Mysteries of My Father

Mysteries of My Father

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by Thomas Fleming
     
 

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A son comes of age in a fiercely political world

"Thomas Fleming gives us an unforgettable story about an immigrant family—his family—as it struggles to find a place in the American century. He shares with us the dreams and heartaches of his parents, and, in the end, he reminds us of the mysterious and forgiving power of love."
—Terry Golway,

Overview

A son comes of age in a fiercely political world

"Thomas Fleming gives us an unforgettable story about an immigrant family—his family—as it struggles to find a place in the American century. He shares with us the dreams and heartaches of his parents, and, in the end, he reminds us of the mysterious and forgiving power of love."
—Terry Golway, author of The Irish in America

"A truly moving story of a lifelong duel between father and son, Mysteries of My Father also vibrates with the great good humor that grows out of ward politics, and pulses with the heartfelt drama of a family just getting by. There were some bad times in the Fleming family story, but Tom Fleming prevails to the good times, and the best time is left to the reader. What a wonderful time I had reading this book."
—Dennis Smith, author of the Report from Engine Co. 82 and Report from Ground Zero

"A well-written, fascinating political history."
—Margaret Truman, author of Murder at Union Station

"With a historian's fidelity and a poet's empathy, Tom Fleming has created a textured study of three generations of Irish-Americans, whose clashing spiritual values inform their integration into New Jersey's social and political hierarchy. Mysteries of My Father is an American classic achieved by a master storyteller's talents for exploring the tensions and bonds between a father and his sons. Among the literary wonders of this brisk and moving memoir is the father's emergence as a seminal American character—brusque and pragmatic, yet capable of expected tenderness to his sons."
—Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie's Son

"If you care about what it means to be an Irish-American, or about New Jersey political history, or about the relationships between fathers and sons, or about wonderful writing, run—don't walk—out to buy Tom Fleming's Mysteries of My Father."
—Nick Acocella, publisher of Politifax

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Inspired by the discovery of a ring once worn by his father during World War I, historian and novelist Fleming (The Officers' Wives) chronicles three generations of his Irish American family in early 20th-century Jersey City, NJ. The narrative alternates between the families of Fleming's father and mother, both of whom had lower-class Irish American beginnings. His father, Teddy, rose to prominence as a sheriff under the reign of corrupt political boss Frank Hague, while his mother, Kitty, raised two sons and remained devoted to her husband, even after their love deteriorated. By uniting these two strands of personal history, Fleming's story transcends traditional memoir and becomes a moving examination of the unique challenges faced by 20th-century Irish Americans as they struggled to integrate into American society. The constant rift between Catholics and Protestants, survival in the midst of crippling poverty, the significance of education, and the deep, persistent bonds of family are key themes here. Recommended for large public and academic collections.-Ben Bruton, Murray, KY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
* "Mysteries of My Father is a rich book. Rich in Fleming’s textured description of Jersey City politics. Rich in wonderful personal anecdotes (Frank Hague’s last hurrah on a platform amid the surging, rebellious voters of the Second Ward is the stuff of epic poetry). Rich in sympathetic understanding of Teddy and Kitty and of their tempestuous marriage. Rich in honest evocation of ‘the morally grey world of Hudson County politics.’ And rich in its power to bring alive the once vital, now vanished world of the big-city Irish-American political machine… A moving, masterly, forgiving remembrance." (Commonwealth Magazine)

