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The Bishop in the West Wing (Blackie Ryan Series)

The Bishop in the West Wing (Blackie Ryan Series)

3.6 8
by Andrew M. Greeley

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Andrew M. Greeley's bestselling sleuth meets The West Wing . . .

Blackie Ryan gets a call from his friend, the newly-elected Democratic president Jack Patrick McGurn—whom the media has seen fit to call "Machine Gun McGurn"—but of course the call is interrupted by Blackie's boss, the autocratic Cardinal Cronin. Cronin, without consulting


Andrew M. Greeley's bestselling sleuth meets The West Wing . . .

Blackie Ryan gets a call from his friend, the newly-elected Democratic president Jack Patrick McGurn—whom the media has seen fit to call "Machine Gun McGurn"—but of course the call is interrupted by Blackie's boss, the autocratic Cardinal Cronin. Cronin, without consulting Blackie, sends him off to the White House to solve a poltergeist problem. Ghosts in the White House? Of course.

Blackie encounters a great deal more than ghosts; an evil spirit out to get the President, a right wing conspiracy, and four beautiful women, any one of whom could be contributing to the mischief in the West Wing.

How Blackie solves the problem of the ghosts and the conspiracy, and perhaps even finds a beautiful wife for the lonely, recently widowed President makes The Bishop in the West Wing the best Blackie Ryan novel yet.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Fun is the word for bestseller Greeley's latest, lively Bishop Blackie Ryan thriller.” —Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining romp through the West Wing.” —Booklist

Publishers Weekly
Fun is the word for bestseller Greeley's latest, lively Bishop Blackie (aka Blackwell) Ryan thriller. It's not a whodunit, but a hoodoo-done-it, the mystery being Who's the hoodoo? A poltergeist is stalking the corridors of the White House, threatening to embarrass the president, who's already confronting a fiercely divided Congress, accusations of sexual harassment and the threat of civil war in China. The press has dubbed President John Patrick McGurn "Machine Gun McGurn" and accused him of being a tool of the Chicago Irish Mafia. The far right view him as no less than Satan himself, being an Irishman, a Catholic and a liberal Democrat. There are rumors (which are true) of conspiracies to discredit McGurn and plots (also true) to take his life. Blackie receives an invitation to the White House from the president, who's an old friend. His cardinal orders him to go: "I baptized him, I officiated at his marriage, and I baptized his kids. I said his wife's funeral mass. Now that he is also president... it is unfitting, offensive, and intolerable that he be haunted by ungodly spirits." Known for his psychic gifts, Blackie has nine possible candidates for the intrusive spirit, including the president's daughters. Most likely the poltergeist is a young, troubled woman in need of love. Greeley dedicates the book to Bill Clinton, an obvious model for McGurn. Republicans may grumble, but plenty of others will appreciate the well-drawn characters, swift action and logical resolution. (July 25) FYI: West Wing and its star, Martin Sheen, receive mention, along with a not unsubtle hint that Sheen would make a good Blackie Ryan. Greeley is also the author of Irish Stew! (Forecasts, Feb. 18) and other novels in the Nuala Anne McGrail series. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Father Greeley's Chicago sleuth, Bishop Blackwood "Blackie" Ryan, is off to the White House in his latest adventure. Mysterious things begin happening in the White House as soon as Blackie's old friend Jack Patrick McGurn moves in as the new president. Dishes fly through the air, a portrait of George Washington keeps getting knocked to the floor, and contents of drawers are tossed about in disarray. This is the work of a poltergeist, Blackie decides, but while he tries to rid the house of the things that go bump in the night, the president is faced with a new and more dangerous situation: someone is out to kill him. Read by Paul Michael, this is one of Greeley's weakest mysteries-the poltergeist thing is just plain silly and should have been left at Hogwarts-but by now Greeley's fans will snap up anything he writes, and this book is a harmless amusement. Recommended for most public libraries.-Joseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Among the several matters distracting President Jack Patrick McGurn (POTUS, for those in the know), the peskiest is the attack of the poltergeist. Yes, an authentic poltergeist, everyone agrees, is flinging, spilling, and hiding things in the West Wing, so Irish Catholic President McGurn naturally turns to his old Chicago friend Bishop Blackwood Ryan, the surpliced sleuth last spotted in Paris (The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germaine, 2001, etc.). Blackie is known to have a way with these ornery mischief-makers: When he speaks, poltergeists listen. But he's well-advised not to leave his deerstalker's cap at home, since there's a more conventional and perilous mystery requiring his attention as well. Some person or persons unknown want to do away with the newly elected POTUS, and the list of suspected conspirators is long. One prominent candidate is a fulminating fundamentalist, Congressman Jeremiah Dillingham, to whom McGurn is "the de-generate in the White House." Even more dangerous is the Vice-POTUS, Eugenie Cruz-ambitious, ruthless, Lucrezia Borgia in a power suit. Mounting evidence indicates she may finally have gone round the bend. Aided by Blackie, President McGurn twice narrowly escapes death. Eventually the conspirators are caught and the poltergeist attack rebuffed-by the Bishop, of course-leaving at large only whichever wee folks are to blame for swiping so much of the plot from the story and replacing it with filler. Once again, Father Greeley preaches to the converted. No others need apply.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Bishop Blackie Ryan Series , #3
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Your good friend was on the phone earlier this evening."

