Ambush at Central Park
When the IRA Came to New York
In 1922, three of the Irish Republican Army’s top gunmen arrived in New York City seeking vengeance. Their target: “Cruxy” O’Connor, a young Irishman who kept switching sides as revolution swept his country in the wake of World War I. Cruxy’s last betrayal dealt a stunning blow to Ireland’s struggle for independence — six of his IRA comrades were killed when he told police the location of their safe house outside Cork. A year later, the IRA gunned him down in a hail of bullets before a crowd of horrified New Yorkers at the corner of 84th Street and Central Park West.
Based primarily on first-hand accounts, most of them never before published, Ambush at Central Park is a cinematic exploration of the enigma of “Cruxy” O’Connor: Was he really a decorated war hero before becoming a spy for Britain? Why did he defect to IRA? When captured by the police, did he give up his IRA comrades only under torture? Was he a British spy all along? Or was he pursuing a decades-old feud between his family and that of one of the comrades he got killed?
A longtime editor at The New York Times, author Mark Bulik delved through Irish government archives, newspaper accounts, census data, and unpublished material from the families of the main actors. He weaves it all together with the sensational story of a rebel ambush, a deadly police raid, a dinner laced with poison, a daring prison break, a boatload of tommy guns on the Hoboken waterfront, an unlikely pair of spies who fall in love, and an audacious assassination plot against the British cabinet.
Gravely wounded and near death, Cruxy refused to cooperate with the detectives investigating the case. And so, the spy who stopped spying and the gunman who stopped shooting became the informer who wouldn’t inform, even at death’s door. Here is a forgotten chapter of Irish and New York history: the story of the only officially authorized IRA attack on American soil.
reviews of Ambush at Central Park
“A harrowing account of how the IRA came to New York City to get vengeance on a traitor.”
—The New York Daily News
“Lively and colorful … Bulik’s brisk narrative is intent on maintaining the tension for as long as possible. Suffice it to say that he has done a fine job.”
—The Irish Independent
“A pacy, readable historical thriller, extensively based on archival material. It brings to life the struggle for independence in Cork, the realities of the IRA and British intelligence war in the city and county, and the IRA’s transatlantic reach.”
—Professor Brian Hanley, Trinity College, Dublin
“A brilliantly written book about an unknown episode of the Irish War for Independence, with vivid characters caught up in the great events of history.”
—Terry Golway, historian and author
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