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The Rascal King: The Life And Times Of James Michael Curley (1874-1958) Paperback – August 21, 2000

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The Rascal King: The Life And Times Of James Michael Curley (1874-1958) + James Michael Curley (paperback): A Short Biography with Personal Reminiscences
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A rousingly entertaining, marvelously well-written biography." -- William E. Leuchtenburg, The New Republic

"A truly brilliant biography." -- John Kenneth Galbraith, Chicago Tribune

"Hugely entertaining." -- Boston Sunday Globe

"Read this book this year if you read no other." -- Lawrence J. Goodrich, Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Jack Beatty is a senior editor of the Atlantic Monthly, a commentator for NPR, and the author of The World According to Peter Drucker. He lives in Boston.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; New Ed edition (August 21, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306810026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810022
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "dcdre" on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read "The Rascal King" after reading Edwin O'Connor's great "The Last Hurrah," a barely fictional account of Curley's reign over Boston. I have to say that O'Connor achieved with fiction what Beatty failed to do with biography... paint a realistic picture of the fascinating life and times of James M. Curley.
Beatty's work, while greatly researched, was extremely choppy and amateurishly written. His timeline is vague and, at points, difficult to follow. He feels it necessary to interject into Curley's story several times with poorly made comparisons to present day political situations, as well very annoying literary references. (He consistently refers to Curley's arrogance of power as Massachusetts governor as a "Xanadu complex." Why not just call him arrogant?). Overall, it felt like Beatty was trying too hard.
Structural and literay problems aside, James Curley has one of the most interesting stories in 20th century American history. His use of "race baiting" against Boston's old Yankee elite (although "nationality baiting" may be more appropriate a term), his questionable campaign tactics, his dubious financial activities as an elected official, and his compassion and kindnes towards the forgotten common man make him one of the great populist leaders of our history. He was the quintessential campaigner and politician. It's too bad Beatty couldn't do him justice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Borowy26 VINE VOICE on March 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
As the first full length biography of James Michael Curley, a long term fixture in Boston Democratic politics who served as mayor, governor and congressman, in between two brief prison terms, to be published in almost forty-five years, this book was a most welcome addition to library bookshelves.

Curley possessed great personal charisma and wit, so much so that he makes Chicago's long term mayor, Richard J. Daley, look like a dullard by comparison. Throughout his public life, Curley seemed to be a cat with nine lives.

The book is enjoyable, but somewhat uneven. The concluding chapters seem hurried. Occasionally, the author mixes in (then) contemporary comments about the 1988 presidential race that have nothing to do with Curley whatsoever. I rate the biography as a near miss owing to its minor defects.

The novel and the motion picture "The Last Hurrah" which are loosely based upon Curley are deservedly well known, but the truth is oftentimes more entertaining than fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By book man on November 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Loved this book about Curley. I agree with other critics here that the book can be uneven at times. Overall it is a fascinating work about a mythic politician. His personal and political life is arguably more tragic and flawed than the whole Kennedy saga. Curley's wife and seven of his children die during his life. A lifelong politician, he is loved and feared, respected and vilified, a loving husband and the most crooked of politicians. His funeral was and still is the largest in Boston's history. It's amazing that more hasn't been written about Curley, there is no website devoted to his recorded speeches. He would be a wonderful subject for someone like Ken Burns. If you have an interest in boston politics....read this book...you won't be disappointed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ed Tracey on December 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having been only two years old at Curley's death in 1858, Jack Beatty's book got me up to speed in a hurry. It details not only his life story, but of all of the maneuvering going on behind the scenes" - shrewd is not the half of it. It mentions some principled stands that Curley took, offset by some rapacious greed. And, Beatty suggests that Curley invented modern-day "race-baiting" long ahead of the George Wallaces and Al Sharptons of this world.
For all of its detail, the book is lacking a conclusionary chapter at the end. Jack Beatty has given us all of the pieces (in, once again, comprehensive detail) but doesn't sum them up. For all of his strengths, did James Curley set back the cause of Irish-American politics? For all of his faults, was the average citizen of Boston better off with him (a la George Bailey)? We may need another source for this - for now, Jack Beatty has given us the building blocks.
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Format: Paperback
This is a detailed and well written biography of one of the most colorful politicans in American history, James Curley. Police estimate one million people lined the streets of Boston to watch the hearse carrying James Curley pass. As four term Mayor and Governor, Curley had been their leader, especially to many Irish Americans.

The fictitious "The Last Hurrah" was based on Curley. He sued with a film version was made and then denied he had been paid $25,000 for the right, claiming whoever signed his name forget his signature. He agreed to a $15,000 payment. There are many who believe Curley may have conieved to squeeze a little extra money from the film producers in what may have been Curley's real life last hurrah. He died two months later.

Curley did not get along with the Kennedys. He hold over his head, as blackmail, that John Fitzgerald, Boston Mayor and John Kennedy's grandfather, had an affair.

As Mayor, Curley got long handled mops for cleaning ladies so they wouldn't have to clean City Hall on their knees. It was said "Lincoln freed the slaves, Curley got the scrubwomen off their knees." Curley also called them matrons and cleaners rather than scrubwomen, and he made their jobs civil service. Curley's mother had been a scrubwoman.

Curley had two children die, at ages 34 and 41, of cerebral hemorrhages at two different locations on the same day. Curley stood for 14 hours to meet everyone who came to see him after their deaths.

Curley grew up poor. He filled his youthful hurt of being poor by seeking money and spending it.

Curley did not create a political machine. All his political organizations were for his own elections.
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