- Makes a great Christmas Gift!
Did you or someone you know grow up or live in Philly? If so, I know you’re going to love my Mercy Row series of novels. And, they make a great Christmas gift for someone on your list.
The story takes place in North Philadelphia and begins in the 1920-30s (Book one Mercy Row). It’s the story of an Irish crime family that is both vicious and vengeful, as well as being highly motivated to help the community. While building the familiar Philly red brick row homes the family creates and protects its numinous criminal enterprises.
The series (three books, Mercy Row, Mercy Row Clann and Mercy Row Retribution) covers a time period from 1920 to 1975. The novels are action packed, as a mob story should be, and offer numerous Philadelphia references that will jog your memories.
Here’s what some of your fellow Philadelphians say about the series:
“Mami: Being a Philadelphian, I loved the setting of this story. The characters were fascinating, drawing you quickly into the story. It was so good. I’m starting Book 2 now”
“Daria: The first book which I read in one day was excellent and it kept my interest. Thanks for a good read. I liked the affiliation of the Irish and Italians when they banded together. The deaths seemed so real. I am starting number 2 tonight.”
“Margaret: Got them for my husband … who is not a reader by a long shot! He read them all and thoroughly enjoyed that! He grew up on Ontario Street. I shared your post!”
“Kathleen: Just finished all 3 loved them sorry when they ended.”
“Mickey: Just finished book 3! Great Stuff ! Looks like opening 4 book 4 ?”
“Mike: Mercy Row Retribution was the best of the three. It captured my imagination and kept me turning pages. It’s not often that I find a novel that keeps my interest high let alone a whole trilogy. You should read them all. The historical context seemed to be taking pages from my own life. The vivid descriptions made you feel like you were sitting on a chair in the corner of the room. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire Mercy Row series…..well done!”
Buy at www.amazon.com/author/harryhallman
Available in eBook, Paperback and Audio.
18 Year Old REAL Hero
All the negative talk coming from a certain politician about Gold Star families and prisoners of war being losers pisses me off. So I want to relate the story of an 18 year old guy from Philly who took up the call to duty while this certain politician wrangled deferment after deferment.
Recently I was able to visit my home town of Philadelphia and saw lots of family and had a great time. I also had an opportunity to visit with a fellow I haven’t seen in over 20 years. He is the husband of one of my wife’s friend. We always got along, but on this trip we created a special bond, or at least I did. I won’t give his name because I don’t think he would want that. So let’s just call him Sarge.
Sarge never spoke about his military service. I knew he retired from the Army and then spent some years in the Air Force, but other than that I knew nothing. He always remained a quite hero.
When Sarge was 18 he volunteered for the US Army. As I was to learn he became a Green Beret, Ranger and a Paratrooper. He had two terms in Vietnam in the early 70s during some of the fiercest fighting of the War. He was awarded the Silver Star for Valor, the Bronze Star for Valor, several other medals for valor and the Purple Heart. I posted a pic of the medals Sarge accumulated during his military service. They are not all shown in the photo, especially the Silver Star and he would not talk about how he won that medal.
After Vietnam he was sent to South America performing duties for the war against drugs and then he headed up efforts to house and then integrated Cuban refugees into US society. He had 9 MOS’s (jobs) in service including being a Military Police Officer.
When he came home from Vietnam he was called a baby killer, murderer and had no thanks for his service other than the medals he received. He had to leave the service because of illness which turned out to be the effect of Agent Orange. It took years for the Government to admit this, but they finally did. He faced hardship as a civilian, but was able to put three sons through college, one becoming a military officer, one a Doctor and a Lawyer. As he aged he started to suffer from the affects of PSTD, often having nightmares from his combat days.
He doesn’t bitch about it. He copes and moves on with his life. When I told him I was never in combat being an Air Force photo tech, he told me “we all had our jobs to do.”
There are a couple of lessons here. One is you never know what horrors people have experienced unless you take the time to interact with them. The second lesson is you should not keep quite when buffoons belittle the sacrifices of our military men and women and their families. This includes police officers, firemen and EMTs.
Are you from or lived in Philly?
If so you are going to really like my Mercy Row series of novels. There are three books: Mercy Row, Mercy Row Clann and Mercy Row Retribution. It’s the author’s homage to Philly told in an exciting action packed Philly way.
The story takes place in North Philadelphia and starts in the 1920-30s (Book One Mercy Row). It’s the story of an Irish crime family who are both vicious and vengeful, as well as being highly motivated to help the community. While building the familiar Philly red brick row homes the family creates and protects its numinous criminal enterprises.
Book 2 Mercy Row Clann continues the story during World War 2 when the family must fight the Germans and Japanese and also other mobsters in order to preserve their way of life. The children of the Boss find themselves fighting not only in the streets of Philadelphia but also in Africa, Europe and the South Pacific.
