King of the Jews

King of the Jews

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by Nick Tosches

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So begins Nick Tosches's sprawling biography of Arnold Rothstein, which, in fact, is so much more: not only an elegy to old New York but an idiosyncratic history of the world as told in Nick Tosches's inimitable style.

Known by many names — A. R., Mr. Big, The Fixer, The Big Bankroll, The Man Uptown, and The Brain — Rothstein seemed more myth

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So begins Nick Tosches's sprawling biography of Arnold Rothstein, which, in fact, is so much more: not only an elegy to old New York but an idiosyncratic history of the world as told in Nick Tosches's inimitable style.

Known by many names — A. R., Mr. Big, The Fixer, The Big Bankroll, The Man Uptown, and The Brain — Rothstein seemed more myth than man. He was gambling, and he was money. The inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, he was rumored to be the mastermind of the Black Sox scandal, the fixing of the 1919 World Series. He was Mr. Broadway and had his own booth at Lindy's Restaurant in Manhattan, where he held court.

Now, in King of the Jews, Nick Tosches, "one of the greatest living American writers" (Dallas Observer), examines Rothstein's extraordinary legacy by placing him at the center of nothing less than the history of the entire Western world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers who make it to the end of this unusual book may already have asked themselves the author's closing questions: "Why am I writing this, and why are you reading it?" Those cracking the binding in hopes of encountering a new biography of mobster Arnold "the Brain" Rothstein, rumored to be the fixer behind the 1919 World Series scandal, will do some mental scratching at the lengthy introductory discourses on the etymology of "dice" and the Torah's variant names for God. Tosches is attempting to use the figure of the Tammany Hall-era gangster as an entry point for an idiosyncratic, wide-ranging history of Western civilization. Rothstein himself really doesn't appear until two-thirds of the way into the book (although earlier chapters about religion, fascism, political correctness and other subjects of interest to the author alternate with excerpts on the criminal from an old Brooklyn newspaper and from surrogate's court proceedings). This despite Tosches's representations-unsupported, alas-that the gangster deserves further study and attention "[b]ecause Arnold Rothstein is a shadow figure beyond good and evil." But by giving short shrift to the details of the endemic corruption plaguing New York City during Rothstein's reign, the author fails to make his case that misconduct by police and elected officials was at least as reprehensible. Agent, Russ Galen. (May 3) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Biographer, novelist, and magazine writer/ editor Tosches has produced one bruiser of a book with Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein-a.k.a. Mr. Big, the Fixer, the Big Bankroll, the Man Uptown, and the Brain-at its heart. Far from a traditional, straightforward biography in the vein of David Pietrusza's Rothstein, this is a Nick Tosches experience all the way, complete with riffs on everything from Jewish culture and religion to New York City history, with a little George W. Bush bashing thrown in. There's also a concise and fascinating profile of Rothstein, the inspiration for The Great Gatsby's Meyer Wolfsheim and Guys and Dolls's Nathan Detroit (not to mention the alleged fixer of the 1919 World Series). Tosches often stops to talk directly to the reader but avoids simply regurgitating the facts by pointing out inconsistencies in past accounts and separating the truth from the legend. Though Tosches himself takes some getting used to, this biographical account is riveting. Recommended for Tosches aficionados but not traditional biography collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/05.]-Karen Sandlin Silverman, CFAR-Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Intoxicated with words, including those he crafts himself, Tosches (In the Hand of Dante, 2002, etc.) offers deft ruminations on large matters under cover of the biography of a gangster. A foxy writer, Tosches starts at the beginning: Genesis. First, with the word, is Hebrew etymology, then the stories of Gilgamesh, Baal, Joshua, Ishtar (aka "Esther") and, eventually, on to Louis the Lump, Big Tim Sullivan, assorted chorines, bimbos and Rudy Giuliani (who, like Adolf Hitler, wickedly outlawed smoking). Not forgotten are U.S. Grant, Heinrich Heine, Boss Tweed and many colorful denizens of New York's notorious Five Points. All this is wrapped around the story of Arnold Rothstein, the Jewish-American Moriarty, mentor to Legs Diamond, banker to the drug trade, inspiration to Runyon and Fitzgerald and putative fixer of the 1919 World Series. Regarding the fix, Tosches says it ain't so. He's generally dubious about most received information. "I'm telling you," says Tosches, "exactly what I told my ex-wife: Believe nothing unless you hear it from me." Arnold's father, "Abe the Just," was less saintly than credited as being, he thinks. (One recent text is dissed, though not cited, for buying that notion, while the same book, this time cited, is called "enticing" on the topic of Rothstein's unsolved murder.) The debunking is most liberally spread as the skein of tangled connections becomes as complex as string theory. Assiduous research, the author complains, "has brought me nothing but the worsening of my eyesight and the waste of years of my life. And I did it all for you." Here are extracts from newspaper accounts of Rothstein's death, the coroner's report, surrogate's hearings, andmiscellaneous matter. But Tosches gives us less, frankly, on the gangster's life than on world history with Rothstein somehow cast in the role of Everyman. The result is frequently flamboyant, often lively, always diverting. Tosches's Theory of Everything, disguised as biography: energetic, histrionic, polemical and heaps of fun.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.09(d)

Meet the Author

Nick Tosches is the acclaimed author of many books, including biographies of Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin, and Sonny Liston. He writes for numerous periodicals, including Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor. He lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
High school

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King of the Jews: The Greatest Mob Story Never Told 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for an in-depth probe of Arnold Rothstein look somewhere else. After 80 pages of the author lamenting biblical writings and making the case against God, as well as his son Jesus, he finally starts on the topic of Rothstein. Here again the author derides all other writers on the subject matter as he feels his data is the one and only truth. The information he does put forth on Rothstein is minimal as best. I'm sure that the author finds his writings to be very grand, even wise. I find this book to be a waste of $20+. No wonder, as the author notes, he never sells more than 30,000 copies of a book he's written. It's because he includes his rambling thoughts, stupid poems, and his liberal slant to what should be the subject of Rothstein.