A history of the infamous Mutiny at Sailboat Bay hotel and nightclub, the epicenter of Miami’s cocaine boom years.
Miami’s reputation in the 1980s as the stronghold of the cocaine trade was popularized by the film Scarface and TV series Miami Vice, but the real story may eclipse even these portrayals. Through turf wars, assassinations, and arrests, the only certainty in Miami’s drug trade was the hangout for the industry’s key players to show off and flash their dirty money. In his investigation into the Mutiny, Farzad, who hosts Full Disclosure on NPR, captures the excess, decadence, and debauchery of the Mutiny in its heyday. This was where kingpins did business in the hotel suites, crooked lawyers and financiers held office hours at the club, and the entire staff were all in on it. With interviews from many of the people who lived it firsthand, the author showcases a cast of characters composed mostly of Cuban exiles and Colombian immigrants, including Ricardo “Monkey” Morales, Rodolfo “Rudy Redbeard” Rodriguez Gallo, and the legendary Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta. The story of the Mutiny and Miami’s cocaine gold rush is primarily a tale of the American dream, its corruption, and the lengths an immigrant community will go to fulfill a capitalist fantasy of affluence. But for all the glitz and glamour of the Mutiny and the lifestyle of cocaine elite, there was a brutal and nasty flip side. Suspicion, paranoia, and murder were common practice in the trade, a fact epitomized by the symbolic Dadeland Massacre in 1979, which ushered in an unprecedented wave of violence that earned the city the title of murder capital of America. The luster of cocaine and the Mutiny eventually faded, as crack became the preferred form of the drug and federal investigators prosecuted many of the Mutiny’s habitués. But the legend lives on in Farzad’s narrative retelling of the Mutiny, which provides a crucial piece to Miami’s history as the era’s cocaine epicenter.
A gripping account of how the Mutiny’s role in Miami’s cocaine business changed not only the city, but America.
A New York media worker tries to comprehend a glamorous friend’s murder.
In her debut book, Murnick, an online editor at New York magazine, considers heady themes of sexuality, violence, and childhood loyalties. She writes in a breezy, flowing style that is observational yet inconsistent, at times parsing details with sharp terseness, elsewhere turning her consideration toward inward ruminations. She and Ashley, her best friend from suburban New Jersey, were already drifting apart when, in 2001, 21-year-old Murnick was shocked by news of Ashley’s murder in Los Angeles, particularly since Ashley had revealed to the author her dabblings in the sex-and-drugs underground of LA celebrity culture. “Eight months later she was dead,” writes Murnick, “and I was reading about it in the paper, trying to convince myself that it didn’t matter to me as much as it did. I knew that I had just about let her go in the months leading up to things, and it was impossible to know if we would have found our way back together.” The case was cold for years until the startling arrest of Michael Gargiulo, a neighbor and suspected serial killer. Linked by DNA evidence to at least two similar slayings, he’d ingratiated himself into Ashley’s social circle by offering conveniently timed home repairs (Murnick’s depiction of this provides an excellent guide to spotting sociopaths). The author attended the long pretrial hearings for the accused, meeting Ashley’s still-mourning LA friends and reconstructing a fuller portrait of Ashley’s “secret” life, which under scrutiny appeared both decadent and naïve: “Ashley didn’t deserve any of this. She had suddenly been made into a public figure for the worst possible reason.” There are powerful vignettes throughout, as the author describes her encounters with figures ranging from the meditative defense attorney to jaded reality TV journalists, but since Gargiulo’s trial has been delayed indefinitely, the narrative feels unresolved, with an increasing emphasis on inward observation.
An original and engaging, if uneven, fusion of memoir and true-crime.
How multiculturalism and sexual liberation shaped a distinctive decade.