Although a paternal portrait may be his primary aim, Thomas Fleming's subtitle promises, more broadly, "an Irish-American memoir." For some of us, that's a worrisome vow, portending crapulous fathers who imbibe paychecks, pious wives who berate husbands for same and hordes of children wailing in squalor. True to form, the late-19th-century Jersey City to which Mr. Fleming's grandparents migrated was home to these auld Gaelic clichés. What adds the American to the Irish in this story, though, is its celebration not merely of stumbling and wallowing but of rebelling and ruling.
Following an eminent career as a writer of both history and fiction, Mr. Fleming has gone rummaging in his own family archives to produce Mysteries of My Father, a memoir of his father's fight to emerge from corrupting poverty with some part of his soul unbruised. And quite a scrap it was.
From his earliest (if never exactly tender) years, Teddy Fleming slugged his way out of obligations and into opportunities. One of his earliest bouts involved menacing a schoolmate into serving as his proxy for mandatory weekday Mass so that Teddy could earn money for his family as a newsie in Manhattan, a situation he had to secure and maintain with yet more hand-to-hand persuasion. As he matured, Fleming the elder punched, shoved and occasionally even boxed his way through the ranks of the 312th Regiment in World War I and the Jersey City Democratic organization during the Depression.
The civilizing influence of the author's mother, Kitty Dolan, went a long way toward keeping the Fleming household free from alcohol, domestic violence and lawless grammar. Eventually, though, her Catholic aspirations to Protestant gentility and heavy-handed elocution lessons failed to soothe her brute of a husband. In fact, the rigorous application of her snobbery to his rough patches wore away only the affection from their marriage, leaving bare an estrangement that was — and continues to be — a source of anguish for the author.
Teddy Fleming enjoyed many decades as the muscle in Mayor Frank Hague's Jersey City machine but, at the end, his triumphs withered. Following Kitty's "unconscious suicide," in which she ignored obvious warnings of breast cancer until she succumbed to it, Teddy Fleming lost his political puissance and, ultimately, all the strength he once possessed to continue his contest with life.
Teddy's son eventually left Jersey City to traverse the broad atlas of American history in more than a dozen books (e.g., "Liberty! The American Revolution," "Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America" and "The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I"). His talent for capturing the details of social and political history shines through in this memoir, particularly in the passages that give context to Teddy Fleming's rise to leader of the Sixth Ward, chairman of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, judge of the Second Criminal Court and sheriff of Hudson County. On these pages, Mr. Fleming evokes Edmund Morris's portrait of Teddy Roosevelt's political apprenticeship in "Theodore Rex."
Occasionally, though, when the focus constricts to the personal, one wonders whether Mr. Fleming labors under an excess of intimacy with his subject. For while the vigor of his father

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470323274
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
04/21/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
634,249
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Mysteries of My Father


By Thomas Fleming

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-65515-5


Chapter One

A Message from the Past

Through the blank impersonality of cyberspace whizzed an e-mail to the "Mairie" (City Hall) of Jersey City, New Jersey, a town that sprawls on the Hudson River almost within hailing distance of the Statue of Liberty and New York's shimmering skyline.

My name is Gil Malmasson. I'm a 31 year old Frenchman who lives in a suburb of Paris. I work as a professional photographer but one of my favorite hobbies is metal detecting. A few years ago I was searching near a small American monument in memory of WWI American soldiers who fought in the Argonne Forest. Suddenly I found a gold ring with an onyx stone. Inside was engraved: "FROM MAYOR FRANK HAGUE TO SHERIFF TEDDY FLEMING 1945." I went to the U.S. Embassy in Paris and to U.S. Army headquarters to ask their help in finding the owner. They were unable to assist me. Finally, on the internet I found the page you wrote about Frank Hague and the many years he served as mayor of your city. Can you help me find Sheriff Fleming or his children?

Gene Scanlon, Jersey City's director of communications, forwarded a copy of this e-mail to me in my New York apartment. Gene had graduated a year ahead of me from the local Jesuit high school, St. Peter's Prep. Without him, Gil Malmasson's message might have gone unanswered. No one else in City Hall would have been likely to connect me with the days when Mayor FrankHague and Sheriff Teddy Fleming strode the corridors of power.

I sat there, staring at the message, not quite able to believe what I was reading. Thirty years had passed since this ring had vanished into loose dirt on a hillside in that blood-soaked French forest. I had gone there to write an article for American Heritage magazine on the fiftieth anniversary of the climactic battle of World War I. The ring had slipped off my finger on a cold March day and vanished into loose shale. Now it had come back to me in this extraordinary way. What did it mean?

I was not sure. For the moment I was only certain of one thing. I handed a printout of the e-mail to my wife, Alice, and said, "I want to go back to the Argonne and have him put the ring on my finger exactly where I lost it."

Maybe then I would understand what it meant. But I somehow doubted it. Already I sensed it would take more than a journey to France to understand the many meanings of the man who had accepted that ring and the mayor who gave it to him. They represented something large and imponderable that I had tried to deal with in a half dozen novels. But I had never confronted them as history. Was it time to do that? Inwardly, I flinched from the task that I half knew was being imposed on me. All writing was a mixture of pain and pleasure. In this venture I feared pain would predominate.

Alice and I flew to Paris on Monday, November 25, 1998. A smiling Gil Malmasson met us at Charles de Gaulle Airport. With him were his father, Francois, a well-known architect, and his brother Marc, a gifted musician. Also on hand were a reporter and photographer from Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, who interviewed us briefly and took pictures. Gil had told the story of the ring to several friends in the media.

The next day, Francois Malmasson drove Gil and Alice and me to the Argonne. During the 170-mile ride, we talked about how Gil had found the ring. He had begun exploring historic sites with his metal detector when he was a teenager and now had a collection of Roman-Celtic artifacts and other discoveries that was moderately famous among fellow hobbyists.

I asked Gil why had he had gone to so much trouble to locate me. "As a Frenchman I wanted to express my gratitude to the Americans for the help they had given us twice in this century," Gil said. "Without you, France would not be a free country today."

When we reached Varennes, the Argonne's principal town, we discovered that Gil and I were on the front page of L'Est Republicain, the regional newspaper published in Verdun. The headline read: LA BAGUE D'ARGONNE. It told the story of the loss and recovery of "the Argonne ring."

Within an hour, a television crew arrived to interview us. I told them how much the restoration of the ring meant to me personally. It had renewed my sense of closeness with my father. As an historian, I was also ready to discuss the French perception of the ring's wider meaning. I talked about my recent book, Liberty! The American Revolution, which stressed how much France had helped the infant United States win its independence. I praised the Marquis de Lafayette, the fervent young idealist who had spent his personal fortune to support the Americans in their fight for freedom.

My father's ring recalled how the Americans had repaid that debt by coming to France to fight the Germans in 1917. On July 4 of that war-torn year, General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, had led an honor guard to the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette in Paris. A staff colonel who was fluent in French declared, "Lafayette! We are here!"

While the TV cameras whirred, Gil placed the ring on my finger. For a moment I was almost undone. I remembered the shock of losing it. For a week I had roamed the Argonne Forest and the twenty-mile-wide valley beside it, where over a million Americans had fought the Germans for almost two months, taking appalling casualties from massed machine guns and artillery. Never had I felt so close to my father, so full of admiration for him. Then came the desolating moment when I realized that the ring was gone.

I remembered wondering if Teddy Fleming was wryly informing me that I was not as close to him as I had imagined. Was he suggesting I would never really understand him? Our pasts were too different. What did I know about the humiliations of poverty, the embittering sense of being treated as a member of an inferior race? Had I ever talked back to a sneering WASP or gotten out a ninety percent straight ticket vote?

Forty years of reading and writing American history steadied me. I now knew a great deal more about the complicated reality in that much-misunderstood term Irish-American. That enabled me to understand a lot more about the tough, angry man who had worn the Argonne ring. I managed to conceal these old but by no means quiescent feelings from the camera's staring eye.

That night at seven o'clock, Gil and I saw ourselves on French national television at our Verdun hotel. The story opened with my father's picture in his World War I lieutenant's uniform, with his broad Sam Browne belt across his burly chest. A French commentator translated my remarks. Gil added a moving statement about his belief that finding such mementos as the ring on a battlefield was a way of defying death's seeming omnipotence.

Back in Paris, Senator Paul Loridant, who represented Gil Malmasson's district, invited us to the Luxembourg Palace. At a reception in the Victor Hugo room, Senator Loridant presented me with the medal of the French Senate. "Your coming here to retrieve your father's ring reminds us of what fathers mean to sons and what sons mean to fathers," the senator said. "It also reminds France and America of the sacrifices brave men have made for their democratic freedoms."

The splendid rugs and gilded ceilings of the Luxembourg Palace were a long way from the mud and blood of the Argonne in 1918. They were equally far from the shabby industrial city of my Depression-era boyhood. They were light-years from the waterless, unheated downtown tenement in which my father had been born. The ring indubitably linked us with the poilus and doughboys of their distant decade. The connection to these vanished Jersey City worlds was equally strong-and growing more intense by the hour. Deeply as I appreciated Gil Malmasson's generosity, I began to think the loss and rediscovery in the Argonne were only the surface meaning of the ring's return.

Back in the United States, the ring's reappearance attracted newspaper, magazine, and television attention. The New York Times devoted almost a full page of its Metro section to its discovery and my trip to France. People magazine ran an article on it. The Pax TV network devoted a half hour to the story. All these reports remained on the surface of the event. Hardly surprising-there was plenty of surface to write about.

