Budd Schulberg fans will be happy to know that the man who gave the world "The Harder They Fall" and "On the Waterfront" is finally taking his long-awaited revenge on crooked businessmen, labor racketeers, and organized crime figures. His vehicle for doing so is his latest novel, "Everything That Moves," a thinly-disguised chronicle of former Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa's rise and fall.
During the early 1960s, Attorney General Robert Kennedy selected Schulberg to write the screenplay of "The Enemy Within," Kennedy's 1960 best seller, based upon his experiences as chief counsel of the Senate rackets committee. However, Hoffa and the mob -- Kennedy's principal targets during the three-year investigation -- used their influence in Hollywood to have the film idea canned. The scenario took its toll on Schulberg, but he continued to fight for his work. And, almost 20 years later, Schulberg has delivered again.
Exhibiting his social conscience through his art, Schulberg has been and continues to be a master at dramatizing corruptive power -- and the forces behind it. He is a true advocate of the working class, a strong trade unionist who exposes the bullies in Big Business and Big Labor who prey upon their employes or the rank and file. He has been radicalized by the endless cosmetic changes in these institutions which are called "reforms," but do nothing more than buy time or provide cover for people abusing their authority.
By the end of "Everything That Moves," Schulberg's message is clear: Big Government, alone, cannot put an end to institutional corruption and Big Crime. The working people who are hurt by corruption must organize and serve as the catalyst for real reforms.
Joey Hopper, the Hoffa-type protagonist, is portrayed as a hot-tempered pug, the kind of guy who would slap around a newsboy for throwing the morning paper in the bushes. He is not unlike Johnny Friendly, the tyrannical union leader in "On the Waterfront." Hopper's alliances with the underworld and ruthless employers show his increasing dependence on illicit money and muscle to achieve his dream of a national union contract. Consequently, this becomes nothing more than a charade for Hopper -- as it was with Hoffa -- to use the union for his own personal gain and personal survival.
Throughout the book, Hopper, the president of the International Brotherhood of Haulers and Truckers, is relentlessly pursued by brave and honest Dennis Crawford Jr., the chief counsel of the Senate committee investigating the union who later becomes a deputy attorney general in the Justice Department, where the crusade continues. Despite Hopper's legion of apologists in the IBHT and the press, Crawford views him as a wholly amoral and totally dangerous influence on organized labor. To his credit, Schulberg is careful to make clear the distinctions between Hopper's corrupt empire and the legitimate trade union movement, led by such organizations as the AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers.
Although Schulberg's fiction fuels the myth that Kennedy used electronic surveillance against Hoffa -- which is not true, contrary to popular belief -- the Crawford-Hopper war is essentially good history, as well as a classic Ahab-white whale drama.
Hopper becomes unrealistic about his battles with Crawford, viewing them as little more than a series of Saturday night brawls. Hopper's attitude eventually begins to concern his allies in the underworld who are being dragged into the fray and onto the front pages of the national press.
Because of Hopper's unwillingness to plead guilty to a minor offense -- which would cost him his job, but take the spotlight off the mob -- Hiram Shecter, a southern crime figure and a target of Crawford's "Get Hopper" squad, orders the union leader's execution. Any similarities between the cirumstances of the Hoffa and Hopper disappearances in the next scene are purely intentional.
In his introduction to Walter Sheridan's excellent study, "The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa," Schulberg wrote: "The enemy within seems to grow stronger every day. Whether a Jack Anderson, a Ralph Nader, a Walter Sheridan can arouse our people from their complacency is the question on which the future course of America may depend."
Modesty prevented Schullberg form adding his own name to that list -- where it so rightly belongs.