Mercy Row is a novel set in 1920’s and 1930’s Philadelphia. It’s the story of the rise of a North Philadelphia crime family who was also responsible for building the homes and factories that make up this blue collar area of the city. Despite the violent trials and tribulations caused by rival gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago Jacob Byrne and Franklin Garrett, with the help of the Irish immigrants that settled the Kensington area, build a formidable Irish mob.
This legal and criminal enterprise kept North Philadelphia free from the Mafia for two generations. Jacob’s and Franklin’s organization was built on the blood of those who opposed them, the sweat of the laborers who built North Philly and the tears of the wives and mothers whose loved ones were lost in the struggle.
Hallman was born in 1944 and raised in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia. His father was Harry Hallman Sr., a champion billiards player who also owned a poolroom located at Allegany Ave. and Lee Street, called Circle Billiards. In his youth, the younger Hallman spent many hours after school at his father’s pool hall. These youthful experiences laid the groundwork for his novel Mercy Row, including the colorful language used in the text.
He served four years in the US Air force including two tours in South Vietnam as a photographer. He is married to Duoc Hallman, who he met in Vietnam, and has two children, Bill and Nancy and one grandchild Ava.
Hallman is a serial entrepreneur who has created several marketing services companies and continues to work as a marketing consultant.
“My favorite possession, from my childhood, is a baby book my sister gave my mother (Florence) when I was born. There’s a passage in this book, written by my mother in 1991 when I was 47, that seems to sum up what I have endeavored to be all my life. It reads:
– Bud (my childhood name) grew up to be a great boy and man. Gruff, but a heart as big as could be.-
This is what a man from the Kensington section of Philadelphia is.”
Hallman wrote this book, in 2012, when he was 68 years old. This is his first novel.
Social Media Links:
Web site www.mercyrow.com
Goodreads.com Book page is https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17563290-mercy-row
Admittedly I wasnt that fond of this book upon completion but that is not to say that it did not have its redeeming features. For me, as a first novel it didnt live up to the standard of many other debuts I have read. First lets get the bad news out of the way from this readers point of view. I didnt feel that the story flowed that well and even allowing for the subject matter I felt that the bad language was way overdone – and bad language in novels generally does not bother me one iota, however here it did feel rather gratuitious. That kind of thing is always in the eyes of the beholder however, and the next reader along from me may disagree! I also felt that the characterisation was rather static – not fleshed out enough if you will and I didnt really relate to any one therefore for me it fell a bit flat.
However, having said the above I would also say the author definitely has something. The story was there – no doubt about that. Also Mr Hallmans sense of place was very well done – I may not have related to the characters so much, but for me the biggest character was Philadelphia. The nuances of the period of time were also quite clever – again I would say not QUITE there but still nicely done. If you are interested in stories from this time period and you like a good “crime family” story I would certainly say give this one a go…all readers are different and it may not have been for me but thats not to say the next person would not get great enjoyment out of this.
To finish I would like to say – this book has not put me off reading further offerings from Mr Hallman because I think that he could write a GREAT novel. This one, for me, just wasnt it.