Ledwidge, Michael 1971-
LEDWIDGE, Michael 1971-
PERSONAL: Born 1971; children: three. Education: Graduated from Manhattan College
ADDRESSES: Home—Kingsbridge, NY. Office—c/o Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Writer, 1999—. Also worked as a doorman and telephone repairperson.
The Narrowback, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Bad Connection, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2002.
ADAPTATIONS: George Clooney optioned Bad Connection for possible production as a feature film.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Another novel for Pocket Books.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael Ledwidge was a recent Manhattan College graduate working as a doorman to support his wife and baby when he began working on his first book, The Narrowback (1999). One of his former professors put him in contact with James Patterson, a fellow Manhattan College alumus and author. Ledwidge sent Patterson a section of The Narrowback, and Patterson helped him on the road to publication. Speaking to Scott Veale of the New York Times, Ledwidge said of Patterson, "I owe everything to him." Ledwidge soon found a job working as a telephone cable splicer for Verizon, a position he opted to continue even after the success of his second novel, Bad Connection.
In his novels, Ledwidge writes in the mode of hardboiled noir crime fiction associated with Jim Thompson. In The Narrowback, he tells the story of ex-con Irish-American Tommy Farrell and his plan to rob a New York luxury hotel; "Narrowback" is an Irish term for Irish-Americans. Farrell does not know that one of his gang, Durkin, has joined in the scheme to get money for the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and when the man bolts with the cash Farrell's gang kills him. Only later does Farrell learn of his IRA connection, after Durkin's IRA associates start looking for revenge. Farrell, who dreams of moving out west and becoming an artist, instead hides out in the New York underground, trying to stay one step ahead of the IRA, the FBI, and a group of Albanian gangsters.
Critics generally found The Narrowback to be a strong debut from a first-time author. Writing for Library Journal, Michael Rogers called the book exciting, with an "easy, fluid style"; Rogers described the complex plot as "The Usual Suspects meets The Devil's Own meets Reservoir Dogs." Though Erik Burns, reviewing the book for the New York Times Book Review, suggested that the novel is somewhat melodramatic, "relying . . . on hard-boiled clichés like booze, drugs, loose women, cheap bars and brutal murders," others thought Ledwidge's first effort more successful. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Ledwidge's prose "lean and mean," adding that the novel itself is a "well-executed debut"; David Pitt, in Booklist, said that although the book may lack depth, "most readers . . . will enjoy the chase."
Like many of his characters in The Narrowback, Ledwidge himself is Irish American. In his next book, Bad Connection, Ledwidge creates a protagonist who is even closer to home. Sean Macklin, the novel's hero, is an Irish-American telephone repairman, just like Ledwidge. Veale, in the New York Times, wrote, "Even as the book has been drawing good reviews, Mr. Ledwidge has continued working the 4 to midnight shift, spending about half his day underground. 'It's like detective work, poking around' in the maze of numbered phone lines, he said." Macklin does his own detective work in Bad Connection, which begins when he eavesdrops on a conversation that gives him insider information on the planned business merger of Chemtech and Allied Genesis. Hoping to provide a better life for his sick wife, he invests all his money in the deal and makes a small fortune. He begins taping the conversations, and he learns that Chemtech was involved in a series of murders in Central America. Concerned, Macklin gives the incriminating tapes to his brother Ray, a policeman in the South Bronx. But Ray, a corrupt cop, plans to use the tapes for blackmail; eventually both Macklin and his brother are on the hit lists of Chemtech and the mob.
With Bad Connection, Ledgwidge continued in the hard-boiled vein. Marilyn Stasio, reviewing the book for the New York Times, said that Bad Connection "stands on the solid foundation of noir suspense: the undoing of a basically decent man who makes one false move and whose every effort to reverse the damage sucks him deeper into the darkness he never saw coming." BookBrowsers reviewer Harriet Klausner compared Bad Connection to the noir film The Conversation, concluding that "Ledwidge shows plenty of abilities as he takes readers on a wild tour of New York that will gain him a lot of hard boiled crime fiction fans."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1998, David Pitt, review of The Narrowback, p. 406.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2001, review of Bad Connection, p. 131.
Library Journal, September 1, 1998, Michael Rogers, review of The Narrowback, p. 215.
New York Times, May 6, 2001, Marilyn Stasio, "Crime," p. 30; August 12, 2001, Scott Veale, "Author and Telephone Repairman Finds Art in Imitating His Life," p. 4.
New York Times Book Review, March 21, 1999, Erik Burns, review of The Narrowback, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, October 19, 1998, review of The Narrowback, p. 53; March 19, 2001, review of Bad Connection, p. 76; July 23, 2001, John F. Baker, "Pocket and the Phone Guy," p. 14.
BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (February 19, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of Bad Connection.
Crime Time On-Line,http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (August 23, 2001), Steve Holland, review of The Narrowback.*