Giuliani Is Back! Three Books on Larger-Than-Life New York Mayors

As Rudolph Giuliani joins President Trump’s legal defense team, here are biographies on three men (including Giuliani) that illuminate the world of New York City politics.


The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York
By Kenneth D. Ackerman.
437 pp. Carroll & Graf Publishers. (2005)

William Marcy Tweed, or Boss Tweed as he was called, was first elected to public office in 1852. According to this biography, he perfected a system of corruption that helped him control “the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box.” He laundered at least the equivalent of $1 billion today, much of which went into his or his associates’ pockets. Tweed was a complex figure, because despite his criminality, he improved the lives of the poor in New York City; he funded schools and hospitals and helped the disadvantaged navigate President Abraham Lincoln’s draft law, which allowed the rich to buy their way out of service. Our reviewer called Ackerman’s book an “excellent” biography: The story of Tweed’s rise and fall is told in a crisp, clear way.”


Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York
By Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett
466 pp. Harper & Row. (1989)

This book, which picks up a century after Tweed’s reign, opens with Ed Koch being sworn in for a third term as mayor of New York. It provides an inside look at the corruption within Koch’s administration, like his behind-the-scenes cooperation with politicians he had promised to oppose. The writers showcase colorful characters, including politicians, mobsters and journalists.


An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani
By Wayne Barrett
Assisted by Adam Fifield
498 pp. Basic Books. (2000)

This biography, published after Giuliani’s failed run for Congress, is described by our reviewer as “almost like flowers laid on his political crypt,” evidence of ”the City Hall curse,” which claims that no New York mayor will rise to a higher office. Though Giuliani presented himself as the city’s savior for cleaning up the streets and overseeing private sector job growth, Barrett presents him as flawed, both for his need to be in the spotlight as well as his political deceptiveness. “Barrett’s knack for mining official records enabled him, with his assistant, Adam Fiflield, to strike investigative gold,” wrote our reviewer.

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