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The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway Hardcover – June 5, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

[A] first-rate piece of narrative history . . . splendidly written, with nary a wasted word. His account of a massive construction project and its travails, framed by the tale of one of its major players, Frank Hague, revives the story of New Jersey's original "boss" for a new generation. -- Joseph G. Bilby, H-Net

Great real characters -- Hudson County deity Frank Hague and even Longy Zwillman of Newark (last seen in Philip Roth's The Plot Against America), Teddy Brandle and even A. Harry Moore -- fill its pages. - Maureen Berzok, The Star-Ledger

Tells a story as harrowingly as Hitchcock, as dramatically as Welles. - The Record

A fascinating read. - Mario Murillo, host of WBAI's Wake Up Call

A Lapham's Quarterly Recommended Book. Featured in news coverage by The New York Times and The Star-Ledger.

A revealing look....Hart uses his considerable narrative talent to tell an engaging human story. -- Henry Petroski, author of Engineers of Dreams and Success Through Failure

About the Author

Steven Hart is an award-winning journalist who has written for the New York Times, Salon, and the Home News Tribune in New Jersey's Middlesex and Union counties (where Robert Caro worked), among other publications. He lives in New Jersey.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595580980
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595580986
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 7.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Journalist and freelance writer Steven Hart has been a featured guest on National Public Radio and written for The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the online magazine Salon. He is the author of two acclaimed nonfiction works: The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway (The New Press), and American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine (Rutgers University Press). His first novel, a thriller called We All Fall Down, was spotlighted on the New York Post "Required Reading" list. Last year saw the publication of his second novel, a dark psychological thriller called Echo. Let the Devil Speak: Articles, Essays, and Incitements is his first essay collection. He lives in Central New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

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This book reads like good novel.
papaphilly
If you have any interest in machine politics, union labor or history in general, this is a great find.
Peter DeAngelo
The author certainly did a great job of researching!
P. L. Bacon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I live in North Jersey, but this book is relevant to anyone interested in American history, the changes this country underwent when the automobile became commonplace, and the evolotion of modern machine politics and bossism. This exhaustively researched, yet economically written book is full of insight and fascinating information about the power struggles that ensued as American cities tried to cope with the changes wrought by the need for roads.

Frank Hague is not as widely known as other political bosses of his era, but he should be, and Mr. Hart's smooth style and astute writing bring the decades-long Jersey City mayor to life and fill in many blanks about him. Hague's controversial reign had a permanent and very tangible impact in New Jersey, New York, and, in fact, throughout the nation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Geoff on June 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Last Three Miles has as its most specific focus the construction of what is now known as the Pulaski Skyway. Serving as macrocosm are the machinations of politicos and union men and corporations before and during the construction of America's first viaduct/superhighway. The cast of characters is nigh Shakespearean, and Steven Hart is particularly good at breathing life into the major players. Foremost is Frank Hague, Irish tough and one of America's great political bosses. Serving as foil is Teddy Brandle, the thuggish union boss who becomes rich and powerful by playing ball with Hague, and whose dispute with his patron over the construction of a hospital leads to the climactic labor struggle which serves as climax in Hart's narrative. Also making an appearance is railroad engineer, intrepid world-traveler and lothario Fred Lavis. There are many others.

In less deft hands, the book could easily have exceeded 500 pages, and been rendered unreadable to anyone not a historian by the inclusion of tedious minutiae. Hart's great gift is whittling down the story to its most concise threads, threads that pull the reader happily along. He tells his tale with wit and vigour, somehow managing not to skimp on essential context, situating his New Jersey narrative within the larger framework of labor woes and Tammany Hall-style 'democracy' and federal intervention in local public works. It's a great read. I laughed out loud at several points, most heartily during a catalog of the salaries and 'duties' of several well-paid Hague henchmen. Hart even manages to take the reader on a harrowing ride along the Skyway's hazardous route.

Hart treats his subjects fairly and allows their flaws largely to speak for themselves, which is refreshing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Cowles on June 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There's something repulsive, yet strangely compelling, about the Pulaski Skyway, the grimy eyesore that the author aptly describes as "a uniquely efficient generator of traffic accidents." Deride it you must, but the Skyway is a fitting landmark for the squalid industrial wasteland it straddles. You'll want to buy and read this book in a hurry, before the inevitable collapse of the rusty hulk -- which even today, after some 75 years of service, plays a vital role spewing traffic in and out of New York City. It can't be too long before the monstrosity falls down, as anyone can attest who regularly drives the wretched span linking the Holland Tunnel and points west.

This well-researched little book tells the complete story of the Skyway's ill-starred design and construction. But by way of context, it necessarily tackles a much bigger story: the life and times of the notoriously corrupt Frank Hague, long-serving mayor/dictator of Jersey City, and the bloody battles waged by trade unions locked out of the Skyway project -- a forgotten, sad chapter in America's history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DJ Rix on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you want to read a book on bridge design, engineering & construction, this ain't it. Steven Hart tells us what is necessary to the tale. But the Pulaski Skyway - obsolete from the day it opened to traffic in 1932 - provides Hart with an iconic landmark on which to base a superb, unflinching, unsentimental look at the long, harsh reign of Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague.

Past Jersey political bosses like Enoch "Nucky" Johnson of Atlantic City & Frank Hague of Jersey City are too often recalled with humor, nostalgia, & even affection. But their power was maintained through fear & brutality. They were gangsters. Johnson even felt it beneath him to run for office, preferring to control his city from a palatial suite in the Ritz-Carlton. Where the affable & personally generous Johnson ran a wide-open island resort town - its sole business was entertainment - that offered every conceivable vice, for a price, & cops directed visitors to whorehouses & gambling joints, Hague's Jersey City was a large, tough railroad & port city, dissent suppressed by a fascistic police force & a network of spies & informers. Hague's roots were in the puritanical Jansenist Catholicism of poor Irish immigrants. What the two men had in common were a taste for expensive suits & a will to crush opponents by any means necessary. Hart reminds us that the "good works" Hague did were for power & profit, not the gestures of a progressive Rooseveltian Democrat.

The Last Three Miles is also the story of every major highway in Jersey; the Turnpike, Parkway, Expressway, the interstates, bulldozing through working class neighborhoods, splitting towns in half, destroying farms, woods, & wetlands, endlessly widening, enriching politically connected construction companies, banks, & large landowners.
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Frequently Bought Together

The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway + American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine (Rivergate Regionals Collection) + The Life & Times of Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague
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