’il Dinny, who shames her for marrying the man who banished him and set up Pickles (her cousin) for the murder of Maroney, then offers her a cryptic warning. When Darby and Anna throw rocks through Sadie’s window while Dinny is in jail, she goes to Liam, but Harry says he “can’t talk to Sadie.” Liam then pays for her and L’il Dinny to stay in a hotel on Long Island. Scared to go back to Brooklyn and the coming gang war, she plans on keeping her son far away.

Darby Leighton – Divide the Dawn

Darby Leighton – Character in Divide the Dawn 

Exiled, Darby Leighton lives with the shadows (art by Sebastian MacLaughlin)

“Knowing things is what I’m known for, and I’m the guy waiting in the long shadows to use them against you.”
~Darby Leighton

Darby Leighton – (b. 1890) is a man of the shadows. Sickly and with calm, dead eyes, he has the look of a lost soldier as he’s been banished from the White Hand gang. He has never been able to decide his own fate, but now has a family and is ready to emerge. Having been abandoned as children in 1900, Darby and his brother Pickles Leighton lived under a rotted pier in Brooklyn until joining an early version of the White Hand gang. When a young Dinny Meehan appeared, the gang became profitable. Darby was the one who saved money to bring his cousin Sadie Meehan (née Leighton) to Brooklyn. Darby looked up to Meehan, but was made to follow his brother Pickles in joining Wild Bill Lovett‘s Jay Street gang one block over. When Pickles was convicted of murdering Christie Maroney, Meehan’s enforcer The Swede beat Darby to “death’s door” and “eightysixt” him to the shadows. Having lived under cover for so long, he’s learned to spy on the gang and has worked in the background to gather valuable information against it. In the meantime he met an Italian immigrant who could not find her family when she got off the boat. Soon a baby came, but how are they going to support their new family?

Historical novel Divide the Dawn is available now: USA – Eire & UK – Canada –

What you need to know before starting DIVIDE THE DAWN: In 1915 Darby is seen running from The Swede again on the streets of Irishtown. Later, a gang member who openly questioned Darby’s exile was murdered.

From the shadows, Darby snuck up on Sadie and son, L’il Dinny. Feeling she’d left him to rot while marrying the man who banished him, he gave her a cryptic warning, “One day Bill Lovett’s gonna kill ya husband, and I’m gonna know about it ahead o’ time.” But in 1917, Lovett’s revolt against Meehan failed, leaving Darby deeper in the shadows than before. In 1919, Lovett reappeared, seemingly from the dead, and gave him his .45, telling Darby to get it to Richie Lonergan in order to kill Meehan’s cousin, Mickey Kane. With Lovett returned, Darby hopes to overthrow Meehan and become a dockboss to support his young family.

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