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 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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