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Forget It, Jake, It's Schenectady

Stranger things do tend to happen in Schenectady—once a booming metropolis nicknamed the “City That Lights and Hauls the World” thanks to the dominating presence of General Electric and the American Locomotive Company, though those days are ancient history. GE has nearly abandoned the city, and ALCO closed up shot over fifty years ago. Hence, the title of this book: Forget It, Jake, It’s Schenectady:The True Story Behind “The Place Behind the Pines", a nod to the bleak conclusion of the classic film Chinatown, one of cinema’s most devastating expressions of abject resignation and defeat.

A chance meeting between onetime Schenectady Police Chief Gregory Kaczmarek and author David Bushman in a Lyft car that Kaczmarek was driving was the genesis of this book, originally intended to track the rise and fall of a veteran cop with what appear to be two defining traits—an almost inhuman capacity for perseverance and a truly remarkable ability to attract notoriety and criticism. However, as the author’s research—including interviews with over two dozen people who lived through the events depicted in these pages—progressed, the book mutated into something else: a consideration of the recent history of the entire department—both its failures and successes—especially during Kaczmarek’s six-year reign as chief, but also involving such celebrated cases as the arrests and convictions of child killer Marybeth Tinning and serial rapist-murderer Lemuel Smith, who claimed to be controlled by the spirit of his deceased brother.

In one of the more notorious cases of police corruption in New York State in recent times, the FBI set its sights on the Schenectady PD in 1999, launching an investigation that would eventually result in the imprisonment of four officers, the suicide of a fifth, and the resignation of Kaczmarek, who himself would wind up behind bars ten years later after copping a plea to criminal possession of cocaine. The events of this period loosely form the basis of the 2012 crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines—a literal translation of the Mohawk word “Schau-naugh-ta-da”—which starred Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Eva Mendes and was cowritten by Ben Coccio, who grew up in Schenectady, and Derek Cianfrance, who also directed, and whose wife likewise passed her wonder years there.

Much of the blame for these catastrophic events was leveled then—and still is—at Kaczmarek, who spent twenty-seven years on the force, serving as chief from 1998 to 2002 before resigning in the wake of the federal investigation. Kaczmarek—”Kacz” to friends and to enemies, and he had a plethora of both—is the son of a longtime Schenectady police officer who, late in life, married the daughter of a local bookmaker. When Greg Kaczmarek was appointed chief, he was ordered by the mayor, his political benefactor, to hold a press conference publicly denying long-swirling rumors that he was a drug user—which, he insists to this day, he wasn’t at the time, notwithstanding his eventual arrest for possession of cocaine, purchased from the head of a major drug ring who also happened to be a close friend of his stepson.

Here you’ll meet quite an assortment of colorful characters—law-enforcement who broke the law, and others who—heroically—didn’t; attorneys who defended the city, sued the city, or built a career on prosecuting those responsible for protecting the city; a public safety commissioner who charmed some, infuriated others (including the mayor, who eventually squeezed him out, reportedly because he was jealous of his popularity), and eventually perished in the September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center; mobbed-up gamblers who paid off cops while battling to up their piece of the pie; drug dealers with names like Slim and Misty Gallo who ran their product all over New York’s Capital Region before finally being taken down by wiretaps; sex workers who, doubling as confidential informants, wound up taking incriminating some the department’s most decorated officers; and more.

 

ISBN: 9781949024524

Forget It, Jake, It’s Schenectady

SKU: 9781949024524-TP
$19.99 Regular Price
$17.99Sale Price
  • It may not be Chinatown, but this book has as many twists and turns and will take you into a corrupt police force with David Bushman's legendary attention to detail and storytelling. This book will be released June 13, 2023

  • David Bushman is the author of four books, including, Murder at Teal’s Pond: Hazel Drew and the Mystery That Inspired Twin Peaks (2022), Conversations with Mark Frost (2020), Forget It, Jake, It’s Schenectady and the editor of a new Doctor Who essay book (2022). He is a former television curator at The Paley Center for Media and TV editor at Variety. He is cofounder and copresident of Fayetteville Mafia Press and Tucker DS Press.

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