Despite his contributions to the PBS miniseries "The Long Journey Home: The Story of the Irish in America," prolific historian and novelist Thomas Fleming is not big on blarney.
"Hours of Gladness" - Fleming 's most recent novel and the one with the most recent setting - takes a very hard look at the dark side of a family-run, Irish-American, New Jersey political machine in the mid-1980s.
The Atlantic City suburb of Paradise Beach is the location that Dick O'Gorman, a roguishly charming IRA politician, and sociopathic gunman Billy Kilroy have selected as the place where they will broker a deal between the Mob and Cubans.
It's a win-win-win situation.
The deal will leave the Cubans with hard cash, the Mafia with cocaine and the IRA with the latest Russian surface-to-air missiles.
O'Gorman and Kilroy are in New Jersey because Paradise Beach is run by "Sunny" Dan Monaghan, the patriarch of an Irish political machine.
But it's a long way from the glory days, when Dan and his clan used to manufacture votes for Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy in exchange for patronage.
Now it's corruption of a more grubby nature that Monaghan and his family engage in, but O'Gorman gives them a chance to prove they are still big-time.
Among the family members dragged into the plot are Desmond McBride, Dan's son-in-law, whose fishing boat will be used for the transfer at sea; Desmond's daughter, Melody, a promiscuous radical who is a "Chappy girl" with a lifetime job with Ted Kennedy because she happened to be at a party one fateful night on Chappaquiddick Island; and Bill O'Toole, another of Dan's sons-in-law, Paradise Beach's slightly corrupt police chief.
Left out of the loop is Dan's grandson, Mick O'Day, a patrolman and remorseful ex-Marine, whose squad was wiped out in Vietnam while he dallied with the lovely Trai Nguyen Phac. Trai now lives as a refugee in Paradise Beach with her studious son and an abusive husband.
There are at least a half-dozen other significant characters whose sexual and financial dealings and double crosses play important parts in this twisted tale.
A note for the publishers: When the paperback comes out, a diagram of the family tree would be of tremendous help.
Things begin to go seriously awry when a British assassin, undercover as a new Irish Catholic priest, steals the deal money and kills mobster "Joey Zip" Zacarro.
This not only precipitates a crisis with the Italians, but it also sows suspicions of current betrayal within the Monaghans and uncovers some past perfidies as well.
When he sees his uncle and grandfather are willing to sell Paradise Beach out to the Mob, Mick, who is used to their many small corruptions, is forced to decide between his roots and what is right.
Unexpectedly, he also is given a chance to atone for his past - but his redemption will come at a high price.
"Hours of Gladness" is a Mulligan stew of evil, with the active ingredients of corruption, indolence, and the moral decline that comes with having no ideal higher than tribalism and the quest for power.
Into a mere 308 pages, Fleming packs the issues of hyphenated Americanism, the limits of family loyalty, the Vietnam War, patriotism and the corruption of power.
But the novel is not some dense tome that will drag the reader though a philosophical bog.
The pace - and body count - are more reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino movie than of a John LeCarre novel.
"Hours of Gladness" is a well-written, entertaining and meaningful thriller, but you can bet the Hibernian Society won't be giving its Man of the Year award to this American author of Irish extraction.