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Heart of the Old Country


Basis for the major motion picture The Narrows, starring Kevin Zegers, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sophia Bush, and Eddie Cahill.

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What people are saying…

Selected by the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program

“Tim McLoughlin writes about South Brooklyn with a fidelity to people and place reminiscent of James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London . . . No voice in this symphony of a novel is more impressive than that of Mr. McLoughlin, a young writer with a rare gift for realism and empathy.”
—Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie’s Son

“Part coming-of-age story, part thriller, it’s got all the ingredients for what may be a whole new genre.”
Entertainment Weekly

“McLoughlin in his first novel easily ranks with Richard Price.”

“Stolid suspense from the land of the wiseguys.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Sweet, sardonic, and by turns hilarious and tragic.”
Publishers Weekly

“. . . Cracks with the authenticity that only a writer with the perfect ear can accomplish.”
—Robert Leuci, author of Blaze

“Tim McLoughlin is a master storyteller in the tradition of such great New York City writers as Hubert Selby Jr. and Richard Price.”
Kaylie Jones, author of A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries


Read “Pink Houses,” Tim McLoughlin’s contribution to Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series.

Heart of the Old Country is a guided tour of the ethnic enclaves of South Brooklyn. Not the Brooklyn of Spike Lee or Matty Rich, but a counterpoint, where the hangers-on—those left behind in the white flight to the suburbs—continue to “do business” while defending their shrinking borders.

Nineteen-year-old Mike is at loose ends: driving a beat-up Buick for Big Lou’s Car Service and trying to decide whether he should remain a college student, marry his high school girlfriend, work full-time, or drift into the lucrative and omnipresent arena of local organized crime. Enter Nicky Shades, schoolyard hero turned junkie, just out of rehab and also driving for Lou. Nicky and Mike rekindle their uneven friendship as Nicky attempts the difficult path of sobriety. But old habits, especially Nicky’s, are hard to break.

One night, stoned to the gills, Nicky robs a social club where the local don operates. Mike’s life is changed forever as he’s forced to confront the grim realities of wiseguy justice and his own culpability in its execution. Although his father has spent his life walking the line between respectability and old loyalties as a small-time bookmaker, Mike knows that his own options are more extreme. He is either passing through this world or he will be defined by it.

Heart of the Old Country offers an honest, unromantic look at Brooklyn’s underclass, and the novel’s dark, politically incorrect humor reflects the attitudes of these old-country inhabitants with unencumbered truthfulness and deep affection.

Check out this Huffington Post article and this New York Daily News article on Heart of the Old Country and The Narrows.

Click here to read an article about the Danish Athletic Club, featured on the front page of the New York Times‘ Metro section on February 16, 2014.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Published: 6/1/09
  • IBSN: 9781936070008
  • e-IBSN: 9781617750496


TIM McLOUGHLIN is the editor of the multiple award–winning anthologies Brooklyn Noir and Brooklyn Noir 2, and coeditor of Brooklyn Noir 3. His debut novel, Heart of the Old Country , was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program, won Italy’s Premio Penne award, and was the basis for the motion picture The Narrows. His books have been published in seven languages. McLoughlin retired after working for thirty years as a peace officer in the New York City criminal justice system, and divides his time between Brooklyn and Eastern Pennsylvania. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms: Stories and Essays is his latest work.

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