Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling coauthor of Black Mass, a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Irish power brokers who forged and fractured twentieth-century Boston.
Rogues and Redeemers tells the hidden story of Boston politics--the cold-blooded ward bosses, the smoke-filled rooms, the larger-than-life pols who became national figures: Honey Fitz, the crafty stage Irishman and grandfather to a president; the pugilistic Rascal King, Michael Curley; the hectored Kevin White who tried to hold the city together during the busing crisis; and Ray Flynn, the Southie charmer who was truly the last hurrah for Irish-American politics in the city.
For almost a century, the Irish dominated Boston politics with their own unique, clannish brand of coercion and shaped its future for good and ill. Former Boston Globe investigative reporter Gerard O'Neill takes the reader through the entire journey from the famine ships arriving in Massachusetts Bay to the wresting of power away from the Brahmins of Beacon Hill to the Title I wars of attrition over housing to the rending of the city over busing to the Boston of today--which somehow through it all became a modern, revitalized city, albeit with a growing divide between the haves and have-nots.
Sweeping in its history and intimate in its details, Rogues and Redeemers echoes all the great themes of The Power Broker and Common Ground and should take its place on that esteemed shelf as a classic, definitive epic of a city.
"The latest from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist O'Neill (Black Mass, co-authored with Dick Lehr) is not for the politically faint of heart. In this encyclopedic take on Bostonian elections from the late 19th century to the modern era, and associated scandals, civic issues, and cultural collisions, O'Neill focuses on the city's Dickensian crop of political figures. Among those brought to vivid life are two dueling mayors, the smooth-talking Honey Fitz and the pugnacious James Michael Curley; the ward boss Martin Lomasney, known as 'Mahatma' for his impartial ways; and the corrupt attorney Dan Coakley, a 'Merlin of the defense bar,' who specialized in a sexual entrapment scheme known as 'the badger game.' Tracing Boston's development through its mayoral administrations also enables O'Neill to survey hot-button issues, including a revitalization plan that leveled low-income neighborhoods, and forced busing to integrate public schools. The narrative is most dynamic when O'Neill expands the discussion to include the social, economic, and national context, but he too often relies on name-checking and score-keeping a game that will please political junkies, but be lost on novices. Much of the book reads like stitched-together news articles: the facts are sound and the prose tight, but events are recapped without deeper analysis or reflection." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“The best novel about American politics and the best novel about Irish-Americans I have ever read. . . . A superb job of vigorous, humorous writing—funny, engaging, and tolerantly mellow. . . . So good, so enormously readable, and so authoritatively persuasive.”
“Here, after a century of trying, is the first successful Irish-American novel. . . . Probably the funniest American book in a decade.”
“A resounding success—vigorous, amusing, and brilliantly observed.”
“We’re living in a sensitive age, Cuke, and I’m not altogether sure you’re fully attuned to it.” So says Irish-American politician Frank Skeffington—a cynical, corrupt 1950s mayor, and also an old-school gentleman who looks after the constituents of his New England city and enjoys their unwavering loyalty in return. But in our age of dynasties, mercurial social sensitivities, and politicians making love to the camera, Skeffington might as well be talking to us.
Not quite a roman á clef of notorious Boston mayor James Michael Curley, The Last Hurrah tells the story of Skeffington’s final campaign as witnessed through the eyes of his nephew, who learns a great deal about politics as he follows his uncle to fundraisers, wakes, and into smoke-filled rooms, ultimately coming—almost against his will—to admire the man. Adapted into a 1958 film starring Spencer Tracy and directed by John Ford (and which Curley tried to keep from being made), Edwin O’Connor’s opus reveals politics as it really is, and big cities as they really were. An expansive, humorous novel offering deep insight into the Irish-American experience and the ever-changing nature of the political machine, The Last Hurrah reveals political truths still true today: what the cameras capture is just the smiling face of the sometimes sordid business of giving the people what they want.
About the Author
GERARD O'NEILL was editor of the Boston Globe's investigative team for 25 years before retiring to teach graduate courses in journalism at Boston University. With Dick Lehr, he coauthored The Underboss in 1989 and Black Mass in 2000. Black Mass was a New York Times bestseller and number one on the Globe's bestseller list for a year. He has won several regional and national reporting awards over several decades, including the Pulitzer; the Associated Press Managing Editors Award in 1977 and 1998; the Loeb Awards for business reporting in 1991; and was a Pulitzer finalist in 1997. He holds a master's in journalism from Boston University and lives in Back Bay with his wife, Janet. He has two sons.