ALL THE RIGHT ENEMIES: The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca by Dorothy Gallagher

ALL THE RIGHT ENEMIES: The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A biography of the Italian anarcho-syndicalist labor agitator and newspaper editor who worked in the US from 1904 until his assassination in New York City in 1943. Gallagher, author of Hannah's Daughter (1976), gropes through some poorly lit back-streets of history, trying to elucidate the motivations of the leftist martyr and the conspiracies in which he was sometimes instigator, sometimes reporter, sometimes informant, and, finally, victim. As the titles implies, Tresca is the hero here--a once powerful enemy of Mussolini, Stalin, Communist henchman Vittorio Vidali, Mafia kingpin Vito Genovese, and the pro-fascist N.Y.C. power-broker Generoso Pope. But though the research appears thorough, and the characters and plots are fascinating, the book bogs down in detail. It is difficult to unravel the subplots, as Gallagher offers too little in the way of encapsulation. And the dramatic possibilities of Tresca's life are lost, as tangents--portraits of his longtime companion Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Vittorio Vitaldi, and others--diffuse the story. Pages go by without reference or even particular relevance to Tresca, whose life does not lend itself easily to biography. Tresca's own memoirs, never finished, were inchoate. ""He was a thetorician and polemicist,"" notes Gallagher, ""with little patience or talent for extended narrative or introspection."" Perhaps it was the nature of the man to defy such treatment. Gallagher's own efforts to include gossip, love affairs, emotional states all fall flat. All the details are here, but they never crystallize into a compelling story until the book's shorter second part, the unraveling of Tresca's murder. In all, a stolid, reportorial history.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1988
Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press