Book 3 Mercy Row Retribution starts in 1968 when the grandson of the founder of the crime family fights in Vietnam and at the same time finds ways to smuggle marijuana to enhance the family’s criminal ways. This sets up a dispute with the French mafia which has the family fighting in the streets of Paris. The book has a bonus section of short true stories from when the author was growing up in North Philly.
The dichotomy of good and evil makes for an exciting yet heartwarming read. The author grew up in the neighborhood he writes about and you will find many familiar descriptions of places, things and people.
Available in eBook, Print and Audio on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2…
The Years of Privilege
Growing up in inner city Philly my friends and I enjoyed many benefits. You might even say we were privileged. We never had to cut the grass because we had none. We never had to rake leaves because we had no trees. We could make a buck by taking orders at the local A&P or collecting glass bottles and returning them for a few cents each. In the winter we could shovel snow for 25 or 50 cents. This saved our parents from having to give us large allowances.
The biggest privilege was when school ended in June and we didn’t go back until the day after Labor Day. We lived in a summer wonderland finding joy in tossing our worn out gym sneakers up on the electric wires. While some kids had to have their dad’s pay to go to expensive vacations, we had a fantastic fire hydrant close by and we didn’t have to travel. It provided hours of watery fun. For a couple of years the local garage filled a car pit with water and would let kids jump in. So privileged.
Some of the kids that lived on the Main Line or similar places had to pay to go to a gym where they worked out and then got a steam bath. Our gym was the street and our steam bath was our bedroom that remained 90 degrees all night sucking up the heat reflected from the red bricks, asphalt and concrete. It was FREE.
We never had to worry about being stung by bees, bit by snakes or attacked by angry deer. There were none of these things. We just had to learn to live with roaches and the occasional rat, both of which were much smaller than us.
This is neat. We could lift up the phone and listen to our party line partner’s conversations. Those other kids from the suburbs didn’t have that kind of fun.
Tell me how many kids had this kind of privilege? If we ran low of glass bottles to turn in but still need a few pennies for candy we would go to the bank. Outside of the bank was a large iron grate. Sometimes people would drop coins down the grated hole. We would come along with a long piece of wood with chewing gum attached to one end and extract those pennies. Once it was a nickel. I feel sorry for those millionaire kids who did not have that kind of fun.
When we got our driver’s license our parents gave us the privilege of saving our own money until we could afford a car. You would be surprised what $50 or $200 could by. We had the privilege of learning to fix certain things on the car like adding oil or break fluid every day or replacing fan belts. Just to make it easy on us we had a ready supply of batteries, tires and even gasoline parked on all the streets in the neighborhood.
After we graduated high school we had the privilege of getting a job. If we were lucky it would be in a field we could make a career out of such as tool and die working, electrician or plumber. If not there were plenty of factories around that were willing to pay 75 cents or a dollar an hour. Once we had a job our parents gave us the privilege of paying our own way. The going rate was $15 a week for room and board.
Yes those were the years of privilege and while I would not turn in my Smartphone to go back there, I wouldn’t mind a short visit or two.
Next month, June 18th to be exacted, is the 51st anniversary of the first B52 aircraft bombing of Vietnam. A Squadron of B52’s took off from Anderson Air Force base in Guam and headed for the Ben Cat District of South Vietnam not far from Saigon (now Ho Chi Mihn City). Each of the 30 B52’s carried 24, 750 pound bombs.
I was a month or so into my second tour at Ton Son Knut Airbase in Saigon. We pretty much worked everyday a minimum of 8 hours. On my second tour I processed film and photos taken by Tactical Air Command planes, and there was a lot of it. I had to operate 8 film processors and there were two rooms the same as the one I manned. I calculated that during that second year I processed about 5 million feet of film and prints. That was just me on my one shift in one room. We ran 24 hours a day.
Anyway, on the morning of June 18 1965, while I was processing my film I heard a low rumble that quickly got louder and louder. I know almost immediately what was causing the rumble. Prior to going to Vietnam I had worked at a Strategic Air Command base (March Airbase, CA) for two years. I had heard that rumble many times before. It was the distinct sound of a squadron of B52s.
I ran over to my co-workers processing room and asked if he heard the noise. I told him what it was and he said, “Oh Crap (I am using a cleaner word here) The VC are in for it now.” I agreed. I had seen photos of test bombings back in the states and it was devastating.
We had no Idea where they were going. We just knew wherever it was the landscape was about to change. A day or so later we saw the results. The jungle has trees that can grow as high as 150 feet and an average of 100 feet. When we saw the film our planes brought back we were even more surprised. The craters were enormous with trees collapsed all around on in them. The trees were only half the diameter of the craters. We guessed the craters then were at least 200 feet wide, and there were a lot of them
As I remember they flew in a wedge formation. So imagine being on the ground while each plane dropped there twenty-four 750 pound bombs.
