PRIME TIME AND MISDEMEANORS

INVESTIGATING THE 1950S T.V. QUIZ SCANDAL--A D.A.'S ACCOUNT

Stone, the Manhattan assistant district attorney who investigated the fixing of The $64,000 Question and other TV quiz shows, takes us step by step through his complex inquiry, finding ``lying so pervasive that it was woven into the fabric of American life.'' Writing with free-lance editor-writer Yohn, Stone, who's now in private practice, begins in August 1958, when a Dotto contestant came to his office complaining that the show had been rigged. Soon after, Herbert Stempel, a CCNY graduate forced to lose to Columbia professor Charles Van Doren on Twenty-One, claimed that the show's producer, Daniel Enright, had scripted and coached his appearances and given him answers. Ironically, the fixing of TV quiz shows was not illegal at the time, though the success of these lucrative programs depended on public perception of their ``integrity.'' The fiasco would have been limited, Stone contends, if producers like Enright had told the truth. Instead, with contracts and reputations to lose, they lied and pressured contestants—mostly ``well- educated'' citizens made famous by quiz victories—to lie, first to Stone himself, and then—despite his warnings—to a grand jury. Conflicting testimony and a billowing coverup led to congressional hearings, a second grand jury, and indictments for perjury. This story of corruption also involves lawyers, whom Stone wanted to investigate for suborning perjury, and a judge who, in Stone's view, ``danced to Enright's tune.'' What was never clarified (in part because Stone never made William Paley, Robert Sarnoff, et al., testify) was ``the nature of decision-making at the highest corporate levels that led to the proliferation of fixed quizzes.'' Although quiz-show rigging became a federal crime, the TV industry, Stone says, diluted proposed legislation for greater regulation. A through and sobering document, laying out a case of deceit and fraud before the public that was the victim. (Nineteen b&w illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: April 26, 1992

ISBN: 0-8135-1753-2

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Rutgers Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

THIS IS SHAKESPEARE

A brisk study of 20 of the Bard’s plays, focused on stripping off four centuries of overcooked analysis and tangled reinterpretations.

“I don’t really care what he might have meant, nor should you,” writes Smith (Shakespeare Studies/Oxford Univ.; Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book, 2016, etc.) in the introduction to this collection. Noting the “gappy” quality of many of his plays—i.e., the dearth of stage directions, the odd tonal and plot twists—the author strives to fill those gaps not with psychological analyses but rather historical context for the ambiguities. She’s less concerned, for instance, with whether Hamlet represents the first flower of the modern mind and instead keys into how the melancholy Dane and his father share a name, making it a study of “cumulative nostalgia” and our difficulty in escaping our pasts. Falstaff’s repeated appearances in multiple plays speak to Shakespeare’s crowd-pleasing tendencies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a bawdier and darker exploration of marriage than its teen-friendly interpretations suggest. Smith’s strict-constructionist analyses of the plays can be illuminating: Her understanding of British mores and theater culture in the Elizabethan era explains why Richard III only half-heartedly abandons its charismatic title character, and she is insightful in her discussion of how Twelfth Night labors to return to heterosexual convention after introducing a host of queer tropes. Smith's Shakespeare is eminently fallible, collaborative, and innovative, deliberately warping play structures and then sorting out how much he needs to un-warp them. Yet the book is neither scholarly nor as patiently introductory as works by experts like Stephen Greenblatt. Attempts to goose the language with hipper references—Much Ado About Nothing highlights the “ ‘bros before hoes’ ethic of the military,” and Falstaff is likened to Homer Simpson—mostly fall flat.

A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4854-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more