×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld
     

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld

4.1 16
by Herbert Asbury, Russell Shorto (Foreword by)
 

See All Formats & Editions

First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life of nineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history.

Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking

Overview

First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life of nineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history.

Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets. A rogues gallery of prostitutes, pimps, poisoners, pickpockets, murderers, and thieves, The Gangs of New York is a dramatic and entertaining glimpse at a city's dark past.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A distinct contribution to Americana. . . . The tale is one of blood, excitement, and debauchery.”
The New York Times

"One of the essential works of the city. . . . It owns a direct pipeline to the city's unconscious.”
—Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

“A univeral history of infamy, the history of the gangs of New York contains all the confusion and cruelty of the barbarian cosmologies.”
—Jorge Luis Borges

“One of the best American books of its kind. Mr. Asbury writes in a direct and engaging manner.”
—Edmund Pearson, The Saturday Review of Literature

Library Journal
Journalist Asbury pulled this book together from several official sources, including police records as well as unofficial ones such as the rough memories of criminals. True to the title, the book is a history of crime both organized and not that permeated the dirty underbelly of New York City and its boroughs in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of these gangs were so vicious they would post signs warning police to stay out of their neighborhoods or else! The 1927 volume is the basis of Martin Scorsese's forthcoming film of the same name starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Titanic heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio, so make sure to have at least one copy on hand. This edition contains numerous illustrations and a foreword by Jorge Luis Borges. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307388988
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/01/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
196,353
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Herbert Asbury, an early 20th-century journalist, made a name for himself by documenting the gangs, pimps, prostitutes, and thieves that thrived in the underbellies of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and New Orleans. His works, still in print after seventy-five years, are often hailed as the best snapshots of their time period. The Gangs of New York was the basis of Martin Scorcese's 2003 film.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Gangs Of New York In the book The Gangs Of New York the setting takes place back 16 years before the civil war started in about 1863. As the title states the setting is in New York where the mob and corruption took a major part in everyday life. The book starts with Amsterdam Vallan who at a young age (about 16) see¿s his father, Priest Vallan killed in a street brawls between gangs. The man responsible for Vallans death, William Cutting who is known as ¿Bill the Butcher¿. Amsterdam is set for revenge for the man who killed his father. He comes up with an idea to get on Bill¿s good and trustworthy side and the plan works. But as he gathers the power he is starting to loose his thought of revenge as he is feeling some admiration for the butcher. Things continue to fall downhill and he himself becomes what his father was, taking the same spot he did as a gang leader. The major messages and themes in this book shows how people that had power back in those days could almost in a way rule the town if you will. By seeking so much revenge he had fallen into a trap by the butcher which also shows the power and corruptness. My likes on this book is that is an interesting book that involves action, suspense, good story line and makes the reader want to keep going. I honestly had no major dislikes in this book, as I mentioned before it had kept me going and I wanted to see what Amsterdam would do in ways of retaliation toward his father. By him falling in a trap gets the reader off as in the reader wouldn¿t expect that to happen so there are no major dislikes. I think people that are interested in good story lines, plots and like shows as in The Sopranos, The Godfather and other mafia movies. If people like calm, happy stories without violence or intense novels this is not the book to read. My overall rating is a 5 out of 5, books like these keep me entertained and wanting to know the ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book is awesome...in depth detail of down town 19th century New York...it almost turns these criminals into legends, because thats exactly what they were in their time...The movie is much different than the book, ie how Bill the Butcher dies... but overall a must for anyone interested in NY history
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written in a prissy, nose in the air, dated prose, 'Gangs of NY' is a salacious account of NYC's Five Points neighborhood in bloody, gory detail. Clearly Scorsese's over the top film was inspired by this account, and both are sure to titillate. I found Anbinder's 'Five Points' a much better read on this subject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a good read from start to finish. A must read for history buffs. It was suprising for me to see the media powers that are promote a book that admits the history of gangs in this country were started by young white men. You would think through media supression and stereo types that the last gangs of white men that existed were the greaser gangs of the 1950's. Some honest history was insightful, entertaining and refreshing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In section 2 of chapter one of this book it gives a reference to Bunker Hill as if it were in New York. 'The principle scene of this sport was Bunker Hill, about a hundred feet north of the present line of Grand street, near Mulberry, where the Americans erected a fort during the Revolution and defended it valiantly against the British troops under General Howe.' That is a direct quote from the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book! I loved it from start to finish. It really made me realize how much my high school history teachers left out, not to mention the textbooks. An eye-opening experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Re-reading Asbury's classic "Gangs of New York" was sort of like re-reading Homer's "Iliad" with its litany of battles and combatants, and because of its epic sweep. But also like "The Iliad" beware that these stories are terribly difficult to verify, and many border on myth. Having said that, I would still recommend this book to anyone wishing to get a sense of what 19th Century downtown NY was like. And I would also recommend it for the joyful flavor beneath Asbury's story-telling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good book. It tells the story of the gangs which infested New York from the early 1800's up until about 1925 when the book was originally published. The first half of the book though, deals exclusively with the Irish Gangs who started the gangster culture in America. Hurley's book (Irish Gangs And Stick-Fighting) is much more informative about the Irish gangs and their culture. Asbury was an outsider looking in, while Hurley's book contains stories written by an actual Gaelic Irish shillelagh fighter. I recommend this book but to really understand it, you need Irish Gangs And Stick-Fighting
Guest More than 1 year ago
How great it was to see this classic back in circulation! Asbury has a great knack for telling stories about this dark side of Manhattan's history! So what if some of it is based on lore and secondary sources? (It is an Informal Study, after all.) One gets the sense that even if some of these stories aren't entirely true, they aren't far off the mark! And Borges' introduction is superb!