Then came a telephone call from Jersey City. Mayor Brett Schundler wanted to give me a reception in City Hall. This was good for a private laugh. Until recently, my status in Jersey City was somewhat anomalous. In 1969, a decade after my father's death, I had written "I Am the Law," a long profile of Mayor Frank Hague in American Heritage magazine, coolly analyzing his ruthlessness, his corruption, and the near perfection of his version of machine politics. Hague loyalists found it lacking in sympathy for the mayor. I came close to being called a turncoat-an experience I have recently replicated by writing equally dispassionate books about Franklin D. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

In another magazine article, "City in the Shadow," I chastised Frank Hague's successors for continuing a tradition of corruption that had already landed several of them in the penitentiary. The followers of these discredited pols liked this commentary even less. Once, when I ventured across the Hudson to speak in my hometown, people knocked knives on coffee cups and interrupted my observations with catcalls and insults.

As a writer, I had moved beyond my birthplace as a subject. I had written a dozen history books and novels about the American Revolution. Next came a history of West Point, followed by novels set in World War II and Vietnam, as well as in pre-Civil War Washington, D.C., and post-Civil War New York. On the surface at least, neither my father nor Jersey City were topics that had occupied my imagination for decades. But by this time I knew I was not dealing with surfaces. I was aware that on a deeper level Teddy Fleming and his wife, Katherine Dolan Fleming, and the Irish-American political and religious world of Jersey City had been with me every year of my literary life.

I accepted Mayor Schundler's invitation. My wife, Alice, and I journeyed from our New York City apartment via the subway and then a PATH train that whizzed beneath the Hudson River to Jersey City. In my youth, PATH had been an independent railroad called the Hudson and Manhattan Tubes. The cars had been dirty, groaning relics from the era of World War I. My uncle Al Gallagher had been the night superintendent and often regaled us with predictions of catastrophe when (not if) the wheels fell off or the brakes failed. Now the trains were run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and were clean and relatively noiseless.

In a half hour we were sauntering down Grove Street toward City Hall. For a moment I recalled meeting my father here after staying late at my nearby high school, St. Peter's Prep, rehearsing a play. In the twilight, the massive granite and marble "Hall" loomed like some huge mythological creature with a hundred staring eyes. At the curb, a row of gleaming seven-passenger Cadillacs waited for the ward leaders to finish their conference with Mayor Frank Hague and his fellow commissioners. Power, I thought. Irish-American power. The cars, the building, had emanated it. Gone now, gone beyond recall.

Looking up at City Hall, I realized something else had vanished: the bravura brass cupolas on the corners and the soaring central tower that had given the building a touch of grandeur. As my old friend Gene Scanlon soon explained to me, the chemicals in the city's once omnipresent smog had not been kind to metals. A recent mayor had chosen the less expensive part of valor and amputated these architectural grace notes. But the imposing gray facade, with its array of windows flanking the porticoed entrance, still managed a semblance of dignity.

In the mix of private and public memory through which I was moving, another group of buildings were at least as important as City Hall. A mix of brick and wooden two- and three-story structures, many with businesses on the first and second floors, they were on the opposite side of Grove Street and lacked even a hint of grandeur. In 1906 or 1907, when my father was in his late teens, one of the second floors had been a dentist's office. One winter day, Teddy Fleming sat down in the dentist's chair, pointed to his teeth, and said, "Pull'm out."

"All of them?" the startled dentist said.

"All of 'm," my father said.

It took the dentist two hours and cost my father almost every cent he possessed. I don't know whether the dentist used novocaine or gas to stifle the pain. Probably the latter, since novocaine had only begun its career as an anesthetic in 1905. Teddy Fleming went home to his family's flat on Communipaw Avenue in the Sixth Ward and dulled the ache with whiskey until he went to sleep.

A few days later Teddy returned to the dentist's office and the dentist inserted a set of upper and lower false teeth that transformed his appearance. His natural teeth had been a protruding, twisted mess, which would have forever condemned him to inferiority with women and even with most men. In 1908, everyone admired the strong-jawed Anglo-Saxon Protestant types that dominated the stages of Broadway and the advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

Whenever I walked past City Hall during my adolescent years, I looked across the street at the site of the dentist's office, which was long gone. My mouth hurt. I felt my father's pain. I admired his guts. I wondered if I could do something so amazing. Teddy Fleming had done nothing less than change himself from an ugly lower-class Irish-American-a mick-to a man with the good looks of the WASP elite. The price he paid in pain and money was unquestionably worth it.

There was something profoundly American about this transaction. An aura of wonder, even myth, surrounded this vision of my father. Its many meanings still throbbed in my chest in 1998, almost a hundred years after it happened. It was an ineluctable part of my private memories of Teddy Fleming.

