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Capone: The Man and the Era

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Al Capone is an American legend, "Scarface," the mythic arch criminal and role model for scores of lesser crime bosses, right down to our own day. Now, in this fascinating, brilliantly readable, revisionist new biography, he also emerges as one of the most complex, influential, and perhaps misunderstood figures of the brawling, glamorous era that shaped and defined modern America. Laurence Bergreen's Capone is a far cry from the vulgar, mindless "Scarface" of countless movies. Without diminishing any of the ...
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New York, NY 1994 Hard cover STATED 1ST PRINTING New in fine dust jacket. BOOK AS NEW, DJ VERY SLIGHTEST SURFACE RUBS, ELSE NEW Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 704 p. Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Al Capone is an American legend, "Scarface," the mythic arch criminal and role model for scores of lesser crime bosses, right down to our own day. Now, in this fascinating, brilliantly readable, revisionist new biography, he also emerges as one of the most complex, influential, and perhaps misunderstood figures of the brawling, glamorous era that shaped and defined modern America. Laurence Bergreen's Capone is a far cry from the vulgar, mindless "Scarface" of countless movies. Without diminishing any of the violent glamour that made Capone a larger-than-life figure in his lifetime, Bergreen has meticulously stripped away the legend to show us the real man - more interesting and in many ways more sympathetic. The most notorious gangster ever, in a nation that worshiped famous criminals and still lived on the edge of frontier violence, Capone recalled a pinnacle of celebrity that made him at once a folk hero and the embodiment of evil and corruption. There is no doubt that Capone was the real thing - a cold, vicious killer; a thief; a pimp; a racketeer - ignoring the law and disdainful of its enforcers. At the same time he was a complex man who loved the limelight and managed to seize the public's attention with his flamboyance, his daring, his erratic moods, and the flagrant way he thumbed his nose at authority, as well as a devoted son, a loving father, a loyal if unfaithful husband, often generous to those in need, a defender of the downtrodden - and an unlikely hero to many in a generation of Americans who felt disenfranchised by a society they saw as corrupt and moribund. Bergreen brings to life this colorful, contradictory man, tracing Capone's background from his earliest days as a poor kid in a tough, dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood, through his early attempts to earn a legitimate living, on to his surrender to the call to join his former neighborhood pals in their game of rackets, theft, and murder. Capone's move to Chicago was followed by an almost me

The bestselling author of James Agee and As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin now presents a sweeping portrait of a notorious gangster--the founding father of organized crime as we know it--and of the turbulent times that created him and, eventually, destroyed him. 16 pages of photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Biography of the legendary prohibition-era gangster. Aug.
Library Journal
In the wake of Robert J. Schoenberg's Mr. Capone LJ 8/92, called "the most detailed biography of Capone published to date" by LJ's reviewer, comes an even more detailed account based on extensive research and interviews. Bergreen, who has written biographies of James Agee and Irving Berlin, has "abandoned conventional assumptions of...right and wrong" in his sympathetic portrayal of the one-time Public Enemy Number One. He blames the hypocrisies of Prohibition and anti-Italian bias for creating Capone's undeserved reputation, and he is especially critical of Capone nemesis Eliot Ness. Bergreen labels the tax evasion trial that sent Capone to prison a "legalistic lynching" and tends to excuse Capone's more unsavory actions as the results of "latent neurosyphilis." However controversial, this book offers much of interest, including new information about Capone and his family. Larger crime collections will want both books.-Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Joe Collins
People still respond to the mention of Chicago by saying, "Al Capone. Rat-a-tat-tat." But public enemy number one did not personally use the Thompson submachine gun to protect his bootlegging empire, says Bergreen, although his associates most certainly did. In fact, Bergreen sets out to dispel the hoodlum-killer aspect of Capone's career, instead focusing on the racketeer's insistence on being a businessman. For the most part, despite the Saint Valentine's Day massacre and numerous other gang killings, he succeeds. Bergreen starts out slowly, tending to blame much of Capone's later actions on a poor childhood, and concentrating on the future gangster's ostracism by fellow immigrant Irish and even Sicilians (Capone's family was Neapolitan). A side plot about a long-lost brother's becoming a Great Plains lawman is intriguing but doesn't really go anywhere, and another lawman, "untouchable" Eliot Ness, self-proclaimed Capone scourge, fares poorly; Ness is annoying to the Capone empire, but not much else. Most revealing of all are the gangster's declining years in Alcatraz, where Capone tried to teach himself to play the banjo! Bergreen's view of Capone the man is not particularly surprising otherwise, but the 1920s view of Prohibition-era Chicago is tremendously entertaining.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671744564
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/2/1994
  • Pages: 704

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