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A story of the strangest friendship that ever was: a dapper young bank thief and the detective hired by the banks to apprehend him. For more about this and my other books, go here.
Fascinating New Yorkers has been reviewed by The US Review of Books. Reviewer Gabriella Tutino says, "There's something for everyone here in this collection of profiles, and it serves as a source of inspiration for readers who love NYC." For the whole review, click on US Review.
Surviving a Boss from Hell
My deceased partner Bob left 21 volumes of journals covering his life from the mid-1950s well into this century, and he has tales to tell. One that I find gripping recounts what he and his coworkers underwent when a new library director, whom I’ll call James Walsh, arrived at the Jersey City Public Library (JCPL) in January 1993. Bob was head of the Reference Room at the time. Here are excerpts from his entry for January 6, 1993.
Our new library director est arrivé. James Walsh. Catastrophe hovers. Took perhaps two hours, at a meeting with main library department heads. Lovely fresh machismo in the head seat. Age 47, although looks around 60 and frayed. Largely bald. Aggressive. In fact, smoldering viciousness apparent, despite the jokes and labored chumminess. Not to be trusted. Asserted his power position in record time. His thighs and legs constantly vibrating. For every profanity he utters (son-of-a-bitch, Jesus, damn – and, in his mouth such terms do assume purple profane undertones), he removes a quarter from a roll and pushes it ostentatiously across the table! His nervousness borders on the sick. I’m convinced he is physically ill, perhaps on drugs.
Such is the first impression that James Walsh makes on his staff. He then assembled committees and talked fervently about computers. The staff laughed – unwisely, Bob thought – at his jokes, but there was a nervousness in the atmosphere. Staff, he emphasized, must be “multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and bisexual.” By the latter, Bob assumed, he meant “multi-sexual.” “Poor boobie, so inarticulate! His vocabulary is coarse and limited, although not his abundance of voice and verbal offal!” When he announced that he had no life outside work, Bob noticed that his legs vibrated. “I saw everything. I observed a bona fide S.O.B.” The rest of the day “tootsie” lingered in his mind, “odorous, odious, yet alas, to be tolerated until he, too, exits and malfunctions unto death.” Never, in all Bob’s journals that I have read, have I observed him generating so sudden and so intense an antipathy. Unknown to his opponent, war had been declared.
Bob’s entry of January 7 adds an incident of the day before. “My sex life is my own business,” the new director announced, then turned to Bob and said, “Right, Bob?” At this, Bob remained impassive. Did the nut think him a predatory gay sex fiend, he wondered, or was Walsh himself gay and anxious to fend off any interest on Bob’s part? Walsh was for him the stereotypical macho male, displaying “weary, heartless, relentless insipidity. It was a surfeit of vomit.”
Bob managed to turn his mind to other preoccupations, and the journal records no further episodes with Walsh until February 1, when it describes a meeting with him and several other staff members in Walsh’s cigarette-befouled office. “He proceeded to prattle, belch, fart, and prance about, as though hot from inner sexual frustrations,” and put everyone on the defensive. “We nurtured his wounds, his persona, the juices in his groins. Energy flowed in both directions, but it was deeply unpleasant.” Whether Bob was right or not in perceiving a sexual malaise in the man will be clear enough in time.
The entries tell the story. April 7, 1993: at a two and a half hour meeting in his office, the “Walsh man” asserts his determination to drastically reorganize things at the library, regardless of staff feelings. Bob speaks forthrightly, urges caution, suggests examining what led up to the present situation.
June 24, 1993: The Walsh man, failing to understand why queries go to another department first and then to Bob, attacks Bob personally: “What kind of fucking reference department can’t answer a simple question? What kind of shit is this?” Bob then explained the system and he “kind of apologized.” But Bob notes that the supervisors are totally disrupted, since no one knows in what direction Walsh’s proposed reorganization will go, and least of all Walsh. He has totally alienated the entire library staff. He is “macho, lonely, embittered, I could almost say evil.”
