Protected: Review: The Whistleblower’s Tune by Hugh Giblin
Hugh Giblin unfurls a detailed and jaw-dropping tale of crime, punishment and survival in The Whistleblower’s Tune. This raw memoir is an unfiltered account of the Chicago Mafia’s insidious and perpetual presence inside the union machine, and the author’s experience as an accountant crunching the hard numbers and putting the pieces together over a bizarre handful of years.
What is most striking about the book is the level of detail and history it contains; the picture that is painted of Chicago (and America as a whole) is rich, gruff, and spot-on. The decades of mob influence and penetration into so many industries of the Second City is well-known around the country, but Giblin has the authentic voice to match the story – a powerful stream-of-consciousness account that doesn’t brag, just reports.
The shocking facts, numbers, and details may initially come across as a tall tale, but there isn’t any exaggeration here, just plain truth positively humming with Midwestern style. However, this story doesn’t stay in Chicago, but also recounts the sprawling organization of the International Union, and Giblin’s travels around the country, from Washington and Vegas to California and any seedy place in between.
Giblin’s perspective as an accountant – an essential cog in a very confusing and potentially criminal machine – makes this memoir particularly interesting and unique. Bouncing between different locals and doing short stints of work gave him unprecedented access to places, people, and conversations that make his memories rich with conspiracy. His efforts to enact change and be a positive force often felt dashed, and as his story progresses, bitterness creeps in, as well as the harsh light of modern reality. By the time Giblin describes the lead-up to his testimony on Capitol Hill, he has irrevocably changed, and that progression is a truly gripping thing to watch.
The narration is extremely dense, however, with very few descriptive passages. The stream-of-consciousness style is effective and engaging, rarely giving readers a chance to breathe, but the non-stop pace can occasionally be exhausting, particularly without a balanced ebb and flow to the story. Some abstract language, even in the description of the varied settings or the countless secondary support characters, would make this feel less like a confession and more of a reflection on an exceptionally fascinating life.
The intensity of detail is impressive throughout, but also overwhelming, and not all of the specificities are required. People sometimes enter and exit the text rapidly, while major and minor events are both told with a similarly dispassionate tone, making it hard for readers to identify the emotional peaks and valleys. The editing also leaves something to be desired, as there are numerous typos, misspelled words, and poorly structured sentences that even a basic editing sweep should catch.
Still, there is something undeniably genuine about the author’s unpolished voice. Giblin has the heart of a storyteller, and there are insightful diamonds aplenty in these pages, unfolding a harrowing story of the mob and self-preservation. For any lover of history – political, mafia, American, union, or otherwise – this memoir is an eye-opening peek behind a truly strange curtain.
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