The Big Crowd (Hardcover)
Based on one of the great unsolved murders in mob history, and the rise-and-fall of a real-life hero, The Big Crowd tells the sweeping story of Charlie O’Kane. He is the American dream come to life, a poor Irish immigrant who worked his way up from beat cop to mayor of New York at the city’s dazzling, post-war zenith. Famous, powerful, and married to a glamorous fashion model, he is looked up to by millions, including his younger brother, Tom. So when Charlie is accused of abetting a shocking mob murder, Tom sets out to clear his brother’s name while hiding a secret of his own.
The charges against Charlie stem from his days as a crusading Brooklyn DA, when he sent the notorious killers of Murder, Inc., to the chair—only to let a vital witness go flying out a window while under police guard. Now, out of office, Charlie lives in a shoddy, Mexico City tourist hotel, eaten up with regrets and afraid he will be indicted for murder if he returns to the U.S. To uncover what really happened, Tom must confront stunning truths about his brother, himself, and the secret workings of the great city he loves.
Moving from the Brooklyn waterfront to city hall, from the battlefields of World War II to the beaches of Acapulco, to the glamorous nightclubs of postwar New York, The Big Crowd is filled with historical powerbrokers and gangsters, celebrities and socialites, scheming cardinals and battling, dockside priests. But ultimately it is a brilliantly imagined, distinctly American story of the bonds and betrayals of brotherhood.
About the Author
“[A] rewarding new novel…Baker’s writing is strong – energetic, precise and especially notable for a parade of wonderful metaphors and similes…The novel succeeds in creating a compelling imagined world…Best of all, the novel delivers on what the title promises, a detailed rendering of the relationships within that era’s power cabal. ‘A city like New York,’ Charlie tells Tom, ‘it’s got to have great men – not good men – to run it…We’re held together against the chaos by the grip of a few strong men, that’s all.’ Baker offers a vast array of secondary characters – cops and thugs, politicians, bureaucrats, clergymen, bosses and hangers-on – who grow increasingly vivid as they appear and reappear in the gradual recounting of various incidents, like the murder of Peter Panto, an upstart organizer on the docks. Actual historical figures, including Robert Moses and Cardinal Spellman, are served up unsparingly. I’ve read few other novels that portray in such a nuanced way the temptations of power, the complex division of control in a great metropolis and the perils of political deal-making in that environment. Baker doesn’t like the Big Crowd any more than Tom O’Kane does, but, fortunately for us, he understands its workings very well.” -- The New York Times
"Baker (Dreamland, Paradise Alley, Strivers Row) takes another juicy bite out of the Big Apple, demonstrating once again that nobody does old New York—in all its glamour and its grit—better." —Booklist