Cardinal Sean Cronin leaned casually against my doorframe as though he was posing for a fashion magazine shoot, in light blue pajamas and royal blue robe. He had never appeared at my doorway in such array. I noted with some pleasure that he did not wear his cardinalatial ruby to bed at night and that his slippers were also royal blue, not crimson.

"Ah," I said as I turned away from the purgatorial task of catching up on my e-mail. Naturally I had no idea who friend was-a beautiful but troubled woman, a penitent Mafioso, a haunted priest, someone from Rome, a mystic with revelations that must be passed on instantly to the Pope. The rhetoric of Chicago discourse, however, required that he begin with such an indirect approach, as though all the rooms of the Cathedral Rectory were wired by hostile law enforcement agencies.

"The Megan thought I should talk to him since you were not around."

It was therefore a serious matter. None of the four porter person Megans who presided over the entrances to the Cathedral Rectory from after school to 9:30 would dream of disturbing the Cardinal Archbishop (whom they adored as "extreme cute") unless some important game was afoot.

(One must understand that for the younger generation "extreme" has become an adverb.)


"We have you on the 6:00 flight. Your friend Mr. Woods will pick you up at 4:30."

"P.M.?" I said, knowing full well that it was not.

Milord Cronin permitted a frown to furrow his handsome brow.

"The monks get up a lot earlier, Blackwood."

"Such as they are these days. However, patently I am not a monk."

"He was going to send Air Force One to pick you up, but I said it wouldn't look good for a lowly auxiliary bishop to fly around in that. Create a lot of comment, which he doesn't need right now."

"Arguably," I conceded.

So that's who "my good friend" was-John Patrick McGurn, POTUS, aka to the media "Machine Gun Jack."

Without asking my permission-he never does-Milord Cronin opened the secret cabinet on the wall of my study (hidden behind a portrait of our currently gloriously reigning Pontiff), removed a bottle of my precious Jameson's Twelve Year Special Reserve, and poured himself a good-size splash into one of the attendant Waterford goblets.

"You're proposing to assign me to the White House." I protested. "That won't look too good."

"You always say that you're the little man who isn't there. They won't notice you." He leaned against the door and sipped complacently from his goblet, looking all the more like a cover for GQ.

"The Nuncio won't like it."

"I'll worry about him."

If he did worry about the reaction of the ambassador of the Holy See's reaction to my translation to the White House, it would be the first such worry in his career.

"Why is it necessary that I abandon all my serious responsibilities here in your Cathedral parish?"

A weak argument, I acknowledge. Yet the game had to be played out.

The Ryan family has a gene that inclines them to resist travel. In my own case the power of the gene is primordial. The upper limit of my tolerance is the drive from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana, home of the fighting Black Baptists. However, the apparent need of the first South Side Irish Catholic from Chicago to become president of the United States overrode my reluctance, though not without a loud west-of-Ireland sigh which might suggest an attack of asthma.

John Patrick McGurn indeed needed help, though he would have been the first to deny it.

