September Song: A Cronicle of the O'Malley's in the Twentieth Century

September Song: A Cronicle of the O'Malley's in the Twentieth Century

by Andrew M. Greeley

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The enthralling third novel in the chronicle of the O'Malleys in the twentieth century.

The fourth of the O'Malley chronicles is narrated by the ravishing Rosemarie, dedicated wife of our intrepid and trouble-prone hero, Chucky Cronin O'Malley. Destined to be compared to the Lanny Budd novels of Upton Sinclair and the Chicago novels of James T. Farrell, September Song follows the crazy O'Malley saga from Chucky's appointment as Ambassador to Germany by President Kennedy (the youngest Ambassador in history), to his resignation over his violent disagreement with President Johnson, to his in-your-face involvement in Selma, Alabama, the Chicago Democratic Convention, and the Vietnam War.

Chucky can't stay out of trouble, and his loving and devoted wife Rosemarie is often, if not always, by his side. Raising a family and showing up at the hot trouble spots of the world seems to be Chucky's destiny. Greeley recalls the turbulent and history changing events of the 1960s with fondness and clarity.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429912297
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Series: Family Saga , #4
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 317
Sales rank: 706,499
File size: 302 KB

About the Author

Priest, sociologist, author, and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013) was the author of over 50 bestselling novels and more than 100 works of nonfiction. His novels include the Bishop Blackie Ryan series, including The Archbishop in Andalusia; the Nuala Anne McGrail series, including Irish Tweed; the O’Malley Family Saga, including A Midwinter’s Tale; and standalones such as Home for Christmas and The Cardinal Sins.

A leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to believers’ evolving concerns. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

Read an Excerpt

September Song

By Andrew M. Greeley

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2001 Andrew M. Greeley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-1229-7


"I told him that I wouldn't work for him because he is a vulgar, corrupt redneck."

"Chucky, you didn't!"

"I did!"

"He's the President of the United States!"

"Of America ... there are also United States of Mexico and of Brazil and Indonesia."

"Regardless!" I waved my hand in protest, one of my favorite gestures in dealing with my husband, especially when he's showing off how smart he is.

"I'm sorry ..."

"I should hope so!"

"That I didn't tell him that he was a lying son of a bitch."

I had been waiting for him in our suite at the Hay-Adams Hotel, across Lafayette Park from the White House. It was a suite because I had made the reservation. If my husband, Charles Cronin O'Malley, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany, had made them we would have been in a double room with a double instead of a king-size bed. He would never get over the Great Depression. I've always had a little money, though I've paid a heavy price for it.

He sprawled on a chair, raincoat still on. Despite his pose of nonchalance, he was upset, a little boy whose candy had been stolen from him by a bully — a bully almost a foot taller — in this case from Central Texas. He didn't want the candy anymore, but, as I would say, regardless, it had been taken away from him.

My husband will always be something of a little boy, which is one of the reasons I am dizzy in love with him, sawed-off little redheaded runt that he is.

"Woman," he said wearily, "I want me tea!"

Most men recovering from an encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson would have wanted a drink. But Chuck doesn't drink, save for the occasional glass of wine at meals. I don't drink at all because I'm a drunk. So we brew tea late in the afternoon instead. Rather I brew it because Chuck, perhaps because of his partial South Side Irish heritage, is content with popping a tea bag into a cup of boiling water.

("Mommy," asked my daughter April Rosemary, "why don't you drink like the mothers of my friends do?"

"Does that bother you?"

"No, I'm glad you don't drink. Some of them act real silly."

"I did too before Daddy stopped me."

So soon had she forgotten!


Daddy was sweet and funny and adorable. And took real good pictures. But he never did anything really important.

"Daddy," I said firmly.

"How did he stop you?"

"He told me if I drank again, he'd make me take care of all you kids by myself!"

That was close enough to the truth. Actually he would have taken care of the four little monsters — that was before the fifth came along — by himself.

"He did NOT."

We both laughed and she hugged me and we loved and trusted one another till the next crisis of growing up came along.)

