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My "Buy It or Don't" Recommendation:
Buy It: if you're a Polish-American.
Buy It: if you're from Western, NY.
Buy It: if have an interest in history that's a bit unusual.
Buy It: if you like a non-fiction book that's easy to read.
Buy It: if you like to "WOW!" people with obtuse trivia.
Don't Buy It: if you don't like being depressed by the ruthless world of mobsters.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It's a small book, by most standards. It also has fairly large print and line spacing, which can be important if you're considering buying a book for someone who's eyesight isn't perfect.
Mr. Rizzo has obviously researched old newspaper stories and court transcripts for much of the book's information. That's not a bad thing, per se, but it seems like he could've dug a little deeper. Perhaps he could have found someone still alive to provide first-hand knowledge, perhaps even personal insight, into the Big Kroney Gang.
I'm half Polish (or, Polish-American, if you like to be politically correct). I'm also from Western New York, and I have a special fondness for local history. Beyond that, one thing in particular that drew me to this book was the fact that my maternal grandparents lived in Depew (on Spohn Drive, to be exact, near the area once called "Swede Hill") back during the prohibition era. That's where some of events that are described in the book occur.
I was surprised that Swede Hill wasn't mentioned in this book. Sure, it's somewhat of an obsolete term, even for people who live there. But, back during the prohibition era, most folks referred to it by that name. Perhaps if Mr. Rizzo had dug just a little deeper he'd've uncovered such a fact. But, that's a minor point on this book (call it a personal disappointment).
Now for a more technical aspect: mistakes, or lack thereof. Some say proofreading is a lost art. Regardless, it's a difficult task, to say the least. As someone who has never been a good speller, I can appreciate how hard it must be to ensure a book is flawless before it goes to press. That said, I suppose I should mention that there are a few punctuation errors in this book. Most notably, there are many times were a period lies outside an ending quotation mark. 'Tis only a minor point.
There are also a couple examples of unusual spellings, e.g., "employe" instead of "employee" (which Mr. Webster seems to agree is OK as an alternate spelling). That occurred twice, so I have to assume it's intentional. But, it does make you stop reading when you encounter it and wonder what the author meant at that point. Another unusual spelling is "dieing" (a spelling which Mr. Webster does not seem to agree with). Perhaps Mr. Rizzo didn't want to confuse the loss of life functions from that which occurs in hair salons to hide the loss of youthful functions (my apologies, as that sounded funnier when I first typed it).
So, what does this rambling and long-winded review really say? Well, if you meet some of the criteria in the first paragraph, then this book is for you. If not, well, it won't "kill you" to read it (pun intended, sorry!).
If nothing else, I'll bet that if you do buy this book & read it, you'll have friends & family impressed by your "good taste in obscure reading material." Translation: they'll want to borrow it. Perhaps that's the best reason to recommend "Buy It."
Thank you for reading my review!
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Posted February 28, 2010
This book is the true story of John Kwiatkowski a notorious gangster of Buffalo, NY's East Side in the 1920s. I found the information interesting, but the writing style was poor. I did like some of the photographs in the book - I even recoginized some of the structures as a am a native of Buffalo. I just expected the book to be exciting, instead it was dry and factual. Not a great read
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