2 out of 4 stars
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Chicago Westside Irish: A book of Short Stories is just that: a book of short stories. Written by Jerry and Mike McHugh, the 120-page book details interesting stories told to them by their father, Gerald (Jerry) McHugh, of his life and many incidents in “the wild Chicago of the ’20s.” The stories include gang stories, prison chronicles, and many more. After reading this book, I can tell you that Chicago was indeed a wild place, and Gerald McHugh had a front-row seat to everything!
Gerald McHugh was not your regular man. He had connections from all over Chicago. He knew almost everybody and could shake things. He learned the art of making “friends” from his father and taught his sons the same. At first, he worked with the bricklayer’s union in Chicago, but he went on to work with his friend, Eddie Hanley, in the hotel and restaurant business. Through the Union, he and Eddie got some fascinating stories and were also able to touch people’s lives. In the Union, Gerald had to deal with gangs while watching out for his best friend, Eddie. As a true Irish man, he turned his experiences into stories that his sons eagerly listened to and have chronicled in this book.
This book contains thirty-three short stories. While I found some stories hilarious and interesting, some others were downright inappropriate, and I wondered how a father could have told his young children such tales. Nevertheless, my favorite was “Sambo’s strike” because it was about women’s empowerment. From the first few pages, I thought that this book was only going to be about Gerald, and I had already written it off as a biography. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see stories of other people that were connected to him. I especially appreciated Eddie Hanley because of his generosity. An example is how he started the initiative to build a national stadium in Ireland.
This book has a lot of content relating to gangs and gun violence. In my opinion, those were the worst aspects of the book. However, the inclusion of several good deeds done by Gerald and his associates was a redeeming factor for the entire piece, and I always looked forward to such stories. Another thing I disliked was the organization of this book. It began by introducing Gerald and his two best friends, Al and Eddie, but after that, I never saw anything about Al until the ending. It also felt like the stories of Gerald’s life were told haphazardly.
I think that this book needs another round of editing. This is because I found many errors. I also discovered that the authors included the same story twice! The paging was also not professionally done. For instance, over twenty pages were numbered as “29.” This book is filled with profanity, and it contains slightly erotic scenes. People who are against gun violence and gangs will loathe to read this book. I recommend it to people who want to know more about the inner workings of Chicago. You might find this book interesting if anecdotes are your thing. My rating for this piece is 2 out of 4 stars. I removed two stars because I don’t think it was properly edited, and I feel that some stories were too crass. If another round of editing is done, I will rate it higher.
Chicago Westside Irish
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