Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Jun 30, 2013

Kensington Author Writes About Irish Mob


Title:  Mercy Row
Author:  Harry Hallman 
Book type:  First novel - Ebook and Paperback
Price:  $3.99 Ebook / $9.45 Paperback
No. of Pages:  175
Published by Octane Interactive, LLC - Publishing
Copyright © 2013 Harry Hallman

While Center City story writers sip their latte’s and pen narratives about yuppie life, a new breed of writer is emerging from the tougher side of Philadelphia, putting the swagger and spit in story-telling.  One of this new breed is author Harry Hallman, who was born in the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington in 1944, when it was still predominantly Irish.  As a kid, Hallman worked in his father’s pool hall, Circle Billiards, which was located at Allegheny Avenue and Lee Street.   The pool room was frequented by a number of shady characters and that experience influenced Hallman to write Mercy Row, a novel about organized crime in North Philadelphia.

Mercy Row is a fictional account of the K & A gang, otherwise known as the Northeast Philly mob.  The real K & A gang had its start following WWII, but in an interesting twist Hallman writes his characters into the 1920’s and 30’s and from the get-go the reader is transported to Kensington during the lawlessness of Prohibition days.  

The story opens with 17-year-old Jacob Byrne running through the streets of 1920’s Kensington as he is doggedly pursued by a police officer.  The teenage son of a wealthy construction magnate who built row homes in the Irish neighborhood loses consciousness after being hit over the head by the officer’s billy club.  Jacob wakes up in a filthy jail cell, getting smacked around by another prisoner as he lays helpless on the floor.  What follows is sure to make your muscles tense up and you may find yourself with sweaty palms while reading this action packed, fast-moving mob story.

When Jacob comes of age, he teams up with Franklin Garrett (his father’s employee whom he met in prison) with the purpose of forming an Irish mob, with Jacob at the helm.  Set in an era when ethnic Americans were referred to as “micks,” “pollacks” and “wops,” Mercy Row is rife with graphic language and blood-on-the-sidewalk scenes as Jacob and Franklin have turf wars with the Italian mob assisted by their loyal henchmen.

The women in Jacob’s life are Molly, his love interest and Mrs. Reilly, his housekeeper.  They provide a stable family life for Jacob.  Unfortunately, the women in Mercy Row spend most of their time making sandwiches for the men, praying for Jacob’s safety during the mob wars and little else.  While housekeepers like Mrs. Reilly are often side characters in a story line, there is so much potential here to develop Molly’s character by revealing more about her past or expanding her role somehow within the story line.  The one-dimensional character of Molly is so passive and angelic that as a woman reading it I could not wait to get back to the drive-by shootings and blood splattering on the sidewalk.   

Author Harry Hallman
Fortunately, there are far more henchmen with tommie guns than there are angelic women in this tale of organized crime in North Philly and, overall, reading it is a great escape from the drudgery of day-to-day modern life.  There’s no artsy fartsy stuff here, just broken teeth and body bags. If you are tough enough to take it, you will find Mercy Row is an enjoyable read.  Aside from some wayward typos, the book is otherwise very well written and edited. 

You can purchase Mercy Row as an Ebook through or in paperback at  To listen to Hallman's interview with radio host Sage Adderly go to Blog Talk Radio.  Visit his website at   You can also connect with him on Facebook.


  1. Rosemary:
    Thank you for reviewing my book. In the '20s and '30s women in the area of Kensington (maybe the whole country) were, unfortunately, more valued for their ability to cook and have children then for their intelligence. I felt like I had to stay true the era and area's way of life in this book.

    This is interesting because I love stories with women who have strong personalities and are tough to boot. But, as I said, I just felt it needed to be true. No insult intended.

    When Mercy Row - Clann comes out (hopefully by year's end, I think you will be happier about the roles women play in the book. This one takes place during WW2, a time; American women were able to show the World you just don't screw with them. Mercy is a young woman, Molly is middle aged and Rose is elderly. I think you will be surprised how tough they can be.

    Thanks again.
    Harry Hallman

  2. Really, Mr. Hallman? You feel the need to apologize for accurately describing the role of women in the 20's and 30's? Grow a pair, pal.


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