A hot dog memoir that ultimately isn’t juicy enough.



Riley details his ascent from a poor Southern farm boy to the head of one of the world’s most successful hot dog companies.

In his debut memoir, the author tells the story of his incredibly successful career, detailing the steps that led him to become the president of Hygrade Food Products, a world-renowned meat production company that created Ball Park Franks. Along the way, his marketing skills and business acumen help him tackle all manner of tricky situations, from strikes and union negotiations to a very scary incident involving a customer who claimed to have found a razor blade in a hot dog: “[W]e weren’t quite sure what we were dealing with….Had some lunatic tampered with a package at the supermarket?” He also touches on his family life, his love for his wife, Pat, and his sadness at her death after a long, happy marriage. Through it all, however, he remains modest: “I’m hardly the first or last person from a humble background—without financial resources, connections, or the advantage of a college diploma—to rise to the top of a company, industry, or profession.” Riley has had a remarkable life, including a childhood in a sharecropping family, and his long tenure at Hygrade certainly offers some momentous occasions. His voice is clear and strong, but also humble and self-deprecating. Unfortunately, too much of the memoir reads like rote recitation of past events, with too many long-winded descriptions of business technicalities for lay readers to remain entertained. Although Riley discusses several people who were important to him, they tend to blend together, and readers may have difficulty remembering who’s who. Some of the strongest sections are when Riley contributes analysis; for instance, he muses that, as a child in the South, he “lived in a strictly circumscribed world, the opposite of what today would be known as ‘diverse’….The ethnic mix around me changed abruptly once I arrived in Detroit in the 1960s.” This statement opens up some fascinating questions that remain frustratingly unexplored: How did he feel about the change in his circumstances? What was the city really like? More nuance might have made the story more engaging.

A hot dog memoir that ultimately isn’t juicy enough.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499042504

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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