Once Upon a Time in New York: Jimmy Walker, Franklin Roosevelt,and the Last Great Battle of the Jazz Age

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9780815412632: Once Upon a Time in New York: Jimmy Walker, Franklin Roosevelt,and the Last Great Battle of the Jazz Age

A flavorful account of New York City politics during the 1920s Jazz Age centering on the intersecting careers of the city's popular "Night Mayor," Jimmy Walker, and the state's patrician governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mitgang's extensive use of newspaper quotes and legal transcripts helps paint vivid portraits of Walker, Roosevelt and the large cast of characters who played a part in Walker's fall from grace and Roosevelt's meteoric rise to four-term president.

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Review:

In the latter half of the Jazz Age 1920s, New York City's flamboyant "Night Mayor," Jimmy Walker, was often more likely to be found checking out Manhattan's numerous speakeasies than at his office. His luck ran out in 1932, however, when an investigation into citywide corruption led by former state judge Samuel Seabury set its sights on City Hall, and the governor--fellow Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who also happened to be in the midst of his first presidential campaign--became personally involved in the proceedings. By the end of the year, Walker had resigned and FDR was on his way to the White House.

Once upon a Time in New York is a lively account of how Walker's downfall came to play such a crucial role in Roosevelt's ascendancy. Herbert Mitgang lays out the complexities of New York City politics, still at that time deeply influenced by Tammany Hall, with admirable clarity, and the facts are so intriguing that he doesn't have to embellish them to heighten the reader's interest. On the other hand, the book is overloaded with period-setting data points. While it's helpful to know that Walker was a Yankees fan, Mitgang probably didn't need to include the batting averages of eight-ninths of the team's starting lineup in 1927. (And, while the song "Little Tin Box" from the Broadway musical Fiorello! is, in fact, a very humorous rendition of the Seabury hearings, it wasn't written until nearly 30 years had passed.) Still, with such a great setting, and such colorful characters, it's hard to go too far wrong. Once upon a Time in New York ends up being as fun to read as it is substantial.

About the Author:

Herbert Mitgang covered national, international, and New York cultural subjects as editorial writer and correspondent for The New York Times. He is author or editor of fifteen books in American history, law, literature, reportage, and fiction. He currently contributes to The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, Newsday, and the Chicago Tribune. He lives in New York City.

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