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Brian McDonald


Once upon a time, there was a famous restaurant called Elaine’s. For forty years or so, Elaine’s was the beating heart--and crusted liver--of Manhattan’s literary scene. As a bartender there for over a decade, I had a front row seat to watch some of the greatest novelists and non-fiction writers of the 20th Century in their most contemplative moments. I once saw Hunter S. Thompson set himself on fire drinking flaming shots of 151-proof Bacardi rum. We had to smother him with a tablecloth. Perhaps it was that night, or one like it, when I began to believe that maybe I too could become a writer.

Since that impertinent beginning, I've been able to assemble a modest body of work that includes the memoirs Last Call at Elaine's: a Journey From One Side of the Bar to the Other (St. Martin's Press 2008); and My Father's Gun: One Family, Three Badges, One Hundred Years in the NYPD (Dutton 1999). “My Father’s Gun” was made into an award-winning feature-length documentary aired on the History Channel (click arrow above for preview).

More recently, I’ve ghostwritten or acted as a book doctor on a half dozen successfully published memoirs and collaborated with Malachy McCourt on Death Need Not Be Fatal (Hachette, May 2017), a humorous and poignant memoir of facing the Great Hereafter. My new book, Five Floors Up: The Heroic Family Story of Four Generations in the FDNY published by Grand Central is out September 6, 2022.

Sept. 19, 2022

S4E7: Brian McDonald - An Irish-American Story of 9/11 & the FDNY

It wasn’t planned this way, but we recorded our episode with writer Brian McDonald on Sept. 11, a date that looms large in his new book Five Flights Up, which traces the Irish American story of four generations of the …

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