Synopses & Reviews
From “the lit worlds sharpest chronicler of New Yorks past” (Rolling Stone), a novel of two Irish brothers who travel from the gangland waterfront to the halls of power
Based on one of the great unsolved murders in mob history, and the rise-and-fall of a real-life hero, The Big Crowd tells the sweeping story of Charlie OKane. He is the American dream come to life, a poor Irish immigrant who worked his way up from beat cop to mayor of New York at the citys dazzling, post-war zenith. Famous, powerful, and married to a glamorous fashion model, he is looked up to by millions, including his younger brother, Tom. So when Charlie is accused of abetting a shocking mob murder, Tom sets out to clear his brothers name while hiding a secret of his own.
The charges against Charlie stem from his days as a crusading Brooklyn DA, when he sent the notorious killers of Murder, Inc., to the chair—only to let a vital witness go flying out a window while under police guard. Now, out of office, Charlie lives in a shoddy, Mexico City tourist hotel, eaten up with regrets and afraid he will be indicted for murder if he returns to the U.S. To uncover what really happened, Tom must confront stunning truths about his brother, himself, and the secret workings of the great city he loves.
Moving from the Brooklyn waterfront to city hall, from the battlefields of World War II to the beaches of Acapulco, to the glamorous nightclubs of postwar New York, The Big Crowd is filled with historical powerbrokers and gangsters, celebrities and socialites, scheming cardinals and battling, dockside priests. But ultimately it is a brilliantly imagined, distinctly American story of the bonds and betrayals of brotherhood.
"The Big Crowd
is nothing short of a modern masterpiece. Kevin Baker brings the docks of New York and all their intrigue back to life in vivid detail, combining the historical and the human into a deeply affecting story that connects the past to the present in a way that many novels attempt but few manage."-Steven Galloway
, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
"With The Big Crowd
, Kevin Baker earns the title of Best American Historical Novelist - heck, maybe best American novelist, period. This inspired, fun, serious, thought-provoking, page-turning book gives all the good, old pleasures: if you read it on the subway, be prepared to miss your stop. But Baker also raises the key questions about New York, about America, about who we are. Charlie and Tom O'Kane are characters for the ages."-Darin Strauss
, author of Half a Life
"A fluid writer with a clear grasp of history" -- Associated Press
“[A] rewarding new novel…Bakers writing is strong - energetic, precise and especially notable for a parade of wonderful metaphors and similes…The novel succeeds in creating a compelling imagined world…Best of all, the novel delivers on what the title promises, a detailed rendering of the relationships within that eras power cabal. ‘A city like New York, Charlie tells Tom, ‘its got to have great men - not good men - to run it…Were held together against the chaos by the grip of a few strong men, thats all. Baker offers a vast array of secondary characters - cops and thugs, politicians, bureaucrats, clergymen, bosses and hangers-on - who grow increasingly vivid as they appear and reappear in the gradual recounting of various incidents, like the murder of Peter Panto, an upstart organizer on the docks. Actual historical figures, including Robert Moses and Cardinal Spellman, are served up unsparingly. Ive read few other novels that portray in such a nuanced way the temptations of power, the complex division of control in a great metropolis and the perils of political deal-making in that environment. Baker doesnt like the Big Crowd any more than Tom OKane does, but, fortunately for us, he understands its workings very well.” -- The New York Times
"Baker (Dreamland, Paradise Alley, Strivers Row) takes another juicy bite out of the Big Apple, demonstrating once again that nobody does old New York—in all its glamour and its grit—better." —Booklist
One snowy New Year's Day, in the midst of the Great Depression, Dr. James Delaney--haunted by the slaughters of the Great War, and abandoned by his wife and daughter--returns home to find his three-year-old grandson on his doorstep, left by his mother in Delaney's care. Coping with this unexpected arrival, Delaney hires Rose, a tough, decent Sicilian woman with a secret in her past. Slowly, as Rose and the boy begin to care for the good doctor, the numbness in Delaney begins to melt. Recreating 1930s New York
with the vibrancy and rich detail that are his trademarks, Pete Hamill weaves a story of honor, family, and one man's simple courage that no reader will soon forget.
Recreating 1930s New York with the vibrancy and rich detail that are his trademarks, Hamill weaves a story of honor, family, and one man's simple courage.
A dramatic novel of two Irish brothers—one a fallen political star accused of corruption and the other a young DA desperately trying to clear his name—set against the sweeping backdrop of midcentury New Yorks halls of power and the gangland of the docks.
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
"The Big Crowd is nothing short of a modern masterpiece." — Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
Tom O’Kane has always looked up to his brother, Charlie, latching onto him as a surrogate father as soon as he arrived in America from County Mayo. Charlie is the American Dream personified: an immigrant who worked his way up from beat cop to mayor of New York. But what if Charlie isn’t as wonderful as he seems?
More than a decade after Tom arrives in New York, he is forced to confront the truth about Charlie while investigating the mysterious “suicide” of Kid Twist, Charlie’s star witness against the largest crime syndicate in New York. As Tom digs deeper, the secrets he uncovers throw everything he thinks he knows about his beloved brother into question.
Based on one of the biggest unsolved mob murders in history, The Big Crowd brings the 1940s to indelible life, from the beaches of Acapulco to the battlefields of World War II, from Gracie Mansion to the Brooklyn docks.
“A masterwork of historical fiction.” — Parade
About the Author
KEVIN BAKER is the author of the New York‚ City of Fire trilogy: Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row. He was the chief historical researcher on Harold Evans best-selling history, The American Century, and has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more.