A blistering and memorable portrait of a man and a city whose politics went bad a long time ago and stayed that way, from the Pulitzer-winning Providence Journal investigative reporter.
It is joked, writes Stanton, that Providence, Rhode Island, was the “America's first safe house,” a haven for freethinkers and the persecuted in Puritan New England. But the colony's wide-open mores also made it, as Cotton Mather so elegantly noted, the fag end of creation. By the time Buddy Cianci became mayor, for the first time, in 1974, the city was understood to be a hotbed of political corruption, ably sketched out by Stanton in a profile of Raymond Patriarca, mob boss and unelected mayor. Though Cianci ran on an anti-corruption ticket, he soon learned that “once you came down from the East Side and crossed the river into the rest of Providence, you needed political grease and muscle. You had to cut deals. You needed an organization.” In Providence, the blueprint was already in place and Cianci hewed to the line, namely scams, shakedowns, bribes, and kickbacks, while also demonstrating his willingness to go beyond the standard ego strutting of politics into something scarier, a taste for cruelty that got him uprooted from the mayoralty when he was convicted of assault in a particularly nasty act of mayhem. Six years later, he's back in office, and back at doing what he does best: “running a criminal enterprise out of the mayor's office that, during the 1990s, had extorted more that two million dollars in kickbacks for jobs, contracts, and favors.” From the brightly illuminated picture of the city Stanton has created, that can only have been the tip of the big berg that lurks off the radar. Buddy's now in the clink.
The kind of successfully fluid story that could be written only by someone who has seen and connected the dots, studied the resulting picture for years and from many perspectives, observed the changes, and even sensed them.