Veteran Irish crime journalist Williams exhaustively documents the amazing 20-year career of arch-burglar Martin Cahill.
Gunned down in 1994 in what was labeled an IRA hit, the slum-reared Cahill had risen from petty thief to international celebrity. His penchant for the absurd, especially when confronted by righteous authority, the author suggests, boosted his legend. Addressed once by a prosecutor hell-bent on “exposing” him, Cahill instantly dropped his pants, exposed his Mickey Mouse underdrawers, and danced around in them briefly, as it were, until restrained. Anxious to differentiate himself from drug dealers who had become the target of a Dublin vigilante group known as Concerned Parents Against Drugs, Cahill invents the Concerned Criminals Action Committee to protect the rights of “ordinary, decent criminals.” Williams makes it clear, however, that Cahill was no latter-day Robin Hood. Brutal threats were as much a part of his modus operandi as the elaborate planning of crimes that got him nicknamed the General. He tried to assassinate Ireland’s leading forensics expert, who was set to finger him, and shocked the nation by nearly succeeding. His criminal record included the largest gold robbery in Irish history and one of the largest European art thefts on record. In one of Williams’s most riveting chapters, he shows Cahill stapling an accomplice’s fingers to the floor, then hammering nails through his palms to grill him about the disappearance of some loot; swayed finally by piteous denials, he then pulled out the nails and drove the guy to a hospital. Cahill constantly twitted the cops and got away with it, but his refusal to discuss revenue sharing with the IRA was, authorities surmise, fatal. Energetically told and buttressed by the investigative skills that have distinguished Williams’s work for the Irish Sunday World, this biography, originally published in Europe in 1995, inspired John Boorman’s controversial film of the same title.
Fascinating and colorful.