cover image Westies


T. J. English. Putnam Publishing Group, $21.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13540-8

Hell's Kitchen, a section of Manhattan west of Eighth Avenue between 34th and 59th Streets infamous for poverty and gang-related crime which dates back to the 19th century, was taken over in the late 1960s by the ``Westies'' mob. The name--used by the press and the police, not by the mobsters themselves--designated a group of ruthless and vicious hoodlums, led by Jimmy Coonan and Francis (Mickey) Featherstone, who cut up the bodies of victims to dispose of them more readily. Once in power, Coonan caused considerable grumbling in the mostly Irish gang when he allied his men with the Gambino crime family. Next, Coonan arranged to have rival Featherstone charged with a murder; found guilty, he became a witness against the Westies, joined by other gang turncoats. In early 1988 Coonan and several of his henchmen were convicted of assorted crimes and imprisoned. English, who covered the trial for the Irish Voice , ably traces the Westies' rise and fall. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (Mar.)