Richard E. Crabbe
Dunne, Jun 2008, $24.95
Smuggling is big business in 1904 New York City and whoever controls the Hudson and East Rivers is able to get goods including drugs, guns and other illegal contraband into the city. Detective Mike Braddock is on the river in a boat after a tip concerning the Hooker gang who are planning to rob a ship. When the police make their move, a blood bath occurs with both sides having fatalities and injuries.
Mike wants to know who was behind the robbery and he forces it out of one of captured criminals who claims “Bottler” put the plan together. The Bottler is not the top gun but directs the crime that the boss set up. Mike goes underground to obtain information, but is made. He ends up in the middle of a gang war and the two sides see him as collateral damage if he gets in either of their ways. Mike and the woman he loves Ginny get caught on a trip on the General Slocum and barely free themselves just before the greatest disaster in twentieth century New York City occurs.
Readers who like details of the era that they are visiting will enjoy HELL’S GATE, a descriptive tale of life in the Big Apple circa 1904. Richard E. Crabbe focuses on the culture of corruption in Tammany hall as leaders and cops report to the crime kingpins. Mike believes in fairness and justice so he vows to clean up his city; in many ways Ginny is more fascinating as a former whore trying to become respectable so she can proudly walk with her Mike. Although the tale sadly never explores the psychological and emotional aftermath of the Slocum tragedy on survivors nor indirectly compare it to 9/11, historical readers will enjoy this offbeat crime thriller.