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Rogues and Redeemers: When Politics Was King in Irish Boston Hardcover – March 13, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405364
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


 “…a lively and highly readable study of the political figures who shaped and then reshaped the city in the 20th century.”--The Boston Globe

 "In Rogues and Redeemers, Gerard O'Neill brings his native knowledge and wit to bear on a regional political tradition as wily -- and felonious -- as any in U.S. history. From Honey Fitz to Curley to Ray Flynn -- they're all here, in a tight, entertaining narrative filled with triumph and tragedy."-- T.J. English, author of The Savage City and Paddy Whacked
“Gerry O’Neill’s entertaining and instructive book about the role of the Irish in Boston politics combines important insights about the role of ethnicity in American society, and a refreshingly positive discussion of the role that politics plays in our democracy. It’s an excellent antidote to those who would either sanitize or demonize both subjects.”—Barney Frank
"Gerard O'Neill brings Boston magnificently to life as the true star of its own saga - a tragic hero to be sure, full of hubris and waste. But also, as the title suggest, rife with redemption. O'Neill has written this generation's Last Hurrah."--James Carroll, Author of Jerusalem, Jerusalem
"The great Gerry O'Neill, Irish America's premier investigative reporter, gives a wry but unvarnished account of the crooks and misfits - and, yes, the redeemers - of his clan. This is a soaring tale, across a century, of how the Irish employed politics to escape the urban ghettoes, how their excess helped lead to Boston's plunge into hatred and decay, until a few rugged sons discarded the crutches of corruption and resentment, and joined others in building the world class city we know today." –John A. Farrell author of Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century
“Rogues and Redeemers is a joy to read. The author's colorful prose keeps the reader riveted as the history of Boston politics unfolds from the reign of the rascal king, James Michael Curley, to Ed Logue's grand design for urban renewal and Judge Garrity's flawed plan to integrate the city's school. Certain to become a classic, it is one of the best histories of Boston ever written.”--Jay P. Dolan, Author of The Irish Americans: A History

About the Author

GERARD O'NEILL was editor of the Boston Globe's investigative team for 25 years before retiring to teach graduate courses in journalism at Boston University. With Dick Lehr, he coauthored The Underboss in 1989 and  Black Mass in 2000. Black Mass was a New York Times bestseller and number one on the Globe's bestseller list for a year. He has won several regional and national reporting awards over several decades, including the Pulitzer; the Associated Press Managing Editors Award in 1977 and 1998; the Loeb Awards for business reporting in 1991; and was a Pulitzer finalist in 1997. He holds a master's in journalism from Boston University and lives in Back Bay with his wife, Janet. He has two sons.

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Customer Reviews

They are the leaders of the circus but the other acts are tied in quite well.
R. C Sheehy
O'Neill has a great grasp of Boston Irish politics because he has written about it for some time.
This book is a "must read" for anyone with an interest in the Boston Irish or Boston politics.
Nancy J. Whitcomb

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nails on March 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This was such a great book. The author was able to take the reader on a journey through time and seemlessly link the true history of Boston and the Irish immigrants rise to power from the depths of despair. Using the political icons of the era and showing them warts and all, O'Neill was able to paint a wonderful picture of the times through characters and anecdotal stories. He connects all the dots and you feel like you can really sense the shifting changes within the city. The writing is what really draws you in - he isn't rewriting history, he is telling you a story filled with incredible characters and hard data to back up assertions and conclusions. I have read a lot of books on Boston and this one has the potential to be the best one of all. Thomas O'Connor is the true expert on the subject and a great author himself - he wrote in the Boston Globe last Sunday that this is great read that should not be missed He said if you are older this book will bring back memories of colorful personalities and exiting events during the city's long and checkered history. For younger readers this book wil arouse their interest in political figures and dramatic episodes.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew F. Saxe on April 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would give Gerard O'Neill's "Rogue and Redeemers" a qualified recommendation. It is neither scholarly history nor elegant prose. It equals neither Jack Beatty's mammoth biography of James Michael Curley, "The Rascal King", Francis Russell's rollicking classic "Knave of Boston", nor Anthony Lewis' gripping "Common Ground". O'Neill's prose feels trite at times. Bulls are grabbed by the horns, and grooves are gotten back. It also suffers from a degree of parochialism. The Irish experience in Boston is not placed within the context of the Irish experience in America. Few comparisons to New York or Philadelphia or Chicago are drawn, nor are comparisons to the histories of other immigrants. Was the Irish experience in Boston unique to its time and place? Is it sui generis or does it say something larger about the American experience? That question is never fully addressed. Additionally, the Brahmins appear more as caricatures than fully developed figures in their own right. James Jackson Storrow is "stiff and earnest" and loses to John Fitzgerald despite outspending him two to one. O'Neill neglects to mention that Storrow lost only by 1415 votes, and Fitzgerald won only because he persuaded Mayor Hibbard to stay in the race and whose 1800 votes would have given Storrow victory. Fitzgerald, former Mayor and former Congressman, only narrowly defeated a businessman who had never before run for political office.

