A radish would have a hard time coming up in Hoboken, N.J.—and would be disappointed if it did. Hoboken is not a garden spot. Its wharves, its factories, its warehouses, its 254 bars, its bookie parlors, its bleak blocks of ancient brownstone houses, its 50,115 people, their washing and their unspeakably articulate cats are all jammed into one clangorous, soot-shrouded square mile. But Hoboken was made to order for Bernard Nicholas McFeely. He grew and prospered there.

Hoboken didn't like McFeely. He was tough, glum, nickel-pinching, semi-illiterate and vindictive. When he left the seat of...

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