Chicago 1968: Personal Reflections & Other Stories by Neal P. Gillen
Woodside Press. Available at Booklocker.com and Amazon.com for $16.95
“We witnessed a crazed young policeman begin to hit a young man and one sitting next to him with his night stick. Incredulously it went on for about 10 seconds before his colleagues pulled him away and rushed him out of the hotel.” So writes Neal Gillen of his personal remembrance from Chicago.
Neal Gillen’s latest book is a treasure trove of fact and fiction. Its lead story is a fascinating and detailed look at the maneuvering that took place at the Democrats’ ill-fated 1968 National Convention in Chicago. Gillen had an inside perspective before the convention as the deputy director of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s delegate monitoring operation for a powerful voting block of states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. During the convention, his floor responsibilities put him in the middle of the drama that occurred during that hectic August week in the Windy City. He also shares his wife’s, Mary-Margaret Gillen, perspective as counsel for the Vietnam Subcommittee of the Platform Committee. It’s a peek at history in the making that has never been reported. In many respects it’s a gripping look at how politics really works.
There are 32 stories in all, 28 of them true stories, with the suspenseful events of the Chicago convention comprising about one-fourth of this 270 page book. The other well-written, entertaining, and comical stories reveal the realities of life of some well-know people including Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Breslin, and Donald Trump’s father, Fred. The Trump story, written in 2015, provides some insights as to why Donald never wanted to work under his father’s thumb. Gillen briefly worked for Fred Trump on a construction project in Coney Island, He describes Trump’s micro managing of every aspect of the job including his taking the coffee and lunch orders to make sure the workers remained on the isolated job site.
The four works of fiction are interesting and compelling stories that you will enjoy. A great memoir and well worth your read.
Review by Thomas Hollyday, Boston, January 7, 2019