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Those for whom visions of sugarplums are too cloying this holiday season may savor descriptions of the darker side of human nature – racketeering, murder and political corruption – as served up by three Evanston authors. What “The Mafia Court,” “Dialogues of a Crime” and “Lyin’ Cheatin’ Bastards” have in common is their Evanston genesis. Aside from that, the paths diverge.
‘Lyin’ Cheatin’ Bastards’
Angus Carroll, editor of “Lyin’ Cheatin’ Bastards,” claims it took authors
Allison Adler of Evanston, Jennifer Freeman, Claire Young and Vicki Zwart only five minutes of research for them to fill this book of political scandals occurring in the first 12 years of this century.
The book covers serious material but is written in a lighthearted style, assuming that most every reader knows most every lyin’ cheatin’ bastard (LCB) and this book is just a wry recap, with photos of the shiny, happy politicos before they were caught.
There are five major categories of LCBs: Congress, mayors, state legislators, governors and “other.” They have resigned in disgrace, been impeached or imprisoned, been recalled or censured or have demonstrated “an exceptional level of hypocrisy or dishonesty,” the authors say. They have been caught lyin’ and cheatin’ in matters of sex, money, power, cover-ups, drugs and alcohol. Mr. Carroll says he is puzzled by the distribution along the political spectrum: “Sex accounts for more than half the scandals involving member of Congress, state legislators and governors, but not for mayors. No one knows what this means.”
Republicans, they found, are focused on sex; Democrats on money. Republicans also had a higher total of scandals: 39 to Democrats’ 32.
Mr. Carroll’s cheerful disclaimer on the non-scientific scoring system to rank the LCBs is that it is “faulty, but it has been applied evenly to everyone, so in that sense it is perfectly fair.”
The top – if indeed that word applies – 77 LCBs appear numerically in the book, with former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley at number 77 with a score of 1 and Phil Giordano, the former mayor of Water-bury, Connecticut, at number 1, with a score of 1,422. Mr. Giordano is a convicted child molester serving a 37-year sentence in a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz.
Despite the state’s reputation in some circles for corrupt politicians, Illinois fares better than many other states, with only 5 LCBs: former U.S. Senator, State Comptroller and State Attorney General Roland Burris, number 76 with a score of 10; former Governor George Ryan, number 31 with a score of 83; Rita Crundwell; former treasurer of Dixon, number 20, with a score of 103; Betty Loren Maltese, former president of Cicero, number 14, with a score of 120; and former Governor Rod Blagojevich, number 3, with a score of 257.
“The problem appears to be men. … Not one of the 94 women [in Congress is] under investigation, has been censured for ethics violations or has been involved in a scandal during their time in office,” Mr. Carroll concludes.
But he also suggests that expecting anything but bad behavior from politicians may be unrealistic: “[W]hen Eliot Spitzer (LCB number 11), the governor of New York and the state’s former attorney general, is forced to resign in disgrace for hiring prostitutes but ends up on television as a host of a news program, it may be time to reevaluate our standards, not just theirs.”
“Lyin’ Cheatin’ Bastards” is published by Assassin Bug Press and dedicated “To America. We’re sorry.” It is available on Amazon.com.
‘The Mafia Court: Corruption in Chicago’
“The Mafia Court” is the second foray into writing about the Chicago mob by John Russell Hughes, D.M., M.D., and Ph.D. His first, “JFK and Sam,” is about “the relationship of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and the mobster Sam Giancana,” according to the book jacket of “The Mafia Court.”
The story breezes though the first section, “The Pioneers,” the Genna brothers, Big Jim Colosimo and Johnny Torrio. “The Bosses: 1925-Present” comprises the bulk of the book, with about 50 pages devoted to “Noble Soldiers of the Mob.” Many of the characters are part of Chicago gangster lore – the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Frank Nitti, Anthony Accardo, Llewelyn Morris Humphreys and, of course, Alphonse Capone. The most extensive coverage is given to Al Capone and to “Curly” Humphreys, his successor.
The author gives some biographical information about the members of the
Chicago Mafia and its long reach, showing the interconnectedness of the gangs, bosses, police officers, judges and politicians. Strict chronology is absent, as is significant substantiation. The stories loop around backward and forward in time, giving the reader a feeling that the narrative is the recollection of an insider.
And that appears to be deliberate. In the prologue, Dr. Hughes writes of a telephone call he received after the publication of “JFK and Sam,” from a person who wished to call on him personally and discuss the book. The visitor, he said, “was closely associated with the Mafia” because his father “was a wealthy member of the Chicago Mafia and also a labor union president.” Five years later, Dr. Hughes writes, the man called again, inviting him to write “a new book about the corruption in the Chicago courts.” The visitor said “a very world-famous British lord” also wished to see such a book written. Halfway into the project, however, the “ex-mobster” demanded “thousands of dollars” from both Dr. Hughes and his co-author. The co-author abandoned the project, Dr. Hughes writes, “and I decided to pursue the task by myself. Thus this book was born through one of the Mob’s favorite techniques – extortion.”
By day, Dr. Hughes is director of the epilepsy clinic at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, the oldest and largest such in the country. He holds an M.D. from Northwestern University, a Ph.D. from Harvard University and an honorary doctorate from Oxford University.
“The Mafia Court: Corruption in Chicago” is available for $19.95 at TrineDay Publishing in Walterville, Oregon.
‘Dialogues of a Crime’
Those who know that Tony Accardo spent part of his last years in Barrington might be tempted to think he is the model for mob kingpin Dominick (“Dom”) Calabria in John K. Manos’ novel “Dialogues of a Crime.” In 1972, Michael J. Pollitz, attending a small college in Illinois on scholarship, is arrested for drug-dealing. He is faced with two options: accept legal
help from the mob-related father of his best friend, John Calabria, or take his chances with the public defender. His
father, a proud blue-collar worker, demands that Michael stay away from the mob but concedes the family cannot
afford another attorney.
On the advice of a local defense attorney who seems more adept at coercing his clients into plea bargains than at defending him, Michael pleads guilty. He is to serve a three-month sentence in what one of Mr. Calabria’s associates calls a “medium joint, down somewhere near Peoria, around there someplace.”
Too late, Dominick Calabria gets the word out that Michael should be taken care of in prison “like my own son.” Michael is beaten and raped by three other inmates. His injuries – and Mr. Calabria’s trailing protection – keep him in the infirmary for most of the remainder of his sentence. “You find out who these three … are. … I want to know when they’re getting out … I want to know where they go,” Dom Calabria tells his henchmen.
On the day Michael leaves prison, his two attackers bait him and he responds with a curse for each: The last thing one will ever eat is his own genitalia. The other can learn a new word “defenestration.” … You’re going to take a walk off a building …” Each was killed as predicted, and neither case was solved.
More than 20 years later, in 1994, Chicago police detective Larry Klinger, weary of crime, criminals, excuses and explanations, interviews Bobby Andrews, who claims to know that Dom Calabria was responsible for those murders.
In the course of the investigation, Detective Klinger and Michael Pollitz, now a respected businessman, one weary of crime and criminals, the other wary of police and investigations, begin a cautious dialogue. They talk speculatively at first, then philosophically, about life, loyalty and morality. These conversations allow each of them to reflect on past and future and the nature and consequence of one’s actions. “Like Mike said once,” Det. Klinger tells his lover, Dora, “you don’t have to jump in the water to get wet.”
“Dialogues of a Crime” is published by Amika Press in Chicago and is available on amazon.com. It was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2013.