Sunday, May 4, 2014

Light of the Diddicoy by Eamon Loingsigh

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Novel Review
Read: January 9, 2014

Light of the Diddicoy, by Irish-American commentator Eamon Loingsigh, is the riveting and immersive saga of Irish gangs on the Brooklyn waterfront in the early part of the twentieth century, told through the eyes of 14 year-old Irish immigrant Liam Garrity. Forced to travel alone to America just months before the Easter Rising in Ireland, Garrity stumbles directly into the hard-knock streets of the Irish-run Brooklyn waterfront and falls in with a Bridge District gang called the White Hand. Through a series of increasingly tense and brutal scenes, he has no choice but to use any means necessary to survive, and carve out his place in a no-holds-barred world of a community living outside the law. The book is Loingsigh’s third, and is the first of his forthcoming Auld Irishtown trilogy, which delves into stories and lore of the gangs and families growing up in this under-documented area of Brooklyn’s Irishtown underworld. His interest in New York’s Irish community stems from hearing tales of his grandfather and great-grandfather, who ran an Irish saloon in New York City for longshoremen from 1906 to the late 1970s.

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The first installment of Eamon Loingsigh’s Auld Irishtown trilogy, Light of the Diddicoy, illuminates the dark underbelly of Brooklyn’s Irish roots through the fictional story of Liam Garrity. Fresh off the boat, Garrity is swept into the brutally violent world of New York’s Irish-American mobs where survival demands living outside the law. 

Having thoroughly enjoyed Black Mass, The Gangs of New York, The Westies and Paddy Whacked, I was eager to see an author tackle Irish gang culture in a fictional setting and in terms of subject matter, Loingsigh didn’t disappoint. I liked the atmospheric quality of his narrative and the depravity he wasn’t afraid to depict within these pages. Unfortunately, I felt the story was undermined by inconsistencies in the author’s tone and somewhat shallow characterizations.

An original and poetic coming of age story, Light of the Diddicoy touches on some fascinating material, but might prove difficult for those looking for truly captivating, character driven fiction.  

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Down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass there once roamed a gang I fell in with. A long time ago it was, when I was young and running. It’s all I had, this life. Just as yours is yours. Don’t let yourself think mine is anything different, anything better. I won’t have it that way. It was just a life, and there you have it. But like so many born on the isle of Ireland, I am to die far from home. Though such a grief has since let me alone, as bitterness only cuts into the bone...
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