The two-bit thugs of Boston’s underworld star in this stark and gripping account.



From the Hamilcar Noir series , Vol. 3

This third installment of the Hamilcar Noir series examines key figures of an era when Boston’s boxing scene had strong ties to organized crime.

In his latest book, Stradley (Berserk, 2019) continues to explore boxing’s seedy underside by presenting readers with a gallery of biographical portraits from a period in Boston history when the sport and mob violence were frequently linked. Delivering staccato and cinematic details, the author looks at the 20th-century thugs, waterfront rats, and promising local youths whose lives became entangled with the gangsters, sharklike cops, and backroom politicians who created and sustained the old world of Boston ward politics. In economical passages, Stradley shows how surprisingly often the thread connecting all these men was boxing. The tough guys had entered the ring in their teens with varying degrees of success, and the mobsters used the sport as the hub of many of their racketeering operations. Chapters covering the late 1920s to the ’70s are quick and pithy, filled with colorful figures unearthed by the author’s exhaustive research. Readers learn about Eddie “Punchy” McLaughlin, who’d been a promising local Charlestown boxer in his youth but had quickly moved on to lead his own street fighters in a war against the notorious Winter Hill gang (“highlighted by daytime shootouts, car bombs, assassinations, and even a beheading”). In 1964, enemy shooters disguised themselves as rabbis to get close to McLaughlin (he survived this skirmish and a subsequent attempt on his life but was eventually gunned down on a street in broad daylight, like so many of the book’s characters). There was also the formerly well-regarded lightweight prospect Rico Sacramone, “just another Boston kid who fell in love with the cut-rate allure of gangsters,” as the author puts it, noting the paranoia that eventually took over the man’s thoughts: “He paid first with his mind, then with his life.” Stradley adheres fairly consistently to the Hamilcar Noir style for his gritty, true-crime narrative: The bizarre excitement of the stories is never allowed to drift into admiration or emulation. As in his previous work, the author narrates an almost unbroken string of horrible, unethical, and illegal choices on the part of all his characters, and he deftly acknowledges the dramatic nature of their mindsets. “He was a risk taker,” Stradley writes about 26-year-old Newton ex-fighter Rocco DiSeglio’s drift from boxing to crime. “To fight for a living, to put a lot of money down on a long shot, to rob someone at gunpoint, requires an element of risk unknown to the average person.” With hard-edged prose and a total absence of cheap moralizing, the author emphasizes that the gambles these men took were bad, immoral, and inevitably self-destructive. Well-known Boston mob figures like James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen Flemmi crop up in these pages, and some of Stradley’s riveting tales manage to touch briefly on the mainstream world of ’70s boxing (one chapter recounts a grizzled Somerville has-been’s exhibition match with none other than Muhammad Ali). But the main focus here is on the small fry, the unknown losers caught up in the rush and tawdry thrills of mob violence, going from fights to shootouts to prison stays to more brutal acts until their luck finally ran out. 

The two-bit thugs of Boston’s underworld star in this stark and gripping account.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949590-25-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hamilcar Publications

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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