Peter Quinn Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York
Born in 1947, Quinn is an American novelist and speech-writer.
Set in New York during the Civil War, Banished Children of Eve (1994) is an account of the city's economic and racial tensions at the time, which culminated in the bloody Draft Riots of 1863. Started by a predominantly poor Irish mob angry over the imposition of the nation's first military draft, the Riots quickly escalated, lasting five days and resulting in at least 119 deaths. Many of the victims were working-class blacks, largely targeted by the Irish mobs as their primary competition for low-paying jobs. Using an episodic narrative structure and brief character sketches to tell his story, Quinn ultimately offers several suggestions as to why social protest often degrades into naked acts of violent hatred. Kevin Cullen has described Banished Children of Eve as a "compelling, textured account of how those at the bottom inevitably turn on one another rather than join forces to challenge whoever or whatever it is that has kept them down."
SOURCE: "A Historical Novel Nearly Disorienting in Its Authenticity," in The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 20, 1994, p. L2.
[In the following review, Garvey praises Banished Children of Eve, calling it both "vividly imagined" and "scrupulously researched."]
It is an impressive illustration of the power of television advertising that most 18-year-old American boys now submit to the Selective Service system and to the blandishments of MTV with equal docility. The subservience urged and apparently secured by those annoying commercials would amaze and probably disgust their mid-19th-century counterparts.
During the summer of 1863, the nation's first federal conscription law was greeted with riots in towns and cities throughout the Union.
Even among the most enthusiastic supporters of the war effort, a passion for civil liberties overmatched the imperatives of military expediency. New York Gov. Horatio Seymour, in a Fourth of July speech that would haunt him for the rest of his political career—some historians insist that it guaranteed the failure of his presidential bid five years later—warned the administration: "Remember this, that the bloody, and treasonable, and revolutionary, doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by a government."
Nine days later, Manhattan exploded. It took more than a week for Union troops,...
(The entire section is 939 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
SOURCE: "On the Sidewalks of New York," in Book World-The Washington Post, March 27, 1994, p. 4.
[Perrin is an American essayist, nonfiction writer, critic, and educator. In the following review of Banished Children of Eve, he praises the novel's "fascinating details about life in New York in 1863," but faults its "lurid" melodrama teeming with "too many characters involved in too many plots."]
Banished Children of Eve is a panoramic novel about New York as it was 140 years ago, during the Civil War. But people who know 19th-century New York from the novels of Henry James or Edith Wharton will not easily recognize the city. A different cast is here.
The book opens in Mike Manning's saloon, in lower Manhattan. A young Irish immigrant named Jimmy Dunne, who has just burgled the downtown branch of Brooks Brothers, is having an early-morning shot of whiskey. From there the scene shifts to the Astor House, where Stephen Foster is downing a morning beer. Now we jump to evening and to a minor theater where a young Irish immigrant named Jack Mulcahey is preparing to go on stage. He's a blackface minstrel.
Soon we're at the muddy site of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is only half-built. Archbishop Hughes (an Irish immigrant, of course) and Father Corrigan are up on the scaffolding.
By no means all the characters are Irish. Numerous WASPs appear,...
(The entire section is 784 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
SOURCE: "An Irish American Unearths His Past," in Irish America Magazine, March-April, 1994, pp. 64, 66.
[In the following interview, Quinn discusses Banished Children of Eve and his identity as an Irish American.]
Irish history, New York history and Civil War history are the three topics that most interest Peter Quinn. Put all three together, add a dollop of fiction, set the stage with a wide range of characters, hold them all together with writing reminiscent of William Faulkner and you have Banished Children of Eve, a novel set in New York in 1863 before and during the draft riots, that is so powerful and colorful and full of history that it is sure to put Quinn, 47, on a course for the rest of his life.
Insiders will know Quinn as the editor of The Recorder, the journal of the American Irish Historical Society, and have been waiting for this novel for years. Other will know him as a speechwriter for Governors Carey and Cuomo and now Time Warner, and may be surprised at his latent talent for novel writing.
Quinn, who wanted to write a novel since he was 12, does not regret the 15 years as a speechwriter, in fact, perhaps there wouldn't be a novel if it wasn't for his day job. "The one thing that you learn being a speechwriter is that you don't wait for the muse to come. If the governor is down the hall you get to it," he says.
(The entire section is 1780 words.)
SOURCE: "The Bowery Sphinx and Other Irishmen: A First Novel about Immigrant Life in New York City during the Civil War," in The New York Times Book Review, April 3, 1994, p. 29.
[In the following positive review, Crowley describes Banished Children of Eve as "the mature fruit of protracted labor."]