"Let it steep," I instructed him as I placed the teapot — ordered up from room service — on a coaster.

"Yes, ma'am ... Rosemarie, that West Texas hillbilly is going to send a 165,000 troops to Vietnam before the year is over!"

"Central Texas," I corrected. "West Texas is west of the Pecos, you know Judge Roy Bean's territory."

Chucky's eyes twinkled. Most men would resent such an interruption from a smart-mouth wife. For some odd reason he enjoyed them.

"He's forgotten about Korea!" I went on.

"I've been telling people for years that he is too shrewd a politician to make that mistake." Chuck reached for the plate of cookies I had brought out.

"Not till the tea is ready," I admonished him.

"Yes, ma'am." He sighed. "And the stupid generals who have no idea how to fight a guerrilla war will mess it up. It could go on for a decade. The Vietnamese have nothing to lose but lives. Good Communists never worry about such things. Bourgeois morality."

"Our kids ..." I gasped.

"In ten years" — he rubbed his hand over his eyes — "the boys will all be of draft age ... If we didn't have the damn draft, we wouldn't fight land wars in Asia. Your friend over at 1600 wouldn't have 165,000 men to send into the Asian jungles."

Paying little attention to what I was doing, I poured the tea.

"Dear God, Chuck ..."

"God's pretty unpredictable, but I'd trust him more than I'd trust that lying redneck."

"Deus absconditus, a God who has absconded," I said in an automatic reference to St. Augustine.

In our marriage, Chuck and I trade citations. I usually win. Also I have to stay at least one book ahead of him. He says he doesn't want to fight it or I won't sleep with him, which isn't true.

(Some of my women friends tell me that my husband is oversexed. I don't know whether he is or not, but I tell them that's fine with me because I'm oversexed too.)

"Good tea, Rosemarie," he said, "not that it is a surprise."

"Tell me more about LBJ."

"He starts out by telling me that I have to help him get out of the mess in Vietnam, like I'm the only one in the country that can do it. I say that he should get rid of all the Kennedy holdovers and surround himself with Texas politicians who think the way he does. I didn't say Texas hillbillies because I was still being civil. He says that he thought that they were all my friends. I say that they are, but he still ought to have his own people in place."

"You were right of course ... And he said?"

I had paid no attention to politics before we went to Germany. I had learned a lot on the subject since then, more than I really wanted to know.

"Changed the subject. Complained about Adlai up at the UN. Had to get someone else. Good man, but too much of an egghead. Soft as shit, an interesting mix of metaphors. I was supposed to rise to the bait like most of those people over there would. I didn't say a thing. He said he needed me back at Bonn for a couple of months, and then we'd see about the UN. I said I was submitting my resignation. Wanted to go home to Chicago and raise my kids. He said that he was the commander in chief and that he had to order young men to go to Vietnam and die for the country and he was ordering me to go back to my post as Ambassador to West Germany."

That sort of order would cut no ice with my Chucky.

"And you told him that you'd already done your military service and you were going home?"

"How did you guess? ... Then he asked me why and I told him what I thought of him. So he pulled his bathroom trick, door open, flushing toilet, and all ... At least he flushed the toilet ... So I silently rode off into the sunset. Only when I left the Oval Office did I regret that I hadn't called him a liar. He's escalating that war and not telling the public about it."

"The public doesn't want to know, Chuck."

He pondered that.

"You're right, Rosemarie my darling, you're right. But when they find out, they'll say that LBJ and his advisers lied to them. I don't want to be one of those advisers."

"Then what?"

"Then I went down to see Mac Bundy and told him what happened and he said they would need people like me around in the difficult times ahead and that he was sure that the UN appointment would come down by spring and I said that I didn't want it if it came down tomorrow."

Chuck had put aside his career as a photographer to enter public service during the Kennedy years like so many enthusiastic young Americans. "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you." For one so young he was awarded a big prize, Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. There had been moaning and groaning from the press (including the sainted New York Times) and the Republicans that despite his dissertation (on the Marshall Plan's economic impact on postwar Germany) and his photography books about Germany after the war he wasn't old enough or experienced enough for the job. The Embassy staff in Bonn were horrified. One of the senior staff resigned and a couple of others requested transfers. Everyone soon learned that with his quick wit, his quicker smile, and his even quicker tongue and his enormous charm my Chucky Ducky was a natural diplomat. Like he said, "when you're a sawed-off punk with red hair, you gotta be charming."

