‘Big, Bad Book’ Series Tackles Republicans, Democrats

Posted December 10, 2004 at 1:11pm

The scandalous stories of notorious Democrats and Republicans throughout history are told in “The Big, Bad Book of Democrats” and “The Big, Bad Book of Republicans.”

The books are part of “The Big, Bad Book of” series penned by Lawrance Binda. Binda came up with the idea for the series over dinner with a friend about three years ago. He was shopping for a book to give as a gift and realized there were not many options for men.

The first five books of the series focused on stories of men with specific names: Bill, Jim, Bob, John and Mike. Among the people Binda wrote about in these books: John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassinator; John Dillinger, an idolized bank robber during the Depression; James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King’s assassinator; and Jim Jones, the leader of the cult the People’s Temple who convinced his followers to drink cyanide and shoot each other in 1978.

“In the course of that, I wrote about a lot of politicians,” Binda said.

This gave him the idea to make the theme of his next books political parties.

Binda spent about nine months researching and writing each book. For the past three years, he has spent all of his time away from his full-time job working on the books.

The stories came from a variety of sources. Some of the stories he already knew; others came from newspapers, Internet searches, the Mafia Encyclopedia and National Public Radio.

“I tried to make them interesting to read,” Binda said. “They’re a bit different from the typical Washington political book. I tried to make them a fast reading and fun to read.”

Both “The Big, Bad Book of Democrats” and “The Big, Bad Book of Republicans” tell stories of corruption, sex scandals and murder. To be fair, both books have the same number of chapters.

One of Binda’s favorite stories is that of “an unscrupulous power broker named Abraham Ruef” from San Francisco. The Republican never held public office but was close with all of the elites in the city.

In 1906, an earthquake hit San Francisco and an ensuing fire destroyed much of the city. Much of the damage was worse than it should have been because of Ruef’s corruption. Poorly constructed buildings collapsed, gas lines popped and started fires, the water supply was scarce and firemen were not trained properly.

Ruef was tried and convicted of only one of the more than 100 charges brought against him in an eventful 106-day trial that included the prosecutor being shot and a key witness’ house being bombed.

Ruef was pardoned by California Gov. William Stephens (R) in 1920.

Binda also finds Democratic Rep. Daniel Sickles’ (N.Y.) story very entertaining. He describes him as a man who “filled each of his 94 years with more fire, more life and more bad behavior than most people experience in a lifetime.”

Sickles married his friend’s 14-year-old daughter after he got her pregnant when he was 33. While living in Washington, D.C., his wife had an affair with Francis Scott Key’s son, Philip. Sickles shot Philip Key in front of the White House and to the delight of everyone in Washington, he was acquitted with the first temporary insanity plea in the United States, according to Binda’s book.

Sickles changed careers and women very frequently, and was married to the daughter of the Spanish councillor of State when he died. He had abandoned her and criticized her when she pawned her jewelry to give him money after the sheriff auctioned off all of his belongings.

Binda plans to continue the series with more books focusing on men’s names. He also would like to write books about entertainment, sports and specific cities or regions in the United States.