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True crime writer Keefe intended this as a biography of Zelig (born Zelig Lefkowitz, aka Harry Smith, etc.), but Zelig proves an elusive figure, and this book is more about his milieu. Jewish gangster Zelig lived a short, violent life, rising to the top before being gunned down at 24 in 1912. His story and those of several other players like Max "Kid Twist" Zweifach, Monk Eastman, and Charles Becker are set against the backdrop of gangsters in pre-Prohibition New York City. Keefe has managed to dig up quite a bit of background material, including accounts left behind by Zelig contemporaries and descendants. The book is bursting with facts and anecdotes but it can be a bit challenging-the casual reader may need a scorecard to match birth names to aliases to gangster monikers. Recommended only for true crime/historical collections for the time period and aficionados of the topic.
—Karen Sandlin Silverman