The media, especially the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post, hated President McGurn. They persisted in calling him "Machine Gun Jack" because the name broadly hinted of the Capone era and Chicago Irish political corruption. So deep in the subbasement of Chicago memory is the name of the alleged perpetuator of the St. Valentine's Day massacre that Jack McGurn had never been identified with a machine gun during his brief career in Chicago politics.

"He has some serious problems," the Cardinal continued with a sigh as loud as mine.

"Surely not the sexual harassment charges!" I protested.

Milord waved his hand in a graceful, dismissive gesture.

"Those go with the territory if you're a Democratic president. Jack will survive them."

"Arguably," I said without much conviction. The top national media hated Irish Catholics, especially from Chicago. They were determined, even though they would piously deny it, to drive Jack McGurn from office. Such assaults sold newspapers, increased TV ratings, satisfied needs to experience pious self-righteousness. Typically Jack did not shy from the Chicago identity, though he and his family had been at best minor figures in the various Daley administrations.

"Though I deserve little credit for it"—Jack would smile and his blue-green eyes would glitter with mischief—"I am proud to be identified with the most effective municipal administration in America."

"Why then," I persisted, "this late-night emergency call for the lowly sweeper to the Cardinal Prince of Chicago?"

This was a none-too-oblique reference to my conviction that an auxiliary bishop's main raison d'être is to sweep up his Ordinary's messes, as the worthy Harvery Keitel had done for the Outfit in the film Pulp Fiction.

"Ghosts," Sean Cronin said in his most gloomy apocalyptic voice.


I warned myself mentally that I must not seem too enthusiastic.

"Ghosts. Or psychic phenomena or whatever."

"Legend has it that Mr. Lincoln's ghost haunts the building."

"It's more than that."


Sean Cardinal Cronin hesitated, something he almost never does.

"There are psychic phenomena happening all over the White House-in the West Wing, including the Oval Office, in the bedrooms, in the family quarters on the third floor, in the various museum rooms on the first and second floors, in the basement offices under the West Wing, in the guest bedrooms like the Lincoln Bedroom and the Queens' Bedroom, even out in the Rose Garden and the South Lawn…"

"Appalling!" I murmured with little conviction. "Of what sort are the phenomena?"

"The usual junk-doors slamming, chains rattling, paintings falling off the wall, vases flying across the room, windows springing open during snowstorms, thermostats going crazy, televisions switching on and off…"

"Nothing ever breaks, I presume?"


"Poltergeists," I said with some disappointment.

"Presumably…There's a twist to it…"


The Cardinal hesitated again.

"The rumors around the White House, which still includes some service personnel who worked for the last president, are that Ellen has come back to harass Jack over the sexual harassment."

"Absurd!" I said hotly. "Ellen was not and is not that kind of woman! She might burn the White House down if she were sufficiently angry, but poltergeist phenomena are beneath her."

"Steady, Blackwood! You and I know that and so do most people in this city. However, the media have stirred up so much hatred for Jack and his family that the public is capable of believing anything about them. Irish Catholics from Chicago are capable of bringing every kind of evil to the White House, even ghosts. Many people will think that the ghosts are proof that he did mess around with those campaign bimbos."

The harsh truth about political campaigns that you will never read in the papers is that they are airborne orgies, traveling brothels in which boredom with the political rhetoric provides an excuse for the hangerson, including the self-righteous journalists, to indulge in day and night promiscuity. John Patrick McGurn's campaign was, heaven knows, not boring. Nonetheless, the habits of promiscuity continued. Sex on campaigns is far more important than the issues that allegedly divide the candidates. If the candidate's wife is not with him, then speculation erupts about whom he is sleeping with. In the bawdyhouse atmosphere of a campaign it is taken for granted that everyone is committing adultery, especially a candidate who has recently lost his wife. It is alleged indeed that some young women, one might call them groupies, join a campaign so that they can sleep with world-famous journalists and even perhaps spend a night with a man who may be the next president of the United States. Two such young women, who might not be utterly innocent of Milord Cronin's accusation that they were bimbos, filed sexual harassment suits against him three days before his inauguration, alleging that they had not received promised White House jobs because they resisted the candidate's sexual advances.

Those who did not know John McGurn as we did could easily have believed the charges. Most Americans did not know him very well. Indeed they were surprised that he was sitting in the Oval Office and had begun to wonder if they had made a serious mistake.

