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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) + A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850-1900 + Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
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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: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Read an obituary: "It is difficult to imagine a time when Boston will cease recalling stories about James Michael Curley." This book expands the perimeters of Curley's life, although non-Bostonians of a certain age will remember him as the fictional Frank Skeffington in Edwin O'Connor's The Last Hurrah . In his home town, Curley is remembered affectionately as a rascal king, which, judging by Atlantic senior editor Beatty's finely honed depiction, may be a kinder appellation than is deserved by His Honor, a magnifico who ran for Democratic mayor of Boston 10 times--the last, unsuccessfuly, in 1955 at age 81--capturing the office for four terms, and who served also as governor and in Congress. But the title of Mayor was Curley's favorite, not surprisingly, for it was from that till that this devout Catholic, devoted husband and father of nine children, and student of classical literature accumulated the greatest riches. Born in Boston to Irish-Catholic immigrants, Curley with just nine years of formal schooling early on perceived the efficacy of doing well by doing good. That he succeeded is testified to by the 21-room mansion he built on a mayor's $10,000 annual salary--when Boston purchased 350 The?uppercase ok?/as given in galley Jamaicaway in 1988, the gag around town was that the city had already paid for the property--and by the 100,000 voters who signed a petition to President Truman requesting clemency for their mayor jailed for mail fraud. Curley returned to office after serving five months of his sentence; it was his second imprisonment--the first was in 1903, for taking a civil-service exam for another man. But no matter his offenses, his Irish constituents championed him, for through his politics of ethnic and religious polarization he gave them pride and jobs and they winked at his graft. (In a classic Curley gesture, His Honor equipped City Hall scrubwomen with long-handled mops because, he said, a woman should only get on her knees to pray.) Beatty's portrayal of the era's Democratic party ethos sparkles and edifies, but one takes issue with his attempts to draw contemporary parallels, as when he compares Curley's politics to that of today's "leading black politicians," or writes that Barbara Bush is, like Mary Curley, "a fine white Christian lady" who as the wife of a powerful man "gets pulled along." Beatty's intellectual arrogance is annoying as well: "The sort of people who read editorials were already lost to Curley anyway." But these interpolations are infrequent enough not to markedly diminish the impact of a work that will delight and astound the body politic. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Curley is now known principally through Edwin O'Connor's novel, The Last Hurrah (1956). Atlantic editor Beatty writes the first biography in 43 years of a man who over the course of a half-century in politics was four times mayor of Boston, once governor of Massachusetts, twice a congressional representative, and twice a prisoner in jail. Much of this portrait, developed in part through interviews with Curley's son, is familiar in legend: Beatty details Curley's political genius, compassion, verbal gifts, and ability to touch his people, Boston's Irish. Beatty also describes Curley's megalomania, his role in the city's economic decline, and "the labyrinthine ingenuity of his graft." Indicting Curley here, praising him there, Beatty's assessment is fair-minded, his research solid, his asides on today's political parallels enlightening, and his style appropriate to a flamboyant subject. For all Boston-area libraries and for libraries whose patrons are interested in politics, cities, or Irish Americans.
-Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, N.H.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

His timeline is vague and, at points, difficult to follow.
"dcdre"
If you ever want to read a book about the political history of Boston this is the book for you.
rhsmith
Curley refused to resign as either Mayor or as U.S. Representative.
LEON L CZIKOWSKY

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
The Rascal King was a great book about the politics played throughout the country. It is an excellent look at Old Boy's Clubs and it depicts early immigrant life in Boston. My family was involved with politics at the same time, and knew Curley. This is why I read the book. It is great if you have time to sit down and read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Craig Bolon on June 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Comments by reader "dcdre" appear on point. As of 2012, there are three biographies of Mr. Curley. The other two are from former Boston Globe reporter Joseph F. Dinneen [The Purple Shamrock, Norton, 1949] and from former Massachusetts senate president William M. Bulger [James Michael Curley, Commonwealth, 2009]. All are available at the Boston Public Library and from booksellers, including Amazon.

Among these, Mr. Dinneen's book is best: readable, clear and concise--given that he is recounting over 50 years of history. To understand what Mr. Beatty's book actually has to say about Mr. Curley, as clotted with other topics from other times, the first third of it took three reads and the balance two. That would be an unwarranted burden for most readers. Mr. Bulger's book comes across as hagiography. If read at all, it might be to fill in outlines of Mr. Bulger's life and views, not those of Mr. Curley.

Mr. Beatty tells a couple of times what has become a standard story about former Boston city clerk John F. Hynes's irritation with Mr. Curley on Curley's return to the mayor's office from federal prison in 1947. He fails to provide convincing references. It does not factor much in Mr. Dinneen's contemporaneous accounts and might be embroidering or someone's lie. Many elements of Mr. Curley's career are at least as slippery.

Checking some of Mr. Beatty's references left one unsatisfied that he had done much more to disentangle truth from falsehood than novelist Edwin O'Connor [The Last Hurrah, Little Brown, 1956]. Apparently read for entertainment, Mr. Beatty's book nevertheless became popular among some who shared his outlooks on events from the late 1960s through the early 1990s.

In one satisfactory segment of detective work, Mr. Beatty reported (on p.
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2 of 2 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a student of Tammany Hall politics in NYC, Beatty's book fascinates me as a wonderful look at the ethnic politics that spurred Boston Irishers to political action. To those interested in machine politics in general, I also recommend Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, a firsthand account of life in NY's Tammany machine, the same one which inspired Curley.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CROFT109@AOL.COM on July 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read this book once and very much want to read it a second time. The historical accuracy is great and the writing style flows nicely. The only drawback I found was the author's propensity to interject his personal opinions as the situation of interest to him arose. If you do what I did, and skip over these "soapbox" opines, you will find this a most satisfying book.
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