Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club: Vol. XIX.
I'd be happy to recommend an excellent book [–] if you make it worth my while.
How about a payoff? You scratch my book, and I'll scratch yours.
Unfortunately, that sort of come-on doesn't draw much interest when it involves literary issues. But payoffs in politics are another story altogether and a pretty interesting one, too.
That's why "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" by Kenneth Ackerman is the latest choice of this poor, corrupt pseudo-intellectual.
This story of the grandaddy of crooked politicians is a fascinating tale of the rise of big-city politics, the men who ran it and their unapologetic, insatiable appetite for power and money.
People in Illinois may think they know a few things about public corruption. After all, our former governor, George Ryan, is on trial in federal court in Chicago. But Ryan and his ilk are pikers compared to the Boss of Political Bosses, William Tweed, and his fellow renegades at New York City's Tammany Hall.
Tweed was an outsized character, a charming, able and cunning man who simply couldn't steal enough money as he climbed his way to political supremacy both in the city government and the state legislature. Master of the backroom deal, he and his cohorts grew so wealthy to this day they are emblematic of corrupt, big-city machine politics.
Ackerman's book describes how Tweed worked his way up the political ladder, skillfully exercised and consolidated his power and, along with his associates, became rich off the business of government, mostly by forcing city contractors into submitting inflated bills for the work they performed.
The contractors were paid what they earned while Tweed and Co. kept the rest [–] an estimated $25 million. That was real money back in those days, and they lived openly like kings.
It would be nice to think that an vigilant press brought Tweed down and restored honesty to government. Actually, it was an unholy alliance of the press (The New York Times and cartoonist Thomas Nast) and a corrupt, disaffected former Tweed ally that unleashed the forces of reform on Tweed and Co.
It was a lovely scandal that, once revealed, fascinated New Yorkers, prompting the politicians who were implicated to flee with their ill-gotten gains. Ironically, poor Tweed was the only member of his ring to pay a heavy price for his criminality. Tweed was so convinced that he was entitled to what he stole that he stuck around until it was too late. Once behind bars, he made a brief desperate escape to Cuba, where he was captured and brought back. Ultimately, he died behind in jail, where he eventually made a full confession in a futile effort to win mercy. Very little of the millions of dollars that he and his cohorts stole was recovered, and Tweed and his corrupt friends were replaced by others equally corrupt but more subtle in their thievery.
Previous recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club:
[– ] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[– ] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[– ] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[– ] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[– ] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[– ] "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[– ] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[– ] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[– ] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[– ] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[– ] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[– ] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[– ] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[– ] "In Harms Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[– ] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[– ] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[– ] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.
[–] "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager" by Buzz Bissinger.