Irish American Writers and Artists

Irish American Writers & Artists

Among T.J. English's side ventures are his activities as co-founder and co-director of Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc. (IAW&A), a non-profit organization. A collective of writers, actors, musicians, painters, and other artists devoted to the principle that celebrating the arts enhances the human condition, IAW&A has accomplished much since its inception in 2008. Each year, the organization bestows the Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to an artist who best exemplifies the standard of integrity and accomplishement established by the great playwright Eugene O'Neill. So far, the award has been given to Pulitzer Prize winning author William Kennedy and actor Brian Dennehy.

Committed to making a difference

IAW&A is also engaged in social activism. In February 2010, the organization staged an event in NYC entitled ISLAND PEOPLE SUPPORTING ISLAND PEOPLE, a night of music, readings and disaster relief that raised over $100,000 for victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The money was donated to Concern Worldwide, a Dublin-based charitable organization that had boots on the ground in Haiti before the earthquake struck.

Irish Mexican Alliance poster

Later that same years, IAW&A -- in an event entitled THE IRISH-MEXICAN ALLIANCE -- staged a night of Celtic and Mexican music, Chicano and Irish poetry, dancing, and more, all to raise money for the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ has been attempting to draw attention to the plight of journalists covering the narco war in Mexico who have been murdered, intimidated and in some cases forced to seek asylum in the U.S. for doing their job as reporters. T.J. English hosted this event, and among the speakers and performers were legendary journalist Pete Hamill, salsa singer and activist Ruben Blades, and Frontera Búgalu, a lively Mexican cumbia band flown in to NYC from El Paso, Texas.

About The Author sectionhead

Thomas Joseph "T.J." English comes from a large Irish Catholic family of ten brothers and sisters.  Early in his writing career, English worked as a freelance journalist in New York City during the day and drove a taxi at night.  He often refers to cab driving as a metaphor for what he does as a writer – cruising the streets, interviewing strangers, exploring the unknown, reporting on what he sees and hears from his sojourns in and around the underworld.

T.J. English with Pete Hamill and Ruben Blades.

T.J. with legendary journalist Pete Hamill
and salsa singer Ruben Blades.

T.J. English with George Carlin

Backstage with George Carlin.

T.J. English with William Kennedy

With Pulitzer Prize-winning author
William Kennedy.

In 1990, English published his first book, The Westies, an account of the last of the Irish Mob in the infamous Manhattan neighborhood known as "Hell’s Kitchen." The book was the result of a series of reports English wrote for a weekly Irish American newspaper based in New York...

His second book, Born to Kill (1995), was an unprecedented inside account of a violent Vietnamese gang based in New York’s Chinatown, that operated up and down the East Coast.  In 2005, English published Paddy Whacked, a sweeping history of the Irish American gangster in New York, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, and other U.S. cities.  In 2008, English hit bestseller lists with Havana Nocturne, his account of U.S. mobster infiltration of Havana, Cuba in the years before the Revolution swept Fidel Castro into power. The book became something of a publishing phenomenon, rising to #7 on the New York Times bestseller list and also making the following lists: Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Independent Booksellers. Havana Nocturne is currently in development as a major motion picture.

English's most recent book is The Savage City, a blistering account of racial hostilities between the NYPD and the Black liberation movement in the 1960s and early 1970s.

As a journalist, English has written for many publications including: Esquire, Playboy, New York magazine, The Village Voice, Los Angeles Times Magazine, and the New York Times. In the mid-1990s, he wrote a three-part series for Playboy entitled "The New Mob" that explored the changing face of organized crime in America. More recently, he wrote "Narco Americano," also for Playboy (February 2011), an investigation into the narco war in Mexico and how the violence has effected the Juárez-El Paso borderland. In 2010, his article for Playboy about a DEA agent alleged to have framed innocent people on bogus narcotics charges won the prestigious New York Press Club Award for Best Crime Reporting.

His work as a writer has taken him to Cuba, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Mexico, Ireland, and all around the U.S... Most of his articles are on the subject of crime and criminal justice, though English writes on a wide variety of subjects including music, politics, and movies.  He has published full-length interviews with actor Bill Murray, former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, director Martin Scorsese, and comedy legend George Carlin, to name a few.

In addition, English is a screenwriter and has penned episodes for the television crime dramas "NYPD Blue" and "Homicide," for which he was awarded the prestigious Humanitas Prize.


He lives in New York City.