Charles Stuart, a Deadly Hoax, and the Credulous Boston Media in 1989

The Boston media demonstrated its inherent, subtle racism of the era when media-darling Charles Stuart, aided by his feckless kid brother Matthew, murdered his pregnant wife on a dark downtown street, haplessly shot himself, and blamed a fictional black man for the crime.

A months-long police frenzy of tossing youths in Boston’s black neighborhoods ensued and a black man was arrested (and basically convicted in the press), while the media lionized Chuckie as the hero husband. This occurred within a long-spun narrative of a black inner-city crime menace. Then the truth about Chuckie’s heroism came crashing down in early January 1990, and Chuckie jumped to his death off the Tobin Bridge into icy Boston Harbor.

That Boston media malfeasance was the clear subtext of my book “Deadly Greed,” which came out within a media circus, and was indifferently published. But that’s water under the bridge, so to speak.

Whatever the book’s faults, the Boston Globe’s vicious review was a hilarious manifestation of the squealing of a stuck pig, as the Irish used to say.  (I’m happy to say that the Globe, subsequently under New York Times ownership, went to better days in journalism during the rest of the 1990s and beyond).

In 1991, the less-excitable Library Journal reviewed “Deadly Greed” this way:

For three months in 1989, the entire nation watched aghast as the Charles Stuart murder case played out in Boston. A middle-class white couple, Charles and Carol Stuart, had been accosted in their car by an unknown black male and forced to drive to a deserted black neighborhood where they were robbed. Carol, seven months pregnant, was killed, and Charles severely injured. The problem was that the entire story turned out to be a cruel hoax, ultimately unmasked by Charles’s suicide, which, in turn, was prompted by the unraveling of his story by his brother Matthew. Sharkey has gone beyond the facts known to draw a picture of a man consumed by naked ambition, unwilling to let anyone or anything get in his way. To a lesser extent, he successfully has also shown how other factors contributed to Stuart’s committing the almost perfect crime: the press, the district attorney’s office, and the increased racial tensions in Boston. Possibly the first of many books about the Stuarts, this should be well received. Recommended.”

Early this year, Open Road Media published my updated edition in ebook form, and this is the edition I recommend. See today’s The Lineup. The book has also been optioned for the movies.

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