There are two readers for any historical novel: the one who knows well the history on which it is based and the one who doesn't. Some novels depend for their effect on the reader's knowledge; some are spoiled by it. Readers of Banished Children of Eve, Peter Quinn's panoptic novel of New York City during the Civil War, need not know which of his many characters and incidents derive from his sources and which are invented, and he has worked those sources so artfully that readers who don't know already won't be able to guess.
The Irish who left for America in the black years of the famine are Mr. Quinn's banished children of Eve; by the time the war began they were the greater part of New York's underclass, despised not only by the old Dutch and Anglo-Saxon ascendancy but also by the other immigrants they competed with for jobs and living space. They in turn despised and feared the small but growing class of free blacks, who (they believed) threatened their place on the next-to-bottom rung.
In July 1863, the tensions in the city eventually spilled over into a...
(The entire section is 850 words.)
SOURCE: "A Vivid First Novel Chronicles the Irish Draft Riots of 1863," in The Boston Globe, April 30, 1994, p. 23.
[In the following review, Cullen offers praise for Banished Children of Eve, calling it "a compelling, textured account."]
When Irish-Americans sit down to write fiction about their forebears, they tend to produce romantic epics, chronicling how their ancestors overcame overwhelming odds, poverty and oppression to prosper in the New World. They are comfortable books, warm respites.
Peter Quinn's first novel, Banished Children of Eve, is like a January dip in the Liffey or, more appropriately, New York's East River, on whose banks dozens of bodies washed up during the summer of 1863, when in a fit of anger and resentment Irish immigrants led riots against the nation's first draft and, because they had no one else to take out their frustrations on, lynched blacks.
Quinn is the chief speechwriter for Time-Warner and former speechwriter for New York governors Mario Cuomo and Hugh Carey. His grandfather arrived in New York 10 years after the Draft Riots. Quinn spent six years researching and four years writing his book. It shows.
Like the best historical novels, the book plucks one's consciousness, stirring old social studies lessons while creating characters and events, so it is hard to say what is based on fact and what is the...
(The entire section is 764 words.)
SOURCE: "Struggling to Survive in a World of Hate," in Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1994, p. E2.
[In the following review, Bass commends Quinn for his "pungent style, refusal to romanticize and affinity for historical details."]
When most of us try to conjure up images of Civil War-era New York, we think of ornate drawing rooms populated by ladies in voluminous gowns and urbane, frock-coated men puffing on cigars. Banished Children of Eve, Peter Quinn's exceptional debut novel, presents the far more earthy New York of yesteryear. According to him, it was a grotesquely primitive and savage place or, as the book itself puts it, "a vast nether world of poverty, resentment and ethnic hatred."
Spanning 10 days in the spring and summer of 1863, this historical tale, a bit reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, loosely interweaves the destinies of many fictitious and actual people.
We meet Jimmy Dunne, a wily con man whose brittle exterior camouflages vestiges of decency; Charles Bedford, the stockbroker with a troublesome appetite for gambling; volatile Jack Mulcahey, a minstrel performer who slathers burnt cork on his face and struts onstage disguised as a black man; Mulcahey's lover, Eliza, an actress of mixed ancestry whose spunk almost exceeds her beauty, and Stephen Foster, the nearly penniless tunesmith who guzzles liquor to forget that his ebbing...
(The entire section is 903 words.)
SOURCE: "Remembering New York's Deadliest Riot," in Newsday, July 12, 1994, p. 35.
[In the following interview, Quinn and Emerson discuss the New York Draft Riots of 1863.]
[Emerson]: A hundred and thirty years ago tomorrow, a mob of New Yorkers, mostly Irish, hung a black man from a lamppost and cheered for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. After the cops cut the corpse down, it was dragged by the genitals through the streets of New York. How could this have happened?
[Quinn]: Well, the first thing to notice is the date: July 13, the day after Orangeman's Day, when the Protestants in Ireland celebrated—and still do—William of Orange's victory at the Boyne. It has often been a time of sectarian violence in Ireland, and that tradition was carried undiluted to New York. The bloodiest single day in New York City history is July 12, 1871, when there was a riot between the Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics on Eighth Avenue. The militia opened up and killed 41.
That's part of the text of the Draft Riots of 1863: this agrarian, this Irish resentment, and this explosion from below.
How long did the Draft Riots last?
They started on Monday the thirteenth, and by Friday the army had regained control.
How many people had been killed by then?
They can identify 119...
(The entire section is 1652 words.)
SOURCE: "A Long Historical View of What Foments Mob Rioting," in The New York Times, July 24, 1994, p. 8.
