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Literature / The North Avenue Irregulars

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First Edition dust jacket
October, 1963. John F. Kennedy is president and the Cuban Missile Crisis has been over for nearly a year. Everything seems right with the world, unless you're a certain minister in New Rochelle, New York.
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New Rochelle has a problem that's been going on for more than a decade, the local police look the other way, and one powerful businessman is fed up. The businessman implored the community leaders to do something about the city's plethora of Dirty Cops. The community leaders, in turn, formed a committee amongst themselves plus a rabbi, a priest, and a minster. Although he's relatively new to the area, the minister for North Avenue Presbyterian was chosen due to that church's longstanding interest in the city's problems. The only good thing to come out of this committee is that Rev. Albert Fay Hill now has a clear picture of the problem, how deep it runs, and vows to do something about it.

The Mafia in the hometown of the Petries? Improbable, but there it was, on practically every downtown street corner! Unable to get any of his male parishioners to participate, Rev. Hill calls on their wives instead, then two Treasury agents get involved, and The North Avenue Irregulars are formed. Together, they put a dent in the local numbers running racket.

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This Real Life story, written by Rev. Hill and published by Cowles in 1968, was turned into a theatrical movie by Disney in 1979. Naturally, the Disney version contains plenty of Disneyfication.

This book provides examples of

  • Amateur Sleuth: Rev. Hill and his Irregulars, albeit with guidance from the Intelligence Division of the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Badass Pacifist: Rev. Hill definitely believes in turning the other cheek. Get him angry and he simply grits his teeth.
  • Badass Preacher: To a degree. He starts off as one minister taking on The Mafia by himself.
    • More so in the Disney version, where he rides a Kawasaki.
  • Dirty Cop: Seemingly the entire department to one degree or another. At least one officer's brother runs numbers and the officer himself hangs out in the brother's establishment while bets are made.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening / First-Episode Spoiler: The book begins with the Irregulars chasing the money as far as they are able then celebrating with their advisors. The rest deals with the history of gambling in New Rochelle and how the Irregulars got to that point.
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  • Embarrassing Middle Name / Gender-Blender Name: When meeting the T-Men to discuss the Irregulars, Rev. Hill asks them to call him Fay.
    "Miserable name that it is, it's mine."
  • Friend on the Force: Averted. Nobody wants the Irregulars making noise.
  • The Mafia: Numbers runners whose cash is followed to Yonkers, where it's presumably mixed with cash from other operations in the vicinity and headed south.
  • Police are Useless: At least the local cops are, and it goes all the way up to the Commissioner.
  • Real Life: The entire tale is retold by Rev. Hill to the best of his ability, though names have been changed to protect the women and Treasury agents involved.
  • Suspiciously Idle Officers: At least when it comes to investigating The Mafia. Sure, they raid a few places once in a while, but only enough to make the news so the citizens go back to thinking everything is hunky-dory.

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