In Out of the Jungle, Thaddeus Russell (a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and current Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Barnard College) explores the motivating factors of Jimmy Hoffa: what influenced him to become the most feared union man ever -- from poor beginnings in a small Indiana coal town during the depression, through WWII to Robert Kennedy’s obsession with stamping out organized crime, which led to Hoffa's jail sentence and his expulsion from the Teamsters.
When writing biography, the writer must be careful not to let his opinions show and make the subject seem more human and perhaps sympathetic. Russell manages this quite well, explaining Hoffa's humble beginnings as well as his downfall in a neighborly voice without sounding gossipy or preachy. An extensive bibliography is attached, but things are not so cluttered within Out of the Jungle that readers feel that they are being talked to instead of included within a story. Russell has a smooth and unassuming writing style, which always leads to good reading and makes this book especially pleasurable despite its gritty contents.
For many reasons, Jimmy Hoffa will always lurk in the minds of millions of Americans. His dynamic personality, ruthless attitudes and merciless desire to gain more money for himself and his fellow Teamsters makes his legend popular even today, over 25 years after his disappearance. But it’s the disappearance that Hoffa will be remembered for most. Without that spectacular ending, Hoffa would have, eventually, faded into the background to be remembered by few or none. Though Russell doesn’t explore the "whodunnit" aspect of Hoffa’s life, he does go deeply into psyche of what made Hoffa what and who he was; that alone makes Out of the Jungle a good read.