Sunday, April 11, 2010

Books on Edwin Edwards

One of the things that always frustrates me is learning history that's too recent for the history textbooks, but before I started to regularly read the newspaper. I've been interested in reading up on some recent Louisiana history and the Leo Honeycutt biography caught my eye:
Edwin Edwards
Leo Honeycutt's "Edwin Edwards"

The book features extensive interviews of Edwin Edwards made while he was in prison. Frankly, the book stinks. The beginning is actually quite good and the book covers quite a lot of non-EWE-related Louisiana recent history, which I appreciated. The chronicling of the media's influence on campaigns is one of the best parts of the book. I also like how much the anti-Edwards camp is exposed as hypocrites (Foster for being pro-Duke, pro-gambling and Buddy Roemer for being the "father of legalized gambling in modern Louisiana"). Towards the end, though, the book became unreadably bad. James Gill was quoted extensively, but only at the end when it served the author's bias. There were a couple of quotes that, when a fuller quotation was given, would have conveyed the exact opposite of what Honeycutt was trying to portray. The book also had some minor typographical errors throughout, but for a first edition that was sort of rushed out, I'll forgive. The blatant pro-Edwards bias ruins the book towards the end. I couldn't finish the book, it was that bad.

Bad Bet on the Bayou: The Rise of Gambling in Louisiana and the Fall of Governor Edwin Edwards
Tyler Bridges' "Bad Bet on the Bayou"

Instead of finishing Honeycutt's book, I picked up Bad Bet on the Bayou. It is a history of gambling in Louisiana from the Louisiana State Lottery Company to the conviction of Edwin Edwards. The earlier history is fantastic. I loved how it described pre-suburbanization Jefferson Parish as nothing but thugs, scoundrels, and prostitutes. Sometimes, you'll hear suburbanites complain about all the corruption in New Orleans, but the shit that went down in the 'burbs is amazing.

Tyler Bridges really stuck it too Edwards. He got a little too preachy at times. His most effective passage was when he chronicled the damage done by gambling addiction to a half dozen Louisiana families.

After reading both books, first off, I would have never read nearly as much of the Honeycutt book had I read Bridges' book first. I'm also ardently anti-gambling and Bridges' book only reinforced my views. The best way to stop gambling is math education, but if we did that, half the state education budgets would be in the red!

As far as EWE goes, I think that Edwards' first two terms were OK, at least he didn't push gambling. His third was crap, but then again, it was the oil bust, so anyone would have had a hard time. Edwards' fourth term, well, I'll let the man describe it for himself:

"The best thing that could happen to me would be to win the election and die the next day"

-Edwin Edwards to John Maginnis, just before the runoff election against David Duke

1 comment:

Tim said...

Glad to hear you don't like gambling. It's really sad how many people do--and how much they gamble. I was a Roemer supporter, but you're right that he was the father of modern legalized gambling in Louisiana.

It's so sad how it happened, too. Everyone was talking about a lottery and how fun and harmless that would be. All we had to do was amend the state constitution to allow the state to do it. But when I read the proposed amendment, the word "lottery" was nowhere in the law. It simply changed the constitution to remove the prohibition of gambling to say that the Legislature would define and suppress gambling. How could we not have seen the flaw in that?

And the rest is history.