Mike HcHugh, a long-time Chicago native, recently penned a book recounting his father’s stories. The elder McHugh, a building inspector and man about town, was “connected.” He knew police and crooks, mobsters and molls, union officials and politicos. He had all manner of yarns to spin to Mike, his brother Jerry, and I’m sure many others. The resulting volume, Chicago Westside Irish, reads like an adult story hour, best told at a bar and not your local library. McHugh’s approach is non-judgmental; it is simple reporting.
The book’s tone is conversational. Without sources or context, it is relatively easy to get lost amid the exploits, the names and the nicknames. On the other hand, with some selective web searching, it’s easy to put the pieces together. From what I’ve researched, McHugh’s stories are based in fact – no matter how fantastic they might read.
There were bootleggers in the family. Famed criminals, like Al Capone, move in and out of the tales, with a drink here, a funeral there. It’s a telling reminder of just how small a town the enormous city of Chicago can be.
Chicago Westside Irish is also a reminder of Chicago’s rich history – especially when it comes to crime, politics and criminal justice. Just as today, there were significant problems in the 1920s and 1930s, too. Chicago, for some, can very much be the wild, wild west.