Ms. Mirage, by Joe Tone, is a non-fiction novel about undercover journalism. Readers can probably quickly identify the subject of undercover reporting through its visible television component exemplified by 60 Minutes, a broadcast identified in this account. This book focuses on the career of Pam Zekman, and her career working as a journalist for two Chicago newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times. Her print career began in 1970 and lasted to 1981 when she switched to television news.
On the Chicago, Tribune Pam worked as part of a team exposing Nursing Home abuses. In a team effort on election voter fraud, the story won a Pulitzer Prize. While doing reporting on these targeted projects, Pam became aware of different kinds of scams and shakedowns that business owners had to pay to do business. There was no realistic way to go undercover against such comprehensive graft from so many agencies. There were inspectors for building codes, plumbers, electricians, health and food inspectors, fire inspectors, and licensing agencies, all readily accepted bribes to speed necessary processing of permits. Pam had an idea. She would start a bar and have the corruptors come to her.
The Chicago Tribune management came up with nothing but reasons to say no. Pam would eventually take her idea to the Sun-Times where, if it was not enthusiastically accepted, it was at least allowed. Pam got her approval to start a bar from the Sun-Times in 1975. Buying and outfitting a bar took time, and Pam’s bar, The Mirage would not open until near the end of 1977. Customers arrived as did solicitors of bribes. The bar stayed open until Pam and her team members decided they had enough proof to publish an expose of city corruption. Stories in the Sun-Times began in January 1978.
This account is one of six that make up an Exposure Collection on Amazon. Each selection focuses on a grand scam or scheme to illegally obtain money by the greedy few from the gullible many. The books are intriguing not for their content or even named characters but for the processes employed to divert funds. These short accounts reveal how smart thieves can exploit holes in a system. The stories can contribute to consumer awareness in the age of a growing number of incidents of identity theft and cybercrime.
I have read two books from this collection. I gave Ms. Mirage four Amazon stars for transparent reporting. Not every book in the collection is as clear. I found The Two Million Dollar Intern, another Exposure Collection Title, left me mired down in detail and unclear timelines. I decided not to post a review of Intern. After reading Ms. Mirage, which I liked, I know I must be careful with books from the Exposure Collection.
This selection is available on Kindle Unlimited.