Inside City Hall, Mayor Schundler's reception was held in the council chamber where Frank Hague once presided over meetings of the city's commissioners. Maybe it was my recent exposure to the Luxembourg Palace, but the room looked unutterably dingy. It had not seen a paintbrush in several decades. In Hague's day the place had gleamed.

In the audience was a delegation of smiling teachers and students from St. Peter's Prep and a scattering of old-time Jersey Cityans who remembered Teddy Fleming and pumped my hand. Reporters from the Newark Star-Ledger and the city's local paper, the Jersey Journal, interviewed me and Mayor Schundler.

The atmosphere was incredibly good-natured. No one had a negative word to say about Mayor Frank Hague or the bare-knuckled political organization he had created and Sheriff Teddy Fleming had helped him run. On the contrary, everyone, including Mayor Schundler, the first Republican mayor in almost a century, seemed ready to hail the Democratic chieftain and my father as men who had given Jersey City an aura of national power. At times they seemed to be using my modest literary celebrity to say the bad old days were not so awful as a lot of people once claimed.

This was so contrary to the experience of my youth, when "Hagueism" was an epithet in newspapers, magazines, and books, that I felt almost disoriented. But I managed to play my part in the ceremony, expressing my genuine gratitude for this expression of affection from my hometown. I coated my remarks on the old days in a glaze of sentimental glory.

Back in New York, as my wife and I walked from the subway down East Sixty-ninth Street toward our apartment, another memory stirred. On the south side of the street was a huge modern apartment house. On the north side was a row of nineteenth-century carriage houses-now garages with apartments above them. One night early in 1920 Teddy Fleming and Katherine Dolan, known to her friends as Kitty, were visiting a couple who lived in one of these carriage houses. Teddy and Kitty were not yet married but both had marriage on their minds.

The host, Eddie Shanaphy, was my mother's cousin. He was a chauffeur for the Wall Street millionaire James Cox Brady. The gray Rolls-Royce that Eddie drove was in the garage below them. His wife, Mae, enjoyed living in the aura of the very rich. She was always talking about "the Madam"-Mrs. Brady-what she wore, what she said, where she traveled. It gave her-and my mother-a vicarious thrill to imagine people with unlimited cash at their disposal.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Mysteries of My Father by Thomas Fleming Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A truly moving story of a life-long duel between father and son, Mysteries of My Father will become embedded in your memory. There will be reviewers who will call this an Irish-American story, but Thomas Fleming has given us one of the most uniquely American memoirs I have ever read. He brings us through the process of American social integration, not only of ethnic assimilation, but also of that wondrous travel from economic despair to that certain stability that comes with education and the hard work of determination.
But, this memoir also vibrates with the great good humor that grows out of ward politics, and pulses with the heartfelt drama of a family just getting by. There were some bad times in the Fleming family story, but Tom Fleming prevails to the good times, and the best time is left to the reader. What a wonderful time I had reading this book."
--Dennis Smith, author of Report from Engine Co. 82 and Report from Ground Zero

"With a historian's fidelity and a poet's empathy, Tom Fleming has created a textured study of three generations of Irish Americans, whose clashing spiritual values inform their integration into New Jersey's social and political hierarchy. Mysteries of My Father is an American classic achieved by a master story teller's talents for exploring the tensions and bonds between a father and his sons. Among the literary wonders of this brisk and moving memoir is the father's emergence as a seminal American character -- brusque and pragmatic, yet capable of expected tenderness to his sons."
--Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie's Son

"A well-written, fascinating political history."
--Margaret Truman

"If you care about what it means to be an Irish-American, or about New Jersey political history, or about the relationships between fathers and sons, or about wonderful writing, run -- don't walk -- out to buy Tom Fleming's Mysteries of My Father."
--Nick Acocella, publisher of Politifax

"With Memories of My Father Tom Fleming clinches for himself the undisputed title of Historian-as-Storyteller Extraordinaire. This book is not only a history of three generations of an Irish-American family, it is a story of fathers and sons, the Irish in America, World War I, and the Jersey City of political boss Frank Hague. Fleming tells it like it was – unvarnished accounts of two-fisted politics, the complex influence of the Catholic Church, resentment against the WASP establishment for past discrimination, and how the Irish came to rule a city and a state -- with a vengeance."
--David S. Cohen, Ph.D., Director, Ethnic History Program, New Jersey Historical Commission

