The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy: A Family Memoir of Scandal and Greed in the Meat Industry


Product Details

$17.95  $16.69
She Writes Press
Publish Date
5.43 X 8.43 X 0.94 inches | 0.8 pounds

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About the Author

Gretchen Cherington's first view of powerful men was informed at the feet of her father, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Richard Eberhart, and his eclectic and fascinating writer friends, from Robert Frost to Allen Ginsberg to James Dickey. As an executive management consultant, she figured out what made powerful men tick by working alongside nearly three hundred of them in their corner suites during her thirty-five year career. Her first memoir, Poetic License, has won multiple awards; her writing has appeared in Crack the Spine, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Women Writers/Women's Books, MS. Girl, Yankee and more; and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her essay "Maine Roustabout" in 2012. Gretchen and her husband split their time between Portland, Maine, and a saltwater cottage on Penobscot Bay. Learn more at


"A dazzling account that deftly combines crime, drama, history, and introspective remembrance."
--Kirkus Reviews

"A fascinating story that will keep you captivated from start to finish! Beautifully written with an attention to the details of history, Gretchen creates a tale that brings the intriguing facts of management, corporate greed, and the fate of Geo. A. Hormel & Company to life."
--Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Thinkers50 #1 Executive Coach and New York Times best-selling author of The Earned Life, Triggers, and What Got You Here Won't Get You There

"The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy comes to life with its deeply personal exploration of the darkest chapter in the 130-year history of Geo. A. Hormel & Company. This marvelous and meticulously researched book by Gretchen Cherington is packed with arresting detail and personal insights. In her search for answers, Cherington weaves a robust account."
--Ben Welter, author of Minnesota Mayhem: A History of Calamitous Events, Horrific Accidents, Dastardly Crime & Dreadful Behavior in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes

"Gretchen Cherington is a bold, brave, and honest writer. Her heartfelt search for family truths is always grounded in thorough research and deep reflection. With both the clear-eyed perspective of a consultant to CEOs and the compassion of a granddaughter able to forgive human faults and frailties, Cherington skillfully honors her grandfather's legacy, while uncovering complicated truths. A powerful and beautifully structured read."
--Debra Thomas, Sarton Award-winning author of Luz: A Novel

"The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy is a compelling book of family history, an urgent look inside the machinations of wealth and power, and a wonderfully well-written journey into a fully realized past. Cherington, the daughter of a poet and the granddaughter of an astute businessman, wields the many elements of her inheritance with grace."
--Beth Kephart, National Book Award finalist and author of three-dozen books, including Wife Daughter Self: A Memoir in Essays and We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class

"What happens when we unravel family myths? In her newest memoir, The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy, Gretchen Cherington finds no easy answers as she unfolds a true crime tale concerning a grandfather she never knew. As we're drawn into this intricate story of high life and deceit in the early 20th century, both author and reader wonder if Cherington's grandfather was complicit in an embezzlement scheme that rocked a name-brand company. With characteristic honesty, and relevant to readers everywhere, Cherington's powerful prose prompts us to look at our own family stories in new ways."
--Ashley E. Sweeney, author of Hardland

"Cherington's The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy combines what I love best about John Carreyou's Bad Blood and Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City--the fascinating interplay of history, business, personality, and crime. Not just what happened. But, why it happened, and why we ought to care."
--Shelley Blanton-Stroud, author of the Jane Benjamin Series

"In this fascinating historical memoir, Gretchen Cherington sets out on a determined quest to discover why her grandfather, who played a pivotal role in the early success of the Hormel meat company, was ultimately forced out of the company. To understand this pivotal event that forever changed her family's fortunes, Gretchen returns to her midwestern roots to uncover the truth about the meatpacking industry and the powerful men who shaped it. Engrossing me from first page to last, this is a compelling mystery of corporate greed, family legacy, and a granddaughter's search for answers."
--Laura Davis, best-selling author of The Courage to Heal and The Burning Light of Two Stars

"Cherington dismantles myth after myth in this visceral and emotional story, one complicated by family legacies large and small that are twined by love and loss. At the book's center, a small town that orbits around buttoned-up businessmen and an industry that feeds the nation's bellies with slaughtered hogs."
--Kerri Arsenault, author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains, a New York Times Editors' Choice and Chicago Tribune Top Book for 2020

"A fascinating story in which the author captures the texture of prosperous early twentieth-century upper-middle class life in a Minnesota company town. Cherington seems to have it all nailed down, but, at the end, a fresh discovery challenges her own narrative. Finely crafted, this book is strong reporting and reflects Cherington's deep emotional ties to her quest for the truth."
--Steve Taylor, farmer, newspaperman, and longtime Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of New Hampshire

"Cherington's second book is a fascinating blend of history, family biography, and personal memoir. Who knew the Hormel company's history was so infused with drama and intrigue? Cherington is a meticulous researcher with keen insights into human flaws and subtleties, born of her professional training in consulting work. She is also a woman on a soul-searching quest into her own family's shadowy past. A poetic sensibility infuses Cherington's prose, making this engaging, multi-dimensional story a highly compelling read."
--Robin Clifford Wood, author of The Field House: A Writer's Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine

"Engagingly written, combining elements of history, memoir, and mystery. This book is a delight."
--Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million Boy, When We Were the Kennedys, and Ernie's Ark

"I'm not often a reader of history, but The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy, with its blend of fact and memoir and family lore, kept me entranced. Through her vivid prose and clear-eyed honesty, Cherington guides readers skillfully back to a time and place that bustles with life--a trip I would take again and again with this talented author."
--Cheryl Suchors, author of 48 Peaks: Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains

"A wonderfully written book with great backstory about the early days at Hormel. The author treats her subjects fairly while shining a light on misguided trust between friends, the importance of innovation to leapfrog competitors, and the deep determination needed to succeed."
--David Barber, executive at Barber Foods

"With crisp writing and an eye for detail, Cherington masterfully weaves a story of ambition, intrigue, and family legacy. Equal parts mystery and memoir, Cherington's curiosity takes her to the farmlands and feedlots of southern Minnesota as she unearths shocking and long-hidden details of this true-crime tale. I was totally hooked."
--Bob Keyes, author of The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana