Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The First Ward: Mark Twain, Fingy Conners & The Sullivan Brothers
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Customer Reviews

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on November 3, 2011
Great reading for anyone interested in Irish migration, Buffalo history, Urban Sociology, union organizing or who have connections to the Irish First Ward or South Buffalo. The author Richard Sullivan tracks his Irish roots from Ireland through NYC to Buffalo's Irish First Ward covering 1850 to 1899. Based on family stories, newspaper clippings, library materials and archives, Sullivan integrates his family's experiences living, surviving and advancing in an Irish neighborhood of high poverty, high crime, unhealthy and unsafe living conditions. The story covers family loyalties in an environment of political corruption, exploitation of Irish laborers (e.g., scoopers, dock workers) by the Irish Doc boss and bar owner. It documents the use of taverns to galvanize laborers for profit, exploitation and eventually union organizing. Sullivan's book provides an understanding of the need for and rise of unions during the early years of Irish migration and offers insight into how a community became economically and socially stratified.

My brother and I loved the book. It is about the exact streets where our grandparents lived and Mom and her siblings grew up. One of the people featured in Sullivan's book was her uncle, Mike Regan, Chief of Police. Like many people born in the First Ward, my Mom loved the First Ward. She didn't know they were poor, had great friends, was allowed to roam the neighborhood and the lumber yards. She ends a short story about growing up in the First Ward with "Turn back, Turn Back. Time in your flight. Give me yesterday just for to-night."
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on November 29, 2011
This amazing book is about the irish of the first ward of buffalo, new york,in paticular the sullivan family. I am a fan of family sagas& i rate this up there with alex hailey's "Roots".
this book is so well written,hysterically funny@times, it also captures the hopelessness &deep suffering that is gut wrentching. i was really sorry when i finished the book. i am hopeful that the next will be as compelling as this one.
kudos to rich sullivan for the masterpiece he has written!
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It is election year and while there are many candidates currently vying for the Republican position to run against President Obama, the stories that come leaping at us through the instant media and distillation of speeches, and debates, and roundtables and other means of bringing up personal aspects of the various candidates' political, religious and personal lives as fodder for the public to create their own images, all of that seems bland when compared to the type of writing contained in this brilliant historical novel THE FIRST WARD by Richard Sullivan. We may talk about corruption, immigration issues, and greed as being novel ingredients for current conversation, but take a look at the past - especially the way Richard Sullivan enables to survey it - and our current status may seem rather benign.

Sullivan has tackled the history that filled the first Ward of Buffalo, New York during the second half of the 19th century. It is a tale of immigration (primarily of the Irish genre) and the hopes of immigrants who braved the times of the Civil War in this country to settle in Buffalo. It is a tale of an instantly wealthy robber baron, Fingy Conners, who abused his power by enslaving the Irish immigrants to work in his multitudinous industries - the docks, the saloons, and in general the entire workforce of Buffalo. The author traces his connection to the Sullivans of Buffalo who struggled against Conners until the rise to political power of on John P. Sullivan. Populating this compelling story are such characters as Mark Twain (enough energy in this portion to fill a separate book) and Jim Sullivan and so many other characters who provide the windows to the submerged stories and secrets and lies of that most raucous of towns - Buffalo, NY. This is a raw tale of heros and villains, as only history better than fiction can reveal.

In many ways Richard Sullivan has given us a true account of just what the American Dream was - and still is: poverty and living in violent extremes can be overcome with the kind of sheer fortitude the Sullivans represent. The timing of this novel could not be better. As many of the once middle class citizens of this country see the disillusion of their own history dissolve into a nation of 'thems that have and thems that have not', this story can provide a sense of history and inspiration. And while that may not have been Sullivan's intent on writing this book, it can certainly serve to rev up the courage of many many people today. Highly recommended reading - for inspiration and for a plain old fashioned fascinating read. Grady Harp, January 12
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on September 20, 2011
I was fortunate to receive this book in "proof" style from the author. I was dubious as to whether I would enjoy the read or if it would be an academic struggle for me. Boy was I wrong!! Because Richard Sullivan is a descendant of the two Sullivan's in the novel, the story is filled with family history and perhaps some family folklore but I could not put it down. Anyone that enjoys real history, is an Irish descendant of Irish-Americans, or is just interested in early united States living will enjoy this novel.