But while neither a scholarly tome nor literary classic, "Rogues and Redeemers" provides a valuable narrative of the Irish political experience from 1900 to the ascent of Mayor Menino.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tim Leland on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has an Irish branch in his or her family tree, or who has lived in Boston for a year or more, should read this book. I loved it and you will too. And if you have neither Irish nor Boston connections but enjoy strong, fast-paced prose about fascinating political characters, you'll like it just as much. Gerard O'Neill, a retired Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter/editor at The Boston Globe, whose own Irish roots in Boston go back three generations, has the Irish knack for telling a good yarn, and the yarns he tells in this 376-page book make history come to life. As a former investigative reporter, he has a talent for teasing out the facts, figures and occasional foolishness - not to mention the hilarious failures -- of Boston's rich political past. The parade of personalities that march across his pages are enchanting, each with a special O'Neill touch: John ("Honey Fitz") Fitzgerald . . . James Michael ("Himself") Curley . . . "Whispering Johnny" Hynes . . . John Collins ("the baby-faced assassin") . . . Ed ("I Am a Legend") Logue . . . Louise (You Know Where I Stand) Hicks . . . Kevin (Mayor Deluxe) White, who, as O'Neill notes, "was bred for politics, with champion genes on both sides" . . . State Senator Joseph Timilty, the ex-Marine who came within a whisper of defeating White and later ended up in jail on flimsy charges . . . earnest, straight ahead Ray Flynn ("a worker, not a philosopher," as O'Neill puts it) . . . and countless other well-known and lesser-known figures wind in and out of the narrative that O'Neill weaves, as he tells the story of Boston's long journey from the seamy burlesque halls of Scollay Square to the resplendent flowerbeds of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Author James Carroll says O'Neill has written "this generation's "The Last Hurrah." Take his word for it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Luke Killion on June 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Rogues and Redeemers" by Gerard O'Neill is a 375 page guide through the political landscape of Boston during the 20th century, a century that saw the rise and transformation of the Irish politician in one of America's most Irish cities. O'Neill's writing mixes both a savvy for politics with acumen for displaying the personalities that defined certain eras of Boston's governance. This is done through the office of the Mayor, as O'Neill takes the reader through the rise (and sometimes demise) of the "movers and shakers" that made Boston a landmark city for Irish Americans, as well as creating the only Irish Catholic president in JFK.

Considering how large the Kennedys loom when any writer covers Irish politics (especially during the heyday of the Democratic machine), it seems original for O'Neill to only mention the Kennedy's in passing, in footnote type of references to their roundabout connections to Boston's mayors. I would've thought they had more influence upon the city of Boston during the apex of the Kennedy era, yet I was surprised to learn of the business controlled eminent domain governments of John Hynes and John Collins in the 1950's and early 60's, which took transferred much of the power that Mayor Curley had built up in the city's civil service from the public to private sector. This book was a major education for me, as I've grown up in the suburbs, yet most of my family had involvement with Boston issues. It shows how cities can often be insular environments, complete with mini- fiefdoms of the old school "ward bosses" and the behind the scenes power that they wield.
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