"Poltergeist phenomena," I observed, "are usually associated with an early adolescent, especially of the female variety. Does not the President have two such in his family?"

"It may surprise you, Blackwood," the Cardinal said with a touch of superiority permissible in an encrimsoned prince, "to learn that I know that about the playful spirits. However, Deirdre is back at Notre Dame and Granne is living with her aunt in Chicago until she graduates in June from St. Praxides Grammar School, your alma mater, if I'm not mistaken."

His Eminence had begun to talk like Sherlock Holmes, which was my role not his.

"Then our mutual friend needs as exorcist. If I am not mistaken, you have one such on your staff, against my advice I might add."

"You've been working too hard lately, Blackwood," he said with mock disappointment. "What would the Washington Post do or the Calvinist Vatican on Forty-second Street should they find out that the Catholic Church had sent an exorcist into the White House?"

Milord was always amused to describe the New York Times as a Calvinist newspaper.

"Especially one as eager to appear on television as your staff exorcist."

He ignored my sally, which was all he could do under the circumstances.

"Besides, we know from post experience that all you have to do is to walk into a haunted house-or aircraft carrier as far as that goes-and the playful spirits go out of business."

That lamentably was the truth. The adolescent who was, not altogether consciously stirring up trouble, knew better than to mess with Father Blackie.

"You yourself have observed that I have been working too hard," I said, knowing that the battle was lost. These battles were always lost, but it was nonetheless necessary to play out the scenario.

"The Post and the Times," Sean Cronin continued implacably, "know about the phenomena from their spies inside the administration. They are hesitant to use it because of their ideology that there is no such thing as the supernatural."

Having conducted a token search for a coaster, he placed his empty goblet on top of a stack of computer output.

"So they will wait till the supermarket tabloids run it and then they'll play it as a media story," I observed.

"And the sharks will swim in from all sides for a feeding frenzy."

We were both silent for a moment. American journalism had come a long way from its assumption that major public figures were entitled to their private lives. Even the most responsible media outlets would salivate at the prospect of poking into a president's parapsychological life.

"Blackwood," the Cardinal intoned, "John Patrick McGurn is a good and worthy layman of this great Archdiocese. I baptized him, I officiated at his marriage, and I baptized his kids. I said his wife's funeral Mass. Now that he is also president of the United States of America it is unfitting, offensive, and intolerable that he be haunted by ungodly spirits, especially when a revolution is sweeping China."

"Ah," I murmured.

"Moreover the bimbos that are suing him are also ungodly spirits. I expect that you will be able to deal with them too."

Swept by the power of his prose, Milord had just doubled my assignment.

"I won't have it," he said solemnly. "I simply won't have it."


"See to it, Blackwood!" he ordered as he turned towards the dark corridor whence he had come to disrupt my late-night tranquility.

He departed from my study with the swoosh of a passing but lordly hailstorm.


Copyright © 2002 by Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.

Meet the Author

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, "The Church in Society," at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

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The Bishop in the West Wing (Blackie Ryan Series) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like many, I have been a long-time fan of Father Andrew Greeley and especially his Bishop Blackie Ryan series. The good Father, however, has now betrayed the trust of his readers. This book is filled with bias and hate. Throughout the book, the author accuses Republicans (not some or a few but all) of being wealthy, corrupt, and crooks. Outside of clearly partisan books written by political lackeys, I have never read a book, much less a novel, that contained so many partisan attacks. What is most disturbing is that a Catholic priest using a fictional Catholic bishop to directly and indirectly debase all Republicans leaves the impression that his views have the imprimateur of the Catholic Church. While he condemns the demogogues of the religious right, Father Greeley has adopted the very same tactics of hate and bias which he supposedly deplores. Neither Father Greeley nor his fictional Bishop Ryan represent the Catholic Church I belong to which promotes love and forgiveness not hate and bias. This is one book which should not have been written. Or perhaps it should as it may represent the real Father Greeley.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The good Bishop fights enemies who look remarkably like the current Congress :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
What would American life and politics have been like if the massive crime of September 11, 2001, had not happened? What if that event hadn't given the usurping President the opportunity to seize greater power? Fr Greeley set out, presumably in mid-2001, to write a formula mystery with touches of politics and religion. It ended up also being a touching picture of what might have been.