Saturday, October 27, 2007
Brendan Delap's Mad Dog Coll: an Irish Gangster begins with an examination of Coll's Irish roots and asks the question of what would have happened to Coll had they never left Ireland. Hmmm...well probably Coll would have been an unknown Irish thug with a shorter career and a longer stretch in the pen if he didn't make it too the gallows sooner. Really.
Delap reveals that Coll had been diagnosed with schizophrenia which goes a long way in explaining his explosive temper and his odd habit of laughing during his mug shots. It also explains how he could have no remorse for the life he led. Most of the criminals I read about don't have such a great excuse or maybe they do (who knows). Anyway, the book is a little long probably because it does spend so much time on Coll's early life. Coll really doesn't become interesting until later in his life when he breaks from Schultz and takes on Schultz, Madden, and the other big sharks. Coll's early life is incredibly similar to Legs Diamond's which may explain why their abbreviated partnership came about. The book picks up momentum when it begins discussing Coll's flirtation with death in the form of taking on Owney Madden while carrying on a war with Dutch Schultz. Coll had more guts than brains which is the primary reason his candle was snuffed in a hotel phone booth at 24.