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A darkly engaging account of an important, misunderstood epoch.

A dramatic reexamination of Jimmy Hoffa’s life and disappearance, presented by a legal scholar with a beguiling personal connection.

Goldsmith (Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11, 2012, etc.), who weathered his own controversies as assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the George W. Bush–era Justice Department, delivers a complex narrative focusing on his stepfather, Chuckie O’Brien, Hoffa’s right-hand man and eventual suspect in the gangster’s 1975 disappearance. The author agonizes over his relationship with Chuckie (how he refers to him throughout), both a wonderful stepfather and mob-connected scofflaw, from whom the author estranged himself for many years as he established his legal career. Their reconciliation informs the book’s structure, as Goldsmith chronicles how he urged Chuckie to relinquish the criminal code of silence. “I came to understand how much Omertà ordered his life,” he writes. Beyond Chuckie’s mysterious revelations, the author constructs a sprawling narrative, capturing how Hoffa—and an impressively rendered cast of gangsters and political figures—unwittingly oversaw labor’s decline. Initially, “Hoffa succeeded because he learned to deploy violent force successfully.” As Hoffa rose in the Teamster ranks, he combined strategic intelligence, personal loyalty to the rank and file of the brutal trucking industry, and an openness to the influence of organized crime. “Hoffa’s lifelong indifference to the taboos associated with organized crime,” writes Goldsmith, “was shaped by his early experiences fighting thugs hired by employers.” Eventually, Hoffa came to embody malfeasance, especially due to Bobby Kennedy’s hounding of him, first as congressman, then as attorney general. “RFK pulled out the stops to demolish Hoffa,” writes the author. All these factors contributed to Hoffa’s decline and disappearance, which is notoriously unsolved. Goldsmith argues that in zeroing in on the hapless Chuckie, “the FBI focused on facts that fit its theory.” The author adeptly synthesizes his personal involvement with the tale of politics, mobsters, and working-class decline that Hoffa represents, though he, too, finds the mystery unsolvable.

A darkly engaging account of an important, misunderstood epoch.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-17565-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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