A Novel of High-Stakes Romance and Betrayal, Set During the Race to Finish the World's Tallest Building
In Empire Rising, his extraordinary third book, Thomas Kelly tells a story of love and work, of intrigue and jealousy, with the narrative verve that led the Village Voice's reviewer to dub him "Dostoevsky with a hard hat and lead pipe."
As the novel opens, it is 1930-the Depression-and ground has just been broken for the Empire State Building. One of the thousands of men erecting the building high above the city is Michael Briody, an Irish immigrant torn between his desire to make a new life in America and his pledge to gather money and arms for the Irish republican cause. When he meets Grace Masterson, an alluring artist who is depicting the great skyscraper's ascent from her houseboat on the East River, Briody's life turns exhilarating-and dangerous, for Grace is also a paramour of Johnny Farrell, Mayor Jimmy Walker's liaison with Tammany Hall and the underworld.
Their heartbreaking love story-which takes place both in the immigrant neighborhoods of the Bronx and amid the swanky nightlife of the '21' Club--is also a chronicle of the city's rough passage from a working-class enclave to a world-class metropolis, and a vivid reimagining of the conflict that pitted the Tammany Hall political machine and its popular mayor against the boundlessly ambitious Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Colin Harrison, in The New York Times Book Review, called Kelly's The Rackets "A well-paced, violent thriller, [and] an elegy for the city's old Irish working class." In Empire Rising, Kelly takes his work to a new level: telling of the story of the people who built the "eighth wonder of the world," he makes old New York the setting for a rich and unforgettable story.
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Kelly keeps it all moving, juxtaposing worksite scenes high above the city, meetings in miscellaneous smoke-filled rooms, hotel rendezvous between Grace and her married lover Farrell, and violence on the perilous streets where men marked by the city’s rival Irish, Italian, and Jewish mobs suffer ...| Read Full Review of Empire Rising: A Novel
Construction was started on the Empire State Building on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1930. It was just as the Depression was beginning to squeeze America in its death grip and every job was saJan 17 2005 | Read Full Review of Empire Rising: A Novel
(Frankie Keefe, the corrupt Teamster boss in Kelly's previous novel, ''The Rackets,'' was a magnificently awful bad guy.) Indeed, the emotional heart of ''Empire Rising'' lies elsewhere, in the romance between Farrell's Irish immigrant mistress, Grace Masterson, and a construc-tion worker, Mike B...Feb 13 2005 | Read Full Review of Empire Rising: A Novel
Kelly weaves a fascinating tale that captures the cadences and decadence of art deco New York, where desperate working-class have-nots and powerful elite swells collide violently in a nation on the brink of great change.| Read Full Review of Empire Rising: A Novel
Thomas Kelly's ambitious novel Empire Rising begins 75 years ago Thursday: March 17, 1930, at the groundbreaking of what would be New York's grandest skyscraper, the Empire State Building.The tone is set on the first page.| Read Full Review of Empire Rising: A Novel
The lead character is the Empire .Feb 16 2005 | Read Full Review of Empire Rising: A Novel
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