Books by Jack Kelly

Released: Jan. 8, 2019

"Kelly's vigorous narrative serves well to set down the facts of a turbulent, little-known history."
In which the robber barons earn their spurs—and their sobriquets. Read full book review >
HEAVEN'S DITCH by Jack Kelly
Released: July 5, 2016

"An intriguing synthesis of American cultural and economic currents in the early 19th century, all culminating with the completion of the Erie Canal."
Historian Kelly (Band of Giants: The American Soldiers Who Won America's Independence, 2014, etc.) weaves together diverse strands of early New York state history for an improbable yet oddly compelling narrative of social, political, and religious visionaries. Read full book review >
BAND OF GIANTS by Jack Kelly
Released: Sept. 9, 2014

"A rousing account of bloody sacrifice."
Journalist and historian Kelly chronicles the poorly trained but determined men who fought with George Washington and other commanders to free the North American continent from British rule in the late 18th century. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2004

"Fiery prose sparks this exciting story as the author jumps through the centuries with nimble pose and a learned eye."
Old pro Kelly (Mad Dog, 1992, etc.) pens a popular history of the powder that has toppled kingdoms and uprooted societies for centuries. Read full book review >
MOBTOWN by Jack Kelly
Released: Jan. 9, 2002

"Kelly (Line of Sight, 2000, etc.) revitalizes a tradition badly in need of it. No forced wisecracks here, no sour, self-involved attitudinizing: this is hardboiled crime fiction made fresh again. Ike will have you thinking of Sam Spade, and you'll love him for it."
It's 1959, and Rochester ("Mobtown") is seedy, greedy, unabashedly corrupt. A connected operator named Joe Petrone runs it—the gambling, the vice, the widespread extortion—and "everything about it stinks," says Ike Van Savage, once a cop, now a p.i. and the rare citizen a Petrone stare won't scare half to death. What makes Ike different? Asked that kind of question, he'll usually shrug and answer, mildly enough, that he never planned on dying in bed. But even a cool cat like Ike might have backed off Mrs. Eddie Gill's "matrimonial job" if he'd known where it would lead. It seems simple: Follow the errant husband, take the compromising photos of him and the bimbo, collect some easy money. Who could have guessed all roads would lead to the racket king's door, though not without side trips involving several gorgeous but dubious females (Mrs. Petrone among them), a variety of hidden agendas, and more ill-intentioned hot lead than Ike's seen since Korea. Ike hangs in, of course, suffering beatings, knifings, double-crossings, and the bitter disappointment of love gone wrong. But then, after a furious, action-packed climax, he manages to sort out who did what to whom and explain it to the reader, more or less persuasively. Read full book review >
LINE OF SIGHT by Jack Kelly
Released: Sept. 13, 2000

"A highly effective noir valentine that fans will treasure precisely for its ritualistic lack of originality."
Boy meets girl, boy sleeps with girl, girl's husband gets shot, etc. Read full book review >
MAD DOG by Jack Kelly
Released: March 1, 1992

While John Dillinger roams the Midwest robbing banks and breaking hearts, a minor flimflam man takes the Hoosier as his role model and finds professional success—in this melancholy criminal study by the author of Apalachin (1987) and Protection (1989). The nameless co-protagonist of Kelly's deft study of unsophisticated crime in an unsophisticated place and time is a down-at-the-heels con artist—one who makes his living selling miraculous, vaguely electric ``Kaiser Belts'' to impotent rubes until he is arrested and nearly lynched after being mistaken for America's most wanted criminal. The medicine man takes his sketchy resemblance to Dillinger to a one-ring circus and builds a successful sideshow act impersonating the bank robber, portraying his latest crimes, and telling the folks how he feels. The circus and the criminal work the same territory—the underpopulated and underpaid heart of America at the height of the Depression— allowing the impersonator to get closer and closer to his model, eventually even meeting Billie Frechette, Dillinger's half-Indian mistress. Abandoned by Dillinger shortly before his Main Street execution, Billie herself turns to the performance circuit, parading before the crowds of small-town people who instinctively recognized her boyfriend as one of their own and who can never hear enough about him. Kelly occasionally succumbs to the temptations of poetry and elevated style, but for the most part he is bang-on in this poignant black-and-white sketch of inept crimes, modest criminals, and gray times. Read full book review >