Peter Maas was famous for his book on Frank Serpico, a whistleblower in the New York City Police Department. He also wrote other fine books about crime. But my favorite is Marie: A True Story.
Marie: A True Story is about Marie Ragghianti, the woman who blew the whistle on the corrupt Tennessee government in the 1970s.
Marie was a former beauty queen and abused wife when she entered Tennessee politics as an extradition officer. Marie eventually became the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Pardons and Paroles when she discovered that criminals were paying politicians for paroles and pardons! If you could pay the price, you would be set free. It didn’t matter if you were a rapist or murderer — the money was what counted.
Marie finally contacted the F.B.I. and showed great courage in fighting against the corruption that she found. Several people were murdered during the course of the investigation, and Marie’s life was in jeopardy. Finally, the governor of Tennessee fired Marie, after setting her up by having her arrested for drunk driving. But Marie fought back, and sued to get her job back.
Peter Maas makes you really understand why Marie was so persistent in fighting corruption and why she just couldn’t look the other way. It makes for gripping reading.
The story of Marie Ragghianti was eventually made into a film starring Sissy Spacek. It is a fine film, although it does fudge the timeline a little bit: