SECRET POLICE

INSIDE THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF INVESTIGATION

An employee of New York City's undercover investigative agency (and former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers) here reveals very little about very few cases. The Department of Investigation does some of the more interesting work in New York: Its undercover investigators look into white-collar crimes and corruption that the police don't have the resources to investigate. Benjaminson (Death in the Afternoon: America's Newspaper Giants Struggle for Survival, 1984) worked at the DOI in its heyday, from 1991 to 1993. The DOI, it seems, typically suffers from in-fighting, corruption, and many of the troubles it was formed to combat, but in 1991 Susan Shepard, who was dead-set on honesty, took command. The cases described here range from a welfare scam that netted $45 million to a parking- meter ploy that resulted in the loss of a lot of quarters. But the stories suffer from both a paucity of compelling material and from a mediocre telling. While Benjaminson is purportedly interested in justice, his real fury erupts when he details the number of times other departments, particularly the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, took credit for DOI arrests. It's sad that Benjaminson has very little to say about the reasons for, and effects of, the light sentences the DOI criminals face. These white-collar criminals, all of whom have looted the city's coffers, get little to no prison time, and some are rewarded—the upstate water police, for example, preferred giving out speeding tickets to actually guarding the state's water supply, and as punishment were given brand-new cruisers. In his desire to claim bragging rights, Benjaminson neglects the bigger picture, and the book comes off sounding like a series of petty complaints. A catalog of minutiae that trivializes the crimes it reports and the DOI's relevance to New York.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-56980-090-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Barricade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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