cover image In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth

In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth

Jack Goldsmith. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-17565-8

In this intriguing account, Goldsmith (Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11) probes the circumstances surrounding the fate of powerful union leader Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 and is presumed to have been killed by the Mafia. Goldsmith is best known for being an assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel during the second Bush administration, and for dissenting from some of the approaches of the war on terror, including warrantless surveillance. But most readers will be surprised to learn that Goldsmith’s stepfather was Chuckie O’Brien, a Teamsters official who was Hoffa’s “most intimate aide for more than two decades,” and who was widely believed to have driven Hoffa from a Detroit parking lot to his fatal rendezvous and has been implicated in the plot against Hoffa. As a teenager, Goldsmith regarded O’Brien as “a great father, despite his lack of education,” but a lengthy period of estrangement followed during which Goldsmith legally changed his last name from O’Brien. Ultimately, Goldsmith reconciled with O’Brien and worked with him, unsuccessfully, after Goldsmith left the government to teach at Harvard Law, to try to get him publicly exonerated of any role in Hoffa’s disappearance. Goldsmith’s linking of the investigative tactics used against Hoffa in the early 1960s and those deployed after 9/11 in the “war on terror” exposed him to the potential for abuses in government surveillance. It’s that concern that gives this impassioned account resonance beyond exploring a notorious unsolved case. (Sept.)