While reading the novel, I had to remind myself that this was the United States not too long ago...all I can say is "we have come a long way" from those days of old, and quite frankly, I am glad to be living now.

Richard has infused this novel with love, humor, tragedy, and a number of other human elements making this novel, in my opinion, a MUST read.
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on September 5, 2011
What a pleasure to read! Before I was a quarter of the way through THE FIRST WARD, I was trying to slow down. I didn't want the book to end, yet I couldn't stop reading. Finally, all I could do was hope there would be a sequel. Thankfully, I discovered at book's end, there will be at least one.

I love to read, and historical novels are among my favorites, but I rank THE FIRST WARD in the top three of all books from ALL genres that I've read in the last five years. This book is fast paced yet has plenty of detail -- detail that enhances without drowning the characters or interfering with the flow of the story. The author has a definite knack for delineating each character and for story telling.

I never would have guessed Buffalo would provide such riveting stories and include such well known figures as
Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain. This book will figure heavily in my Christmas gift giving this year.
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on September 16, 2011
I enjoyed this historical fiction about politics in Buffalo in the late 1800's and how it affected the working class. It was presented through a family history that made it poignant and believable. The story line was engaging and exciting without exploiting the violence rampant in Buffalo streets in those days (much like Chicago and NYC). The facts seemed accurate to my knowledge, but I was hoping for references to help separate fact and fiction. There are many subjects for discussion concerning ethics, business, family relations, politics and religion. For those reasons the book has broad appeal, and those familiar with the Irish and/or Buffalo will especially enjoy it.
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on December 7, 2011
If you liked "Gangs of New York" and the Irish immigrant experience in America, this book has it all. Real historic characters, unbelievable living conditions, crooked politicians, and a complete set of characters that will make you want to read on and on. American history at its worst and best. It's a lengthy novel, fast paced, never boring. Great book, especially for the price. Well written. Would make a great movie. Looking forward to the sequel. There were a few type-o's throughout but does not distract because it's not often. This author deserves better publishing. I've read 50 novels in the last 6 months and this is the first book I felt compelled to write a review for because it was such a pleasant surprise.
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on March 6, 2012
There is not a lot for me to add on all the reviews already written.
This is just THE perfect book to get an insight look at how life was at that time. Everybody who somehow has a connection to Buffalo or has Irish ancestors will love this book. Richard Sullivan really nows how to keep the attention of the reader & you can feel the dynamic of that time. It never gets boring & I myself felt like I'm part of the story, just thrown back in time. What I liked as well is that it is more or less written in 'short stories', so if you have to stop reading - which you really don't want to but sometimes have to - you can quite easily pick up where you ended. The only difficulty I had - beeing a non-native speaker - was to read and understand the language of that time. But it worked out o.k. and I am looking forward to Volume 2 of the First Ward.
I can highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history & the family story behind it.
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on December 8, 2011
I am an avid, avid reader- at lease a book every few weeks for many years. This book is excellent. The research is amazing, details incredible, and the storyline entertaining. Generally, I share my used books with family and friends, not this time. I'm buying at least 3 for Christmas gifts along with the insistance that they will be blown away by it. Love it!!!!!!!!!
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on April 1, 2015
I don't recall how I came by this book. I thought it was historical fiction. Turns out its literary nonfiction, and pretty entertaining at that. The story of Buffalo during the last 60 years of the 18th century is fascinating. It's also long. I don't know how long it would be in print, but I daresay it would make a good doorstop. Warning: it ends on a cliffhanger, and there's a sequel.
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