As for the Vietnamese Communists they had left the area before the bombers got there. So the Tigers, Monkeys, Snakes and such were the ones that suffered. Some people said they were warned by people in the South Vietnamese Army. I had heard that there was a Russian fishing boat stations off of Guam and whenever the B52 took off they radioed the Communists and they just hightailed it.
My first tour in Vietnam was with the Strategic Air Command. Our job was to process film from U@ Spy Planes that flew over North Vietnam and Sothern China. We also processed film from unmanned drones. I didn’t know it then, but the B52 was later modifies to carry two drones.
See the pictures.
Remember what George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This memorial day we please remember the two B52 crews who lost their lives that day when they collided.
Religion! What Religion? It’s complicated.
I have a spot in my office where I display a few items from my youth. I have a statue of Buddha that was blessed by a monk and a set of Catholic rosary beads that belonged to my mother. There is also a baby book my mother kept about me that says I was Christened at St. Simon Episcopal Church on August 20, 1944. I also have a “chop” with my name in Chinese that I bought in China and there is a New Testament I was given on April 12 195…3 when I would have been nine years old.
That book is now 63 years old. The inscription on the inside says “Harry Hallman accepted Christ in his heart on this day- April 12th 1953.” In the back of the book there are various prayers and something I wasn’t expecting: The lyrics to the National Anthem, America the Beautiful and My Country “Tis Thee. I also have my Vietnam Campaign Medal and an Air Force Commendation medal in that display.
I really had not thought about it much but that little display is a snapshot not only of my life, but also my religious activity and early beliefs. I was baptized Episcopalian, but I never remember going to that denomination church. I got that New Testament from going to Sunday school at some protestant church nearby. Not sure the denomination, but I remember the teacher. She was a very nice lady and she gave out candy as a reward for learning the bible. That was enough incentive for me to read the bible so I could answer the questions.
When I was about 12 I took catechism lessons and became Roman Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed. All my friends were Catholic so I wanted to fit in. It was cool and I liked the traditions. When I joined the Air Force my dog tags said I was Catholic. By the time I was one year into my almost two years in Vietnam I was starting to like the Buddhist philosophy. It was based on the same principles as Christianity for the most part. My wife gave me the Buddha I have in my display.
If you asked me now what my spiritual beliefs are I would have to say they are a combination of science, and some of the doctrines I learned from Sunday school, catechism lessons, and what I have read about Eastern religions. I would say it is very complicated. Way too complicated to discuss in a post.
I have received blessings from Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims as well as well wishes from Atheists and Agnostics in my life time. While they may not have reflected my overall belief system I received them happily. I accept all people’s beliefs as long as those beliefs are not to harm, but rather to help. I guess you might say I am a Tolerant, and that is something the world and our country needs right now.
I’m dancing on air over this review for Mercy Row Retribution I just received from Bradley Knox of Hogwash Thirteen Blog. Well as much as an elderly overweight man can dance.
“In this third in the Mercy Row Trilogy, Harry Hallman has really hit his stride as a world class writer!
This book follows the legacy of a north Philadelphia crime family into the 60s, specifically Gerry’s exploits during a tour as a pilot in Vietnam, and his impact back home in his Philadelphia
neighborhood. Mr. Hallman’s vivid and descriptive prose keeps you burning through the pages of this book, and his ability to tell a tale is beyond compare! Action packed, epic, and a number of surprises. I believe that this third book is his strongest yet, and I am anxiously awaiting the next! Very much worth the time it took to get this one, Harry! Knocked it out of the park. Highly recommended!”
Interview with Harry Hallman Author of Mercy Row Retribution
Another great review of my newest novel Mercy Row Retribution by the blog Book Are Love. Take a look:
https://hello-booklover.tumblr.com/ scroll down to see review.
“This is a enthralling look at the dichotomy of a family of crime-their feelings, emotions, beliefs and their look at right and wrong and where they draw the line, and actions. A fast paced book where we see crime plus humanity done by the men and women in this book.
We begin with looking at a reckless but caring pilot named Gerry Amota in the Vietnam war. While there we see a dichotomy in his actions and feelings- he helps orphans and visits them even loving them, he helps a cab driver and yet finds a way to make money in the racquet of selling marijuana. This becomes a family venture-mom launders the money with her charitable foundation of Mercy Row. So we have a crime family with a charitable foundation and members of this family showing us their softer side via running orphanages, feeling the homeless etc.-giving us the dichotomy on their emotions as well as their motives and behavior.
Make no mistake though this book shows both sides of the coin for these men-the violence and goodness. Showing where they draw the line and blur it. What they find to be right and wrong and their justification. You get a addictive look at the good, the bad and the ugly of these men and how they feel and motives. A truly fascinating book looking at the dichotomies of this crime family and their ways.”