Looking for the best Irish Book in Boston for this Saint Patrick's Day? Look no further than Stonehill alumnus Gerry O'Neill's Rogues and Redeemers, which gives a riveting behind-the-scenes portrait of the Irish power brokers who forged and fractured 20th century Boston. Critics are hailing the book, subtitled When Politics Was King in Irish Boston, as a "classic" that is destined to become one of the most insightful and entertaining histories of Boston.
We recently spoke with O'Neill, a member of the Class of 1964 and a Pulitizer-Prize winning Boston Globe reporter about the book, which tracks the journey of the Boston Irish, starting with their desperate mid-nineteenth century immigration from a famine-racked Ireland to their slow climb out of poverty with mayors John "Honey" Fitizgerald and James Michael Curley. It goes on to explore the long resurrection of a backwater, dour Boston under five Irish American mayors to the world class metropolis of today.
We asked O'Neill for three interesting insights from his book:
Legendary Mayor James Michael Curley, known equally for his style and corruption over five decades, was going to sue the author of the classic novel, "Last Hurrah," until he realized it glossed over his corruption and immortalized him as a folk hero. Mayor John Hynes, the mild mannered clerk who defeated Curley for good in 1949, is the unsung hero of the new Boston. With the city nearly bankrupt, he still produced a renewal blueprint for all that followed, especially the Prudential Tower in the Back Bay and the Government Center.During the 1930s and 1940s, disreputable Dan Coakley, rogue of rogues, thrived on the Governor's Council by arranging dubious pardons for hardened prisoners. Called "The Knave of Boston, "he once wrote a fake letter of support for Raymond Patriarca, who went on to be head of the New England Mafia for decades. Coakley signed the bogus letter "Father Fagin." At least he knew his Dickens!
Rogues and Redeemers can be found at most major book stores and online at Amazon.com.
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