Book Reviews,  Politics,  Resistance

Marie: A True Story by Peter Maas | Book Review

Marie: A True Story by Peter Maas | Book Review Marie: A True Story by Peter Maas
Genres: Crime, History, Non-Fiction
Original Publication Date: 1983
Source: I purchased this book
Find the Author: Goodreads, Amazon

Recounts the true experiences of Marie Ragghianti–former beauty queen, devout Catholic, and divorced working mother–and her courageous fight, in the face of disgrace and peril, against deep-seated political corruption in Tennessee.

Marie: A True Story is about Marie Ragghianti, the woman who blew the whistle on the corrupt Tennessee government in the 1970s.

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 Ragghianti Becomes Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles

Ragghianti was a former beauty queen and abused wife when she entered Tennessee politics as an extradition officer.

Eventually, she became the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Pardons and Paroles and 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.

Ragghianti 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.

Ray Blanton, 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.

Here is Blanton being interviewed in 1977:

Did she get her job back? Read the book to find out!

In an article called The women who brought down a Governor, it says:

Former Gov. Ray Blanton was investigated by the FBI for multiple reasons during his tenure. One of them was for selling pardons in the clemency for cash scandal, according to Special Agent Richard Knudsen.

Marie Ragghianti, then chair of the state’s pardon and paroles board, was the first to come forward to the FBI with her suspicions that something wasn’t right.

A local county boss for Blanton, William Aubrey Thompson, told her she would be appointed to the board. Just a few days into her role, she got a call from a lawyer in another city that said he got a visit from a man who said he could get his client an early release for the right price.

Final Analysis

Peter Maas makes you understand why Ragghianti was so persistent in fighting corruption and why she just couldn’t look the other way.

Marie Ragghianti is a woman of great courage and integrity. You feel as if you really get to know her in this book.

It makes for gripping reading.

When the book came out,  The Washington Post had an interesting review:

Going After the Good Old Boys

Ragghianti was eventually appointed a member of the U.S. Parole Commission National Appeals Board and became a Vice-Chair. She served from 1999 to 2000.

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.

Further Reading

Please read my other posts on RESISTANCE and politics:

State of the Blog Address 2024

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead | Book Review

Heronfield by Dorothy Balchin | Book Review

Democracy Dies in Darkness

How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes From An Impeachment Summer by Jimmy Breslin | Book Review


All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein | Book Review

World Press Freedom Day 2018

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Peter Maas

Peter Maas was an American crime journalist and biographer. He was the biographer of Frank Serpico, a New York City Police officer who testified against police corruption. He is also the author of the number one New York Times bestseller, Underboss, about the life and times of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.

I love books, writing, film, and television.

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