[In the following, Kreahling discusses the historical background of Banished Children of Eve, placing special emphasis on the role of poverty in the New York Draft Riots of 1863.]
A mass of sweating angry men storm New York City's summer streets, breaking windows and stealing property, murdering people with different skin colors and beating others whose clothing suggests middle-class comfort.
That racial riot in Peter Quinn's Banished Children of Eve a new novel that provides a detailed context for the four days in July 1863 when New York City exploded into a bloody riot.
"I believe in history that there's only been one mob, and all mobs act the same way," Mr. Quinn said in an interview as he compared the New York draft riots of 1863 to the riots in Los Angeles in 1992. "The reptilian brain somewhere on the evolutionary scale takes over, and when people go berserk for whatever reasons they do the same thing."
The mob in Mr. Quinn's novel and in history's record of the draft riots was mostly made up of impoverished Irish people rebelling against conscription into the Union Army during the Civil War. As they poured into the streets from tenements and shanties along the Hudson River, they not only burned and looted stores and homes, but...
(The entire section is 1664 words.)
SOURCE: "A Splendid Stew," in Commonweal, Vol. 71, No. 15, September 9, 1994, pp. 26-7.
[In the following review, Bartelme offers a favorable assessment of Banished Children of Eve.]
Irish history, like the history of the Jewish people, embraces diaspora, exile, suffering, and a vision of the promised land. In his remarkable first novel, Peter Quinn, chief speechwriter for Time Warner, brings a new and formidable talent to the chronicling of Irish wanderings and their outcome. Although the emphasis of the book is on the Irish experience in nineteenth-century New York, Quinn goes beyond it to include on a broader canvas the entire sweep of a history steeped in the bitter fruits of subjugation. Nor does he neglect the Yankees and the free blacks who were so much a part of the New York Civil War tumult, and who were respectively the masters and the foes of the Irish.
As he draws together the strands of his narrative, Quinn moves between Ireland and New York, turning the latter teeming metropolis into a village that becomes his own American Nighttown. Here the immigrants, the "Paddys," go about their dubious business, survival uppermost in their minds, displaced only by the oblivion of a night's drinking. Here, too, they vie with the blacks for the menial jobs they are terrified of losing, and vent their anger and hatred of the Yankee "ratnoses," the Know Nothings or true Americans, who are...
(The entire section is 942 words.)
SOURCE: "The New World Irish, Warts and All," in The Irish Literary Supplement, Vol. 13, No. 2, Fall, 1994, p. 7.
[In the following review, Hennessy commends Banished Children of Eve, claiming that the novel "marks a new voice in the annals of Irish literacy."]
To those who hold history as an uncompromising and sacred art, Peter Quinn's novel, structured around local incidents in the history of New York City during the Civil War, adds a new and surprising dimension. While literary ability has frequently found its source of fiction in history, Quinn's book deserves special recognition as a historical pathfinder. In essence, he appears to have followed in the tradition of Dostoevski rather than Tolstoy. The latter tended to pontificate from a God's eye view; Peter Quinn, using a Dostoevskian tradition, has presented his historical narratives from the point of view of the participants and devoid of any claim to objectivity by the author.
This work has as it major theme the intense hatred which existed between Irish immigrants and African-Americans. The freed slaves who fled the South and came to New York inflamed the passions of the Irish who were particular victims of the notorious draft laws implemented by Colonel Noonan, also an Irishman. However, Quinn cannot be accused of being chauvinistic; he refers to "Paddy" in the words of a former Congressman from New York who said,...
(The entire section is 1424 words.)
SOURCE: "A New York History," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4782, November 25, 1994, p. 20.
[In the following mixed review of Banished Children of Eve, Walsh argues that Quinn is not entirely successful handling the vastness of his narrative and the large number of characters.]
The lonely farmer's wife, in Peter Quinn's novel [Banished Children of Eve], who seduces a young Irish orphan from New York sent to the cold western prairies for moral reeducation, shares with him her tantalized imaginings of the distant city: "My husband says it's a wicked place, noisy, dirty, impious. Says that most of the people don't work, live off politics and that criminals abound and whores and drunkards are everywhere. It belongs to the foreigners he says, and let them have it. America's got no use for it."
This anarchic vista is the mood with which Peter Quinn has infused his long novel about the city during the time of the Civil War. He seems to make a bet on controlled length, rich learned detail, historical verisimilitude and a wide spread of characters jostling across the page for our attention, in the manner of the Irish mobs massing on the Bowery. His bet seems to be that this teeming edifice will bring to life his imaginative vision of the city's history. That the more elaborate the structure, and the greater the length, the more compelling and irresistible will be the...
(The entire section is 777 words.)