Friday, July 7, 2017

Labour & Pop Culture: Tragic

This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture features the novel “Tragic” by Robert Tanenbaum. Tannenbaum is a former prosecutor turned crime/court writer and Tragic is the 25th book in a series featuring an ever-prepared New York prosecutor putting away the bad guys.

Much like Tanenbaum’s earlier novel “Absolute Rage”, the baddies in this one are corrupt union officials. This time they are New York dockworkers who are in bed with the mob and also stealing the members’ pension funds (there is also a subplot about workplace injury). (In “Absolute Rage”, the bad union bosses were in bed with the coal companies and stealing the member’s pension funds. In “Trap” (which I haven’t read yet) the antagonist is a corrupt teacher’s union president in bed with skin heads.)

The really bad union president has one of his not-quite-so-bad rivals bumped off to prevent him from demanding a Department of Labour investigation into a rigged election (which is exactly the same premise as Absolute Rage). The difference in this book is that the writing is atrocious and there is basically no tension as the prosecutor (who is basically the author in disguise—the whole series leans a bit towards being a roman à clef) anticipates everything the moronic defense council tries.

Overall, Tanenbaum’s novels seem to pretty much align with the tendency of American media to portray unions as corrupt. As an aside, the Publisher’s Weekly reviews of his books on his website are masterfully backhanded (“…well, if you like this kind of thing, then he’s done it again.”) The author is a bit of a blowhard: consider this quote from his website about one of his own books:
I cannot predict that in the decades hence Echoes of My Soul will be remembered. I firmly believe it will be. And, if it is, it will be analyzed and postured as a splendid reflection of the values that define us.

-- Bob Barnetson

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