And All the Saints

Written by Michael Walsh
Review by Lisa Ann Verge

Owen “Owney” Madden, the prohibition-era gangster, is brought to life in this fictional memoir by acclaimed author and screenwriter Michael Walsh.

Owen the Killer, an Irish immigrant living in Hell’s Kitchen at the turn of the century, earns his nickname after assaulting a thief who’d stolen his mother’s purse. His exploits bring him to the attention of the Gophers, the local toughs. Gang membership is only the beginning for this ambitious kid, who learns lessons in crime from Monk Eastman, a Jewish mobster, and various Tammany Hall politicos. While still a teenager, he betrays the Gopher leaders and rises to become The Duke of the West Side. Gangland violence leads to jail time, but when he’s released, illegal booze, the Cotton Club, and ‘the rackets’ make Owen Madden a rich and powerful man.

Michael Walsh’s triumph is in the creation of Owen’s voice—crude, unapologetic, rich in period slang. Walsh paints this criminal as a moral adherent of gangster rules, a man who takes care of his own, and recognizes talent no matter what its color, race, or religion. There’s some hero worship on display—the book ends with the spirit of the dying mobster “soaring into the heavens” – but it’s a minor flaw. And All the Saints is raw tale, well-told, a vigorous depiction of early 20th century New York life.