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Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York
     

Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York

3.9 33
by Richard Zacks, Joe Ochman (Read by)
 

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When young Theodore Roosevelt was appointed police commissioner of New York City, he had the astounding gall to try to shut down the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. This is the story of how TR took on Manhattan vice . . . and vice won.

In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital,

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Island of Vice 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
CarlaatDaptd More than 1 year ago
Any middle schooler will tell you that the history teachers who got you to WANT to come to class, who enticed you to WANT to know their subject matter were the ones who wove facts into an entertaining panorama of events and characters, the ones who had you sitting on the edge of your seat, shivering with anticipation, dreading the bell that would end the period before you found out what happened next. What you learned in their classes is forever buried deeply in your brain, and the details are readily available in the annals of your memory. Richard Zacks understands the drama of history, and the first part of his new book Island of Vice is exactly the kind of source that should leave you with a vivid image of his subject: Theodore Roosevelt's crusade against 19th C purveyors of vice in New York City. He starts out with pizzazz, painting a backdrop that captures the seemy essence of the old Lower East Side and encapsulating characters in situations that animate them as vibrant personalities with a stake in the city they seem to love. The supporting characters like Reverend Parkhurst, Commissioners Frederick Grant, Andrew Parker and Avery Andrews, the vari-ethnic madames and pimps who drive the city's human marketplace, the corrupt police officers, the proliferating legions of poor people screaming "please sir can I have some more?" all portend a compelling page-turner, an unforgettable history lesson. But all too soon, the book disappoints. Or is it Teddy himself who lets us down? The TR on these pages seems only partly fleshed out and remains hidden behind his Knickerbocker Protestantism and self-righteousness. He and his fellow reformers lack empathy for the City, and their motives to heal Gotham are lodged in their own egos and political aspirations. Characters don't have to be good to be interesting and intriguing, but they need to have some complexity. If they seem truly human, they can be sympathetic, even as you hate them. But this Roosevelt -- presumably the same Roosevelt who established the National Park Service, who thoroughly explored the Americas, Africa, the Middleast, who fought for some very controversial reforms in American business practices -- emerges as a pompous, bobble-headed little tyrant whose real agenda has little to do with New York City. Maybe the the problem is not in the book, but watching Roosevelt of Island of Vice strut and fret his hour on the mean streets of downtown Manhattan was a little like watching the Republicans vie for the 2012 election. I wanted more. I wanted to know why this conservationist, this bully adventurer would waste so much hot air and so many precious resources creating band-aids when the real bleeding emanated, as it does today, from hemmorrhagic corruption? This Roosevelt is very like sculptor Autustus St. Gaudens' naked Diana that dominated the skyline when Teddy began his work in NYC: a lifeless facsimile of a deeper psyche than the eye ca see. . . at least the eye reading these pages. Mr. Zacks is a master of research and compilation, and the book is largely a smooth, engrossing read until you realize there's no point in turning the next page because you just don't care what happens next to this most uninteresting guy . . . .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just another reason to respect and admire Theodore Roosevelt. Like we really need another one.
Henrys8 More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting book not only about the history of the NYPD but also the early days of New York City. At the turn on the century New York was not only a very tough place to work but also to live. Theodore Roosevelt was the first step in not only getting the NYPD on the right path but the city of New York to change with the times.
azcello More than 1 year ago
A very interesting story of American history. I had previously been unaware of this era. The writing is engaging and draws the reader into the topic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quite interesting. Really learned somthing about early NYC history.
dogbert More than 1 year ago
A little known piece of history brought to light. I found this well written and informative. The writer gives insight into why, despite high moral standing, these efforts seldom succeed. While reading this I continually saw parallels with other times politicians have tried and failed to legislate morals. Prohibition, prostitution laws,and the war on drugs are more current examples.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting topic but a really slow ready. It simply takes Zacks too long to get into the heart of the topic, which is TR's work to clean up the city. I understand the need to provide background information, but Zacks takes 100 pages to drone on with information that could have been condensed into 40. Buy the time TR is introduced as police commissioner I was already bored.
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leonardevens More than 1 year ago
I recommend this for people who are interested in late 19th century history in the US. It is well written, but full of details which a reader not very interested in the subject might find tedious to get through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
pawsing2read More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting read. It doesn't bog you down with just fact after fact as much of the book is based on actual testimony. It reads a little bit drier than historical fiction but is still keeping my interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago