Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Staff Review by Anne Conable:
This massive novel is a good addition to the growing collection of well-researched historical fiction exposing another facet of Buffalo’s rich base of stories. Illuminating the stories of some of his ancestors, Richard Sullivan has painted a vibrant portrait of the Sullivan family, beginning with the arrival of Mary McGrady and John Sullivan from Ireland in 1850, and the hardscrabble First Ward of Buffalo where generations of Sullivans and many others struggled to make their way in 19th C. America.
The book covers nearly fifty years of Buffalo as Boom Town, rise of its industrial dominance and the related rise to power of larger-than-life characters that controlled hundreds of workers, their livelihoods, living conditions, and families while amassing great fortunes and corrupting politicians, Police and city government. (Murder for one’s own ends was not out of the question.)
Along the way, the Sullivans cross paths with short-time resident and newspaper publisher Mark Twain, the newly-elected and later greatly mourned President Lincoln, and especially childhood neighbor Fingy Conners, colorful saloon boss whose ironfisted control of Buffalo’s docks would influence all Great Lakes shipping for a time.
This is an interesting read for those of us that enjoy fiction based on historical research, though it is “dense” — at times I lost track of the multiple storylines going on amongst the numerous characters and had to retrace my steps. The places, people, incidents and conversations are rendered in a lot of detail, which brings the legendary neighborhood and its denizens to vivid life.
Sullivan has followed this up with a Volume 2 entitled The First Ward II: Fingy Conners and the New Century, also available at the Library.
If you’re interested in this book, there is a library in your neighborhood where you can find it. Your public library is a source of immediate gratification. Take a walk to your local branch and discover a vital resource that is there for the taking. Whether it’s current events, a visit to our downtown cafe called Fables, something for the kids, or even booking a librarian, we’re not just books anymore! Your free Buffalo & Erie County Public Library card is your ticket to millions of free resources – e-books, downloadable music, research databases, genealogical materials, our complete catalog, and of course, more than 3 million book titles. All of this is at your fingertips at any Library in Erie County or from your own computer – check us out at www.buffalolib.org.