How did the Mob's activites in Chicago affect the rest of the United States? "The Outfit," as it was commonly called, had its tendrils reaching across the country, all the way into Hollywood's casting offices, government offices, and the casinos of Las Vegas, says author Gus Russo. No matter how much you've already read about the Mob and its tactics, Russo's book is a worthy addition to the organized crime canon.
...insightful and revealing...Russo is so engagingly in command of his material...it all holds together in a seamless web
Investigative reporter Russo (Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK) offers an impressive in-depth history of Chicago's elusive crime syndicate. Unlike their trigger-happy East Coast counterparts, Chicago's gangsters stressed businesslike discretion following the chaotic Capone era, and they had a wide-ranging impact on American culture, entertainment and politics that has never been fully documented. Russo has new sources, ranging from entertainer Steve Allen's "crime files" to the widow of the book's most memorable figure, the Outfit's financial manager, "Curly" Humphreys. Others, like Paul "The Waiter" Ricca, will be known to Mob aficionados, but even they will note Russo's novel thesis, that the lucrative scams carried out during the group's 40-year heyday involved members of the respected "upperworld." These ventures ranged from the well known, such as the gambling operations that fueled Chicago's civic corruption, to the surprising (Mob-linked dairies were the first to use "sell by" dates). The Outfit started off-track betting and Top 40 charts and, in its declining years, the Outfit's "fixer," Sidney Korshak, vetted the cast of The Godfather. According to Russo, their "respectable" partners who publicly abhorred the gangster element included Joe Kennedy, MCA president Jules Stein, Bing Crosby, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, and innumerable public servants. Russo humanizes the shadowy gangsters without denying their violent proclivities. He also examines them in the context of traditional immigrant ambitions. Russo's illuminating history may disorient some readers; still, this is the book to beat in examining this midcentury criminal empire. B&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) Forecast: This is not for the true-crime reader who glories in blood and guts, but those with a taste for social history as well will find much to enjoy here. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In this impressive work, investigative journalist Russo (Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK) combines hundreds of his own interviews and newly revealed government files with the latest in expos s (e.g., Sally Denton and Roger Morris's The Money and the Power, on Las Vegas) to present an in-depth history of the Chicago mob from the 1920s through the 1960s. Russo shows how, during that period, "The Outfit," as it called itself, helped elect several presidents, created Las Vegas, and bankrolled Hollywood. The book is studded with revelations, such as the true story of "The Untouchables," Bing Crosby's debt to the mob, and Al Capone's surprise conviction for tax evasion. The author has no sympathy for those in political power, decrying corruption in the Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. In an afterword he reveals his strong opinions on the topic, stating that white-collar criminals ("the upperworld") have been ignored at the expense of those in the "underworld" because of prejudice against Italians and the poor in general. Whether or not the reader agrees, Russo has written the most detailed book on the subject to date. Recommended for general collections. Harry Charles, Attorney at Law, St. Louis Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Despite the grandiose subtitle, this thick volume is a valuable addition to accounts of organized crime in America. Russo, an investigative reporter, pries open the history of the Mob in Chicago, led by Tony Accardo (known as Joe Batters) and his lieutenants Murray Humphreys (known variously as Curly and the Camel), Paul Ricca (the Waiter), and Johnny Rosselli. Showing a corporate mind-set designed to preserve the legacy of more famous gangsters like Al Capone and Frank Nitti, the foursome reigned over Chicago crime for decades. The tales of corruption and violence have a familiar scent -- a political payoff here, a midnight hit there -- but Russo manages his plots and subplots admirably, and he isn't shy about letting readers know when he's deploying previously inaccessible files. The influence of the Kennedy family alone, especially Joe Kennedy's alliance with the Mob (which helped elect his son President), is given more detailed treatment than in any previous work.