The King-Makers of Providence

4 of 4 Stars!

In The King-Makers of Providence by John Houle, the city of Providence was run tightly by Mayor Jack Donovan and his chief of staff, Terry Silberman. They had used their power and position to take bribes from the citizens. Anyone who crossed them paid dearly. Therefore, the people learned to look the other way. But Frank Petrozella chose to do things differently. Frank's action could soon birth a new era of politics in Providence that would change the political scene. It could also break the holds of kingmakers like Henry Mercucio and Congressman Ray McNally on the city's political system. Would Donovan and Silberman get what they had coming to them? Or would their power and money absolve them of their sins?I like that this book revealed the salient dynamics of power and politics. It also traced the evolution of politics from a public service venture that catered to people's needs to a system run by money and for money. This was and had proved detrimental to society. A genuine passion for change had been dimmed by a dishonorable system where no one could be trusted. People would change their position to secure votes and positions most suited to them. I got an exciting peek into the internal workings of election campaigns. I could picture everything, from crafting a candidate's image to developing campaign messages and putting them out there. There was also the power of social media and the mainstream media and how they drove political campaigns and elections. Another introspective issue raised by the book related to women and political offices. The perception was that women were too liberal or soft for the political game. Women in politics currently had to prove themselves to be accepted by the populace and respected by their colleagues.Readers would be compelled to meditate on the actual definition of success. The craze of this generation to become successful begged the question: to what end? Success chasers should give more thought to what they desire; perhaps success should be more about family and love than money and accolades. Either way, it was good food for thought. The King-Makers of Providence was a perfect blend of politics, power, greed, love, karma, and facades. The book was a lesson that people could indeed be more than the eye could see. It also reemphasized the fundamental tenets of politics that could be summarized thus: "the highest honor is in serving your fellow man." No matter how dirty the political game had been, this book showed that being honorable and honest in politics was possible.This book was well written and exceptionally edited. There was nothing to dislike in the entire narrative. Political enthusiasts and lovers of good stories would love this book. Iā€™d rate it four out of four stars. - Reviewed by Sam Ibeh


The King-Makers of Providence will delight thriller audiences who appreciate political intrigue injected into the story line. It opens with the bang of Henry Mercucio's candid revelation that his political choices are "...not burdened by personal conviction..." Confessing this at a funeral is not his brightest move, but Henry is driven by interests that go beyond moral and ethical norms.

He fits in well in a world of corruption in Providence, where "...politics was a blood sport. It was not uncommon for nomination papers to mysteriously disappear from the Board of Elections or for political yard signs to be defaced with profanities. The destruction of political enemies by any means necessary was as alive in twenty-first-century Providence as it had been in fourteenth-century Florence."

Having set the scene early in the story, John Houle progresses to a vivid series of conundrums in which Rhode Island's political scene serves as a microcosm of clashes between old school thinking and new political processes. The King-Makers of Providence explores the deadly outcomes of such conflicts.

As information is leaked, damage control instigated, and rock-solid connections (even those firmly rooted in love, such as his relationship with Lindsay) begin to dissolve, Henry finds himself navigating a storm of personal and political contention that reaches well beyond Rhode Island's shores to affect political decisions, upcoming races, and attempts to return honor to the mayor's sullied office.

As a political consultant (nee lawyer), Henry has always cloaked his activities in the guise of operating behind the scenes. But, secretly, he's always wanted to be a more active political operative, influencing others as special influences and powers direct.

It all boils down to a vote that Henry may ultimately not be able to that challenges every aspect of his job, his personal life, and his political involvements.

John Houle does a fine job of integrating a political thriller format into an exploration of the personal life of an influencer who finds his professional aspirations thwarted by the processes of this latest election.

As events unfold, the tension is well-done on both social and personal playing fields, bringing readers who may have little experience (or prior interest) in New England politics or operations into a riveting Rhode Island world that both educates and proves as captivating as the action.

As politics begins to pull Henry's life to pieces, he must decide where his loyalties lie and who his real friends are. He struggles to recreate his life and obtain peace in the face of Congressman McNally's influence and objectives.

Those who enjoy more than a light dose of political insider detail within a thriller format that moves through cat-and-mouse games and different layers of political special interests will find The King-Makers of Providence thoroughly engrossing.

All that's required from readers is a basic interest in political processes, morals and ethics, and an appreciation for thriller formats that bring all these elements and associated dilemmas to life. Such defines The King-Makers of Providence.

Midwest Book Reviews - Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer


"In New England's second most important city, politics was a blood sport."

John Campagna runs for mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, on a platform of honesty and transparency reminiscent of his late father. After unscrupulous cocaine-addicted incumbent Jack Donovan, Campagna is a breath of fresh air. Donovan held office for twenty years by nefarious means but now flees to Europe to avoid prosecution as the FBI pursues him for graft, necessitating a special election. If only Henry Mercutio, Campagna's political consultant, still shared his scruples. Just thirty-two, Mercutio, an Ivy League graduate, already has a booming law practice he achieved through honest, challenging work. But in this race, Mercutio soon stoops to the sorts of character-smearing and intimidation his rival consultant Gordon Beako favors, finding himself the subject of racy photos taken with Campagna's niece hours before her suspicious death. How dirty will Mercutio play to ensure a win for Campagna? Might it even cost him the regard of the woman he loves?

Houle describes the fondly held values of both his conservative and liberal candidate characters with believable passion and yet without injecting his own bias either way. Henry Mercutio's very name reflects his political acumen. His father named him for Shakespeare's politically astute King Henry V. The Shakespearean theme continues with his last name, which is Latin for "mercury" and pays homage to both Mercutio's changeful character and the unpredictable political climate in which he finds himself. Even as he descends into unethical campaigning practices on Campagna's behalf, Mercutio experiences the self-loathing attendant upon a guilty conscience, a sensitivity he never loses. His progression from a person consumed with the heady power of politics to one who gives it up after realizing that political strife never ends will resonate with readers who take a jaded view of the workings of government or who respect those who relinquish power and fame.

U.S. Review of Books - Reviewed by Heather Brooks

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