SOCIAL SCIENCES

In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth

Farrar. Sept. 2019. 368p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374175658. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780374712495. CRIME
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Goldsmith (Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard Univ.) writes about his attempt to absolve his stepfather of involvement in Teamster union leader Jimmy Hoffa's 1975 disappearance. Chuckie O'Brien was married to Goldsmith's mother for 12 years, from the author's ages 12 to 24. After disavowing him and changing his last name, Goldsmith reconciled with O'Brien, who was like a son to Hoffa and treated the author well. Goldsmith describes how O'Brien was a labor organizer, tough, and a helper for Hoffa. This clearly written, sympathetic portrayal of Hoffa as a user of the Mafia in order to help workers describes treachery on both sides of the law. Acknowledging his stepfather's "adversarial relationship with the truth," Goldsmith claims that O'Brien was not present when Hoffa went missing. Part memoir, part labor history, and part investigation, this book ultimately leaves unanswered questions.
VERDICT Charles Brandt's I Heard You Paint Houses is the basis for the Martin Scorsese film The Irishman, which depicts O'Brien as an unwitting helper in a hired killer's murder of Hoffa for the Mafia. Goldsmith's work may be an attempt to counter that seamless, powerful narrative. Both books should be read together to review the murky story; a treat for true crime readers.

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