The Empire State Building is a character in itself in Empire Rising, Thomas Kelly’s homage to New York City on the cusp of the Depression.
Michael Briody is an Irish immigrant on the run from his homeland’s civil war; an IRA man who through political connections gets a job as an ironworker on the Empire State Building. Grace Masterson is a painter with a grief-filled past, living a bohemian life on a houseboat with a view of the skyscraper. Her casual boyfriend is the powerful Johnny Farrell, the dirty right-hand-man to Mayor Jimmy Walker, who pays her to hide wads of cash in safe deposit boxes all over town. A dangerous attraction develops when Michael and Grace meet, a love strong enough to give birth to dreams of a normal life together. But disentangling themselves from old loyalties is not a simple thing when those loyalties involve the IRA, Tammany Hall, the growing Sicilian mob, and a widening investigation into political corruption to which Grace is a key witness.
With a score of hot-blooded, multifaceted characters, Thomas Kelly has vividly reconstructed the messy mix of class, race, religion and politics that was New York City in 1930.