The Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes was Ireland's most famous export from the 1930s to the 1970s when it was finally exposed for the sordid scam that it was.
The epic story of this illicit super-lottery encompasses tales of international piracy and instant celebrity; of smuggling on a global scale using IRA old boy networks; of publicity blackouts ordered by tormented governments; of turf wars with other rackets; of massive institutionalised bribery and corruption; of damaging diplomatic incidents; and not least of the Irish hospitals which were used as a front and increasingly starved of the funds gathered in their name.
This is a tale of greed, adventure, fraud and intrigue spanning decades. It's one of the twentieth century's boldest success stories and one of its most brazen scandals. And now it's almost forgotten. Only the term `Irish Sweeps' lingers, part of North American folk memory, unthinkingly used today as a by-word for `hitting the jackpot'.
The Sweeps provided a plotline for Hollywood movies, Broadway musicals and classic TV shows. Now, The Greatest Bleeding Hearts Racket in the World tells the whole story. It is a terrific read.