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Empire Rising: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Kelly
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $7.59
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 sacred. Kelly, who created first-rate working-class heroes in Payback and The Rackets, takes a fascinating look at how New York City was run at the end of the Jazz Age—by bribe, kickback and political machination. The characters are tough and vengeful: Michael Briody, steelworker, WWI vet, IRA gunman; Johnny Farrell, a "narrowback" lawyer who functions as the mayor's bagman; Grace Masterson, a beautiful painter who lives on a houseboat on the East River, holds dark secrets and counts both Briody and Farrell as lovers; and Egan, the governor's dour henchman. Historical figures of the time round out the cast: FDR, the governor of New York, making sure that nothing will hinder him on the way to the White House; Mayor James J. (Jimmy) Walker, a dapper rogue and master practitioner of "honest graft"; Judge Joseph Force Crater, stooge of Tammany, destined to be eclipsed in a legendary way; and Al Smith, the "Happy Warrior," a political has-been now in charge of the construction of the world's tallest building. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"The Empire State Building will dominate the Manhattan skyline," all New Yorkers realize in 1930 as construction proceeds, but then, too, "nothing gets built in Gotham without a kickback." Thus is the basic premise of this, to borrow construction language, riveting novel evoking in authentic detail the underside of New York City politics during the era of Mayor Jimmy Walker. Kelly's story is basically the tale of a love triangle between Johnny Farrell, an important aide to the mayor; Johnny's artist girlfriend, Grace Masterson; and construction worker and part-time boxer Michael Briody. Each of these characters represents, without the flatness of type, a significant element of the fabric of New York City as the Empire State Building rises ethereally above the street-level realities of hard economic times and how big-city government works. Kelly successfully melds actual historical figures and fictional ones, but in the end, it is New York City itself that emerges as the central character here: a place that makes people the way they are. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 589 KB
  • Print Length: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (January 24, 2006)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008PE3YI8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,175 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Historical Novel And Thomas Kelly's Best August 10, 2007
As a chronicler of the dark, gritty underworld of New York City's working-class labor, Thomas Kelly has definitely become its poet laureate in his novel "Empire Rising", among the finest novels I have read of Depression-Era New York City (It actually deserves 4.5 stars from me and I wish had the option of bestowing an additional half star.). This is a dramatic, vivid, and richly-textured, no-holds-bar examination of New York City in 1931, as seen through the eyes of recent Irish immigrant Michael Briody, who works by day building the Empire State Building, and then, by night as both a boxer and an unrepentant soldier of the Irish Republican Army. In New York City he soon meets another, more worldly, recent Irish immigrant, Grace Masterson, and falls in love with her, even though he knows that she is the "concubine" of powerful Tammany Hall leader Johnny Farrell. This is indeed far from a romantic look of the Empire State Building's construction, since Kelly depicts his characters being immersed in a dark, often bloody, underworld of Tammany Hall political intrigue, Irish-run organized crime, and Irish Republican Army strife. Without question, "Empire Rising" is not only Kelly's best work of fiction, but also among the finest I have seen from the latest generation of Irish-American writers residing here in New York City.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Gotta Be Tough January 18, 2006
This is not the type of book I have a reputation for reading. It's a hard-core, bare-knuckles, get-to-the-top kind of fictional tale, set in Depression-era New York City, and it features among its fine cast of characters a number of real life personas, including future President Franklin Roosevelt, and New York's irrepressible "born for office" governor, Al Smith.

Empire Rising tells the story of New York City at all levels of society during this tough time, and uses the construction of the Empire State Building as a backdrop and metaphor. As Kelly pulls no punches in stating, it is the Irish, those first, second, and third generation rough-souled immigrants who make New York City function. Not only is it the Irish who run the city at both the street level and into the halls of power, but it is Irish working men who provide the backbone of the labor force that is building New York's most prized showpiece, the Empire State Building. (Think it's a coincidence that construction on the project began on Saint Patrick's Day?)