Emmy Award–winning documentarian and Vanity Fair editor Friend (Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11, 2006) meticulously captures the libidinous 1990s through the milestones that made the time period so indelible—and sometimes cringeworthy. The author casts a wide net over the entire decade and encapsulates political shifts and social changes, including the tabloid sensationalism of Donald Trump’s divorce from Ivana, an event that marked the beginning of this heady “high-living, free-spending, balls-out era.” Through key interviews and focused cultural analysis, Friend brings to life the “seismic shifts occurring at society’s core,” such as the rise of Viagra, medically enhanced fertility, the narrowing window of puberty for young women, Camille Paglia and third-wave feminism, the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay marriage equality, and the fascinations with breast augmentation and the Brazilian bikini wax. The multifaceted world of entertainment was graced with the outspokenness of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, the antics of Howard Stern, Hollywood psychodramas, and the normalization of perennial plastic surgery. The author also discusses the brave sensuality of Demi Moore’s magazine cover and Ellen DeGeneres’ self-outing as having as much popular culture clout as the surgical precision of scorned wife Lorena Bobbitt and the courtroom circuses involving Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, and Anita Hill. Friend also shows how the mainstreaming of sex and the prevalence of and reliance on the internet for entertainment, pornography, and rapid-fire information (and the conservative, morality fueled backlash) played influential parts in swaying the masses toward less puritanical attitudes about eroticism. The author’s field studies include joining a Manhattan bus tour of Sex and the City filming locations with anthropologist Helen Fisher and enlightening, contemporary interviews with Bobbitt, Jones, Heidi Fleiss, and others. Friend’s clever afterword dovetails the political sins of the 1990s with how their eventual forgiveness ushered in the age of the billionaire as presidential candidate.
A witty, comprehensively researched time capsule from an unforgettable age of excess, scandal, and sex.
The bestselling immersion journalist embarks on a world-spanning journey of family and genealogy.
For years, Jacobs (Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, 2012, etc.) has built a significant following at Esquire, where he is a contributing editor, with articles that mix serious inquiry with laugh-out-loud humor, usually featuring the author as his own main character. He used the same formula for his bestselling books, in which he tried to absorb more miscellaneous knowledge than anyone else alive (The Know-It-All), live daily life according to biblical commandments (The Year of Living Biblically), or sculpt his body into its best possible shape (Drop Dead Healthy). In his latest book, Jacobs delves into his own genealogy and that of his wife, Julie, and he chronicles his plans for what he hoped would become the largest “family” reunion in history. Along the way, the author provides a cornucopia of information about genealogy and ancestry: how males often dominate family trees while females remain in the background, the impact of American slavery on family histories, his own Jewish heritage, the complications of working with the Mormon archive (“every year, more data is added to this vault than is contained in the entire Library of Congress”), how nonhuman animals fit into the equations, the reliability of DNA testing as a genealogical tool, and the reliance on the story of Adam and Eve as the beginning of humanity. Some of the short chapters are almost entirely entertainment, as when Jacobs and his wife travel with their twin sons to a large gathering of families with twins. But whether the author is being ruminative or rollicking, he is consistently thought-provoking in his “adventure in helping to build the World Family Tree,” and his natural gift for humor lightens the mood of even the most serious discussion.
A baseball detective attempts to solve a homicide cold case.
With his statistics-driven “abstracts,” James (The Bill James Handbook: Baseball Info Solutions, 2017, etc.) is famous for revolutionizing the way fans look at baseball. Here, the author and his daughter deliver a provocative book that employs his prodigious research techniques in an effort to solve a famous, 100-year-old mass murder case. Murders, actually, as their research on this case led them to a startling conclusion. On June 9, 1912, in Villisca, Iowa, a family of eight was brutally murdered with an ax at night in their home. No one was ever convicted. James believed other, similar mass murders might have occurred around the same time: “And then I found one, and another one, and another one. I hired my daughter as a researcher, and then she started finding them.” The authors’ research uncovered at least a dozen similar murders from 1909 to 1912 that occurred from Virginia to Oregon to Kansas, 48 murders in all. They kept digging and found a few dozen more during the period 1900 to 1906, with the locations ranging from Nova Scotia to Arkansas to Florida. The authors became convinced they were committed by one person. The murderer’s modus operandi revealed a pattern: he worked for a living, probably in mining or logging, committed the crimes on weekends with an ax, often burning down the house, and didn’t steal anything. Since the murders were always close to train lines, the authors figured he traveled by train. Eventually, they came up with a suspect. They include detailed discussions of investigative techniques back then and stories about people wrongly (they feel) executed for the crimes. Told in workmanlike, journalistic prose with plenty of personal injections—“hear me out. Have I got a story to tell you”—the narrative becomes addictive, and it’s easy to get caught up in the elaborate search and the authors’ conclusions, which are plausible.
