A Philadelphia Story
By Harry Hallman
Purchase Link: Amazon
Mercy Row is a novel set in 1920's and 1930's Philadelphia. It's the story of the rise of a North Philadelphia crime family who was also responsible for building the homes and factories that make up this blue collar area of the city. Despite the violent trials and tribulations caused by rival gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago Jacob Byrne and Franklin Garrett, with the help of the Irish immigrants that settled the Kensington area, build a formidable Irish mob.
This legal and criminal enterprise kept North Philadelphia free from the Mafia for two generations. Jacob's and Franklin's organization was built on the blood of those who opposed them, the sweat of the laborers who built North Philly and the tears of the wives and mothers whose loved ones were lost in the struggle.
Mercy Row is a historical fiction piece set in the 1920s and 30s in Philadelphia. Protagonist Jacob Byrne works with his father in the construction business and their Irish family is also prominent in the city’s mob. As Jacob gets more experience under his belt, he climbs the ladder and begins to build himself a loyal gang and secure compound, but what we learn is that greed can tear down those safe barriers. A fight between the South Philly Italians and the North Philly Irish ensues.
I was fond of how important family was to these tough men who did unspeakable things. Their women and children were truly the force that kept them strong. Family mattered to them and Jacob remained vigilant throughout the mafia wars.
Harry did an excellent job with the dialogue; I felt it was spot on for that area and time period. I would have liked to have read more descriptions of the neighborhood, but could clearly visualize each colorful character. I especially enjoyed the story behind the title. I think it captured the essence of the Byrne family.
Hallman was born in 1944 and raised in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia. His father was Harry Hallman Sr., a champion billiards player who also owned a poolroom located at Allegany Ave. and Lee Street, called Circle Billiards. In his youth, the younger Hallman spent many hours after school at his father's pool hall. These youthful experiences laid the groundwork for his novel Mercy Row, including the colorful language used in the text.
He served four years in the US Air force including two tours in South Vietnam as a photographer. He is married to Duoc Hallman, who he met in Vietnam, and has two children, Bill and Nancy and one grandchild Ava.
Hallman is a serial entrepreneur who has created several marketing services companies and continues to work as a marketing consultant.
"My favorite possession, from my childhood, is a baby book my sister gave my mother (Florence) when I was born. There's a passage in this book, written by my mother in 1991 when I was 47, that seems to sum up what I have endeavored to be all my life. It reads:
- Bud (my childhood name) grew up to be a great boy and man. Gruff, but a heart as big as could be. - This is what a man from the Kensington section of Philadelphia is."
Hallman wrote this book, in 2012, when he was 68 years old. This is his first novel.
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