The Old One, Konrad Adenauer, the Chancellor of West Germany, who rarely smiled, had met Chuck in Bamberg when he was in the army of occupation and simply adored him. His face would light up in a happy grin whenever Chuck appeared.

"Ja, Ja, Herr Roter!"

"Ja, Herr Oberburgomeister!"

Adenauer, the frosty old democrat of whom even the Nazi were afraid and who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the political and economic revival of West Germany after the war, was terribly proud that he had been the Lord Mayor of Cologne since practically forever. Chuck, never one not to push his luck, suspected that he secretly liked the title, though officially — and Germany is a country where everything is official — he was Herr Reichkanzler. The marvelous old man beamed.

So Chuck merely had to pick up the phone and call his private line, as he did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the spring of 1962. "Herr Reichkanzler, the Russians have missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy wants me to bring the pictures over to you. Now."

Adenauer knew from the use of the official title that this was serious business. He saw Chuck within a half hour. West Germany was the first country to sign on to the "boycott" of Russian ships, for which Chuck received considerable praise, even in the New York Times, which never really likes Irishmen, especially mouthy ones.

Those were scary days everywhere, especially in Bonn, because almost everyone feared that the Red Army would arrive at the Rhine in twenty-four hours. Chuck dissented. "They're in as bad a shape if not worse than our army is. Their machines will break down before they get through the Harz mountains."

Fortunately we never had to find out who was right in the argument.

I knew a fair amount of German and Chuck could cover up his mistakes with his usual infectious grin. We sent our four oldest to German schools instead of the local American one which also won us points. It was sink or swim for April Rosemary and her three brothers. Being O'Malleys, they swam of course. Being clowns like their father, they took great delight in imitating the seriousness of German teachers and students while at the same time entertaining them.

I stayed sober and played the grande dame, shanty-Irish style, got my picture in the papers almost as much as the local media stars, and sang German songs on every possible occasion. We both wore PT 109 pins.

We had, in other words, a great time and represented the United States of America with considerable grace, if I do say so myself.

It all fell apart for us on November 22, 1963, when Jack Kennedy was shot. As Pat Moynihan said we thought he had more time and so did he. Camelot, as people would later call it, was over. We were asleep when the first phone call came. We wept in each other's arms and then woke the kids and said the rosary with them.

"It's all over, Rosemarie," Chuck whispered to me. "The magic is finished."

We didn't know then how completely over it was.

Neither of us had any illusions about Jack Kennedy. We knew that he was a sick man and, like his father, an incorrigible womanizer. We also knew that he was the only one in Washington who, with some help from his brother, kept the missile crisis from turning into a nuclear war. He was witty and graceful and charming and Irish (though not Irish like the Chicago Irish) and we told ourselves that his sexual behavior was none of anyone's business.

He liked me and treated me with infinite respect. I guess the passes were reserved for movie actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson. He probably realized that I would clobber him — literally — if he tried to hit on me.

At the time of his death the State Department told all its envoys to stay at their posts to reassure our allies and our enemies that America would weather the crisis. We ignored the rule and flew on one of the new Pan Am 747s from Frankfurt to New York for the wake and the funeral. Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State, a nice man but persnickety, was furious at Chuck, and told him so.

"Fine, Dean," my husband said. "You can have my resignation tomorrow morning if you want it. We Irish Catholics go to our friends' wakes."

Rusk backed down.

It was a terrible weekend. I have often thought that if I didn't get drunk then, I never would again.