August 10, 1993. At the Library Board meeting last night, Walsh’s reorganization plan was again given to a committee for further study – perhaps a way of shelving it. Also, someone evidently snuck into the business office and photocopied the time-card records of Walsh’s crony, the supervisor of maintenance, which exposes Walsh as a liar. A reporter for the Jersey Journal has learned of this; an exposé is imminent, Bob exults.
August 25, 1993. A “scorching” article in the Jersey Journal accuses Walshie of harassing the entire library staff, and also mentions a suspicious mishandling of money. Bob’s reaction: “Hurrah! Clap, clap!” Bob fervently hopes the Walshie will be judged and terminated, fitting justice for the man who, months before, severely judged and terminated an employee for a minor infraction.
September 15, 1993. Walshie calls Bob to his office, says he will especially scrutinize any future staff recommendations on his part. “What are you inferring by that remark?” Bob asks. He then denigrates a staff member whom Bob had recommended, stating that she is not adept in using the new technology now installed in libraries. Bob defends his recommendation and the staff member, and Walshie backs down a bit. Bob leaves the office “with my head and dignity as high as the sky.”
October 11, 1993. The Walsh man screamed at two supervisors and ordered them out of his office, calling their memos to him “shit.” One of †hem is going to complain to the Library Board. But the Board has approved Walshie’s reorganization plan. “Enter, therefore, chaos.”
April 13, 1994. Walsh still rules the library. “Deadline, last day, for my JCPL [Jersey City Public Library] years is to be June 19, 1995. Enfin. Bye-bye, tootsies. Bye, Walsh pig.” He then recounts how Walsh was leaving the third-floor men’s room as Bob entered. Said Walsh, “The seat’s still warm for you!” Bob doesn't give him the satisfacion of a smile. But the Board has announced a 90-day delay until a final decision is made about naming Walsh top piggy. No wonder he stomped into the reference room and screamed at a librarian for not being at the information desk, available to the public, when she was consulting an index so as to answer a patron’s query. “The man is clearly sick.”
April 25, 1994. The Library Board president, a pal of Walsh's, is accused of using a library-authorized credit card to have his automobile repaired. A first-page story in the Jersey Journal.
June 13, 1994. A double scandal: the Library Board president and Walshie have been accused of charging large amounts of money on their library-funded credit cards for personal expenses. Amounts of up to $40,000 over a few months at disco clubs, sex-display clubs, motels, and department stores. And the president is a bona fide minister at a Baptist church in Jersey City! “It is a delicious little scandal,” Bob notes, “but it does the library not a jot of good. The JCPL image has been spoiled to a green rot.”
June 23, 1994. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but grind they do. Walsh has been suspended as the library’s top piggy!
August 22, 1994. More good news from the Jersey Journal. Board President Williams and Director Walsh have been indicted by a grand jury for fraud, theft, and other charges, and are liable for 40 to 50 years in prison. Does Bob exult? No, he is thunderstruck, and then feels compassion for the two. “What will or can ever emerge from all this crashing rattle that will ever reveal the underlying humanity, and what court of justice will make anything of that?”
October 19, 1994. Walsh has offered to testify against Williams in return for a light probationary sentence. Asked to resign as director, he has declined, and will fight to prove his innocence. No more compassion now. “He’s a dog of evil stripes, a menace.”
January 9, 1995. Another article in the Journal, The buzzard Walshie is trying to return as director. “Nightmare again, should the wretch resume his dictatorship.”
So end Bob’s entries regarding Walsh. The buzzard never resumed his dictatorship. In fact, I have been told by a reliable source that Walsh appeared before the Board, only to be arrested on the spot and taken away in handcuffs. Yes, the mills of the gods grind slowly, but grind they do. Yet a sliver of doubt remains. Did Walsh actually serve time? I have queried online, discovered nothing, What is certain is that he never returned to the library.
Coming next: What Goes Up Has to Come Down. How Soon the Bust?
© 2019 Clifford Browder
© 2019 Clifford Browder