the westies is based on a true story of the irish mob in new york’s hell’s kitchen during the 60s, 70s and 80s. the story focuses on mickey featherstone, one of the prominent members of the west side gang, who ends up becoming a government informant and key witness involved in bringing the westies’ rein of power to an end.
having never heard of the westies prior to this book (and being a new yorker myself) i was intrigued by the story. its crazy to think about how such gruesome events happened less than a couple decades ago. some parts really did feel like i was reading something out of a movie like donnie brasco or the godfather – dismemberment and throwing bodies into the east river included.
however, while the storyline was interesting on a historical-basis, i wasn’t completely drawn into it. as much as english tried to explain featherstone’s past and link his PTSD to his actions, it was hard to sympathize with him. i found myself upset with the ending. yes, he helped bring down the notorious jimmy coonan and the infamous westies, but he was also a key participant in many murders. it really made me think about the justice system and how some people can literally get away with murder.
i’m glad i read the book, even for the simple fact of having a better understanding of the history of hells kitchen. but would i read it again? probably not.