The character of Michael Briody, who has gone from a terrorist group's hitman to a soul in love with the dream that is the skyscraper he's struggling to see completed, is Kelly's best figure in this novel. He seems a very realistic individual, leagues removed from the stick-figure stereotypes so many other authors would have employed here in this sort of situation.

I enjoyed this novel, even if it was definitely at times a little cold and lacking in human kindness. I think it shines light onto what is both a forgotten and mysterious period in American history, and it also gives a reader an excellent plot that never slows or grows tiresome, and which reaches masterful heights in its climactic moments.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has anybody here read Kelly........................ June 24, 2005
Holy Moly, this guy keeps getting better with every book. I'm a dyed in the wool Steinbeck, London,O'Hara reader, but I think Kelly is starting to slap those boys back a bit. My pantheon is reshuffling. As soon as my eyes hit the first page, I was sucked into this tremendous story. If you are a Real New Yorker, this is the baby to take a gander at.

Keep up the writing Mr. Kelly.

Jose` de Toluca
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The raise and fall of the empire June 10, 2005
Kelly has written an amazing book that enmeshes the reader in 1930s New York and through the eyes of a number of very different characters, he describes the changes that are taking place. The main narrative voices, Michael Briody and Grace Masterson, are both fairly recent Irish immigrants to America, though they have each come to this place in their own ways and have very different feelings towards their homeland.

In addition to giving us such a vivid picture of the human experience within the immigrant enclaves in the city, Kelly also highlights the changing nature of the power structure of New York. Tammany Hall and the Irish are losing much of their power and the Italians are on the ascent. At the same time, the Depression is closing in and the beer wars and killings perpetuated by Prohibition are becoming too much for even the skillful spin of Johnny Farrell. Kelly even gives voice to FDR and his hopeful rise to the Presidency.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, not only for the vivid images Kelly creates, but also because he asks the reader to reevaluate what he/she thinks about certain things. Is the Tammany Hall machine all bad? Was it right to bring the struggle for Irish independence to America? And what role did Prohibition and corporate greed have in the Depression? And what is the difference between the corporate greed and the machine's graft?

I am hoping that Kelly is planning a sequel of some type because at the end I was left feeling a little jilted, as if he had decided he just couldn't handle the characters anymore. Regardless, this makes for excellent beach or train reading!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read book
I had to read this for college class but truly fell for the novel. It is beautifully written and captures the readers imagination. It is a book I have recommended many times. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jess
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Mr Kelly is a great story teller. Reminds me of Dashiell Hammett and early Harold Robbins (Stone for Danny Fisher). Read more
Published 11 months ago by lou reda
2.0 out of 5 stars Eh kind of a chore
It took me awhile to get through this. Just never grabbed me. The premise was great but the story was just not there to keep you engaged. Read more
Published 12 months ago by MFlavin
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one will stay with you.
Vivid detail alone makes this a worthwhile read. Strong charcters and plotting that relect the frailties and strengths of our nature are the bonus.
Published 16 months ago by tom b
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but overambitious thriller
This novel is set in New York in the Depression era and centers on the construction of the Empire State Building which symbolizes the strength and vitality of America. Read more
Published 21 months ago by John Fitzpatrick
3.0 out of 5 stars Good solid mid-list book
** I received this as a gift **

Solid mid-list book about the raising of the Empire State Building. Moves at a nice pace.
Published 23 months ago by Stephen Matlock
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and exciting
An engaging, exciting story about loyalty and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the changing political winds of depression-era New York. Loved it!
Published on August 18, 2011 by Stuff
4.0 out of 5 stars Lofty reading!
A friend sent an email extolling this book, and I had to read it based on her review. The author is first-class, and I enjoyed the way the story unfolded - plus it is a revealing... Read more
Published on June 14, 2010 by Priscilla Horn
5.0 out of 5 stars Something for Everyone
I won't go into detail about the storyline of this book because that's been done to great lengths by the reviewers before me, but I will say that this story contains something of... Read more
Published on December 17, 2009 by D. Gibson
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
I don't like to read. It is difficult for me to find a book that holds my attention and this one did and was fantastic.
Published on September 20, 2009 by Kmjs
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