Chuck never liked LBJ. On the way back to Frankfurt he told me he would resign immediately and we'd return to Chicago. I talked him out of it. He had to stay until the election next year. Johnson would push Jack's Civil Rights Bill through Congress. He kept all of the Camelot staff. We thought that perhaps some of our dreams might be salvaged. LBJ had words of high praise for Chuck when he visited Bonn. "Bullshit," my husband had whispered. The trial balloons went up that Chuck might go to the UN. We were both elated. The Camelot spirit of government service still drove us. We might yet make the world a better place; American ingenuity and enthusiasm were still alive and well.

Then we heard about the plans to escalate in Vietnam after the election. The public didn't vote for Barry Goldwater because they were afraid that he would start another war. Johnson and his advisers, the so-called "best and the brightest" and the military were secretly planing to do just that.

My husband decided it was time to sign off.

"And what did Mac say to that?"

"He seemed surprised. That whole crowd figures that they can keep Jack's ghost alive by working with LBJ. They're wrong, the dead refusing to bury the dead."

Pretty grim and gloomy sentiments from my cheery little leprechaun.

"More tea?"

"No thanks."

Chuck almost always wanted more tea.

"Another cookie?"


I waited to hear Gabriel blow his horn to indicate the world was about to come to an end. Chucky Ducky always wanted another cookie.

I curled up at his feet and took his hand in mine.

"Shitty," I said.

"Sure is." He sighed. "What was it that Pat said?"

"We'll laugh again but we'll never be young again."


There was a dinner party scheduled that night. Chuck wanted to skip it. We belonged in Chicago, not this sick place, he insisted.

And I insisted that the Irish go out with smiles. I won, like I usually did when the issue was something important. In fact, generally when it was unimportant. So I dressed up in one of my sexier dresses and made Chuck wear a tie.

He whistled as I dressed. I told him not to be vulgar. He's seen me so often slightly naked, nearly naked, and totally naked, I don't know why it's such a big deal. He likes my little show, however. It's a wife's job to keep her husband happy.

I love my husband (madly), I enjoy sex (usually), I am always modest (appropriately), and I'm delighted (generally) when, after all these years, I note that my husband is gaping at me.

"Isn't that a dress from our honeymoon?" he asks.

"Certainly not!"

"Same size though?"

"Regardless!" I waved my hand.

He likes to make the point when I tell him you can't give birth to five children and still be erotically attractive.

I retied his tie. He has never learned how to do it right and probably never will as long as I do it for him. He kissed me gently, a ceremony which always concludes the tie ritual.

At least I don't have to tie his shoes — very often.

The party was at a charming old home in Georgetown, all chandeliers and mirrors and crimson hangings and shining china and crystal. The guests were some of the last-ditch veterans of Camelot, witty, sophisticated, in-the-know, and almost as bright as they thought they were.

As usual we were the center of attention, not because I was beautiful, which I was not, and not even because Chuck was funny, which he was even in his grim mood, but because he was considered a marginal member of the "best and the brightest" and because the UN rumors were on everyone's lips.

"Are you looking at an apartment in New York, Rosemarie?" a woman with too much makeup asked.

Actually the Ambassador to the United Nations lives in a suite in the Waldorf Apartments.

"We have a nice home in Chicago," I said firmly.

Dead silence.

"You're really leaving the administration?" a very important journalist (whom Chucky and I both thought was a pompous fool) demanded.

"I'm going back to Chicago where I belong," my leprechaun said grimly.

Silence around the table.

"May one ask why?"

I was afraid that Chuck would repeat his line about LBJ being a corrupt and vulgar redneck.

"The administration," he said somberly, "is bungling into another land war in Asia. I want no part of that policy."

No longer Mr. Life of the Party.

"Surely we have to stand up to the Communists in Southeast Asia if we are to maintain our credibility," another journalist said as if that were as certain as a statement of papal infallibility. Later this jerk became a leading critic of the war. They all did.

"Our credibility to whom?"

"Well ... World public opinion."

"There is no such thing."

"Our allies will say that we can't be counted on."

"Maybe our allies should learn to take care of themselves."

Gasp around the room. Even the second-string members of the "best and the brightest" shouldn't talk that way.


Excerpted from September Song by Andrew M. Greeley. Copyright © 2001 Andrew M. Greeley. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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