Fans of true crime—as well as detectives in homicide bureaus—will relish this book.
An accomplished literary debut weaves memoir and true-crime investigation.
Essayist and lawyer Marzano-Lesnevich (Writing/Harvard Kennedy School of Government) fashions an absorbing narrative about secrets, pain, revenge, and, ultimately, the slippery notion of truth. In 2003, working as a summer intern at a Louisiana law firm that defends clients sentenced to death, the author discovered the case of a child’s murder by a confessed pedophile. Passionately opposed to capital punishment, she realized that she wanted this client to die. That response—unsettling and unexpected—incited an interest in the case that became nothing less than an obsession. For 10 years, she read 30,000 pages of documents, including court transcripts, newspaper coverage, and a play based on interviews with the victim’s mother; watched the killer’s taped confessions from three trials; and traveled multiple times to Louisiana. That fixation inflames another investigation, as well, into her own troubling past. “I am pulled to this story by absences,” she writes. “Strange blacknesses, strange forgettings, that overtake me at times. They reveal what is still unresolved inside me.” With care and pacing that is sometimes too deliberate, the author reveals the blacknesses in her own family: her father, a successful lawyer, succumbed to rage and depressions; her mother, also a lawyer, was stubbornly silent about her past; the author learns that she was not a twin but really a triplet, with a sister who died within months, never mentioned by the family; and, most horrifically, her grandfather sexually abused her and her younger sister for years. When Marzano-Lesnevich finally revealed the abuse to her parents, they buried it, refusing to acknowledge her pain even when she became severely depressed and anorexic. Her family members, she realizes now, were “prisoners” of their own triumphant narrative: children of immigrants, they were living the American dream, “determinedly fine.” The author admits that she has “layered my imagination” onto her sources to make her characters vivid, inevitably raising questions about the line between nonfiction and fiction and about how such embellishment can manipulate the reader’s perceptions and sympathies.
A powerful evocation of the raw pain of emotional scars.
A collection of a wide range of Vanity Fair articles ranging from 1914 to 1936, when the Great Depression forced the magazineto merge with Vogue.
Some of these pieces are curiosities, while others capture a peculiar zeitgeist: America during wartime, the Roaring ’20s, the Depression. Others simply provide an example of the range of powerhouse writers who contributed to a magazine that captured the tastes and travails of a certain kind of middle-class urbanite. One weakness comes in the editing. Current Vanity Fair editor Carter contributes the introduction, but the narrative presents the articles without commentary despite the fact that many of them call out for annotation to provide context. The book does include notes on contributors at the end, but these would have been better placed as part of a brief commentary before or after each selection. Regardless, there is a remarkable range to the pieces, whether in the form of celebrity profiles, essays on politics and economics, or snatches of journalistic observation from the era. Among the many eminent writers who provide contributions are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, D.H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, P.G. Wodehouse, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jean Cocteau, T.S. Eliot, Walter Winchell, Ford Madox Ford and Bertrand Russell. A series of Dorothy Parker “Hate Song” poems take aim at (and hit) targets ranging from men to actresses to relatives to offices. Not all of the pieces stand the test of time—the casual sexism of the era comes out loud and clear in many of the pieces, for example—but even those that do not hold up well serve as useful historical documents.
Whether read from cover to cover or dipped into occasionally, this collection serves as a fine primer to one magazine’s contribution to a golden age of American magazine writing.