"Thomas Fleming's richly-recalled, compelling, multi-generational family chronicle--including the story of his stormy but loving relationship with a colorful father--is as poignant and beguiling as a superb novel."
-- Neil Hickey, Contributing Editor, Columbia Journalism Review

"Tom Fleming’s moving memoir of his father, Teddy, stands alone as a portrait of a man seeking the path to the American dream in the midst of the big city politics of the first half of the twentieth century. Fiercely loyal to Boss Frank Hague, Teddy is confronted along the way with the loss of his wife’s love, and the danger of losing the affection of his sons as well. No storybook ending here, only understanding. The writing is so true to life that I came away having felt part of this story."
--Lloyd Gardner, Rutgers University, author of The Case That Never Dies: The Lindbergh Kidnapping

"A poignant recollection of family, politics, and power that combines the pains of memory to reach the passions of perception. A superb narrative, an absorbing read."
--John Patrick Diggins, Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center, CUNY

"Thomas Fleming gives us an unforgetable story about an immigrant family -- his family -- as it struggles to find a place in the American century. He shares with us the dreams and heartaches of his parents, and, in the end, he reminds us of the mysterious and forgiving power of love."
--Terry Golway, author The Irish In America

"Thomas Fleming's Mysteries of My Father is a remarkable book, fascinating as social and political history, and deeply moving as the brutally honest and touchingly told story of one American family. This is the story of what it was like to grow up in the rough-and-tumble world of Jersey City politics as the son of one of its principal leaders during the reign of the legendary Frank 'Boss' Hague, but it is far more than that. The reader goes to the battlefields of the First World War with Fleming's tough and heroic father, and gains painful insight into the intellectual and social ambitions of his sensitive mother, who loved his father but could never accept the consuming life of ward politics in which he moved and thrived. The Fleming clan was filled with colorful, complicated characters who lived their desperate lives with great and often tragic intensity.
Within this crucible, young Fleming meets, survives, and finally triumphs over competing challenges and emotional demands to become the fine writer that so many readers know today. This has to have been a hard book to write, but the reader walks in the presence of a man who in his quest for identity sees, understands, resolves, forgives, and frequently makes the reader laugh. A greatly rewarding book to read, Mysteries of My Father transcends its time and place: it is hard to imagine a more interesting, honest, vivid account of a family than this one is."
--Charles Bracelen Flood, New York Times bestselling historian, biographer and novelist.

"Mysteries of My Father is a classic memoir: The story of one family, set in a larger historical framework - Frank Hague's ruthless political fiefdom in Jersey City. Thomas Fleming writers about his parents' unraveling marriage with tenderness and with fierce honesty."
--William Zinsser, author of Writing About Your Life

"Thomas Fleming's Mysteries of My Father is a remarkable book, fascinating as social and political history, and deeply moving as the brutally honest and touchingly told story of one American family. This is the story of what it was like to grow up in the rough-and-tumble world of Jersey City politics as the son of one of its principal leaders during the reign of the legendary Frank 'Boss' Hague, but it is far more than that. The reader goes to the battlefields of the First World War with Fleming's tough and heroic father, and gains painful insight into the intellectual and social ambitions of his sensitive mother, who loved his father but could never accept the consuming life of ward politics in which he moved and thrived. The Fleming clan was filled with colorful, complicated characters who lived their desperate lives with great and often tragic intensity.
"Within this crucible, young Fleming meets, survives, and finally triumphs over competing challenges and emotional demands to become the fine writer that so many readers know today. This has to have been a hard book to write, but the reader walks in the presence of a man who in his quest for identity sees, understands, resolves, forgives, and frequently makes the reader laugh. A greatly rewarding book to read, Mysteries of My Father transcends its time and place: it is hard to imagine a more interesting, honest, vivid account of a family than this one is."
--Charles Bracelen Flood, New York Times bestselling historian, biographer and novelist.

Meet the Author

THOMAS FLEMING is the author of more than forty novels and nonfiction books, including bestsellers such as The Officers' Wives, Time and Tide, and Liberty! The American Revolution. He is a frequent guest and contributor to NPR, PBS, A&E, and the History Channel. He was the principal commentator on the award-winning PBS documentary The Irish in America: Long Journey Home. A Fellow of the Society of American Historians, Fleming has served as chairman of the American Revolution Round Table and president of the American Center of P.E.N., the international writer's organization. He lives in New York City.

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Mysteries of My Father 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's great read it slowly, so you can pick up what he is saying