Books: The Original Irish Mafia

LAMENT FOR THE MOLLY MAGUIRES by Arthur H. Lewis. 308 pages. Harcourt, Brace & World. $5.75.

A century ago, terror stalked the coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. Men were gunned down on the open road and even in their own parlors. Informers had their ears cut off and their tongues torn out by the roots. Dynamite destroyed mine tipples and derailed freight trains. In one coal-mining county alone, there were 142 unsolved murders in 13 years.

This savage undeclared war was fought for nearly three decades, between unequal antagonists. On one side were a...

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