A fast-paced tale related with novelistic drama.

SCARFACE AND THE UNTOUCHABLE

AL CAPONE, ELIOT NESS, AND THE BATTLE FOR CHICAGO

A gritty dual biography reveals the underworld of crime and corruption in 1920s and ’30s America.

In 1923, Al Capone (1899-1947) and Eliot Ness (1903-1957) became neighbors on a residential street in Chicago. As award-winning mystery writer Collins (Executive Order, 2017, etc.) and historian Schwartz (Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, 2015, etc.) reveal, their careers soon vastly diverged. While Ness was a college student, Capone was involved in one of the city’s major industries: crime. Within a few years, they would become fierce antagonists, Capone a notorious mobster, Ness a law enforcement agent focused on ferreting out bootleggers, especially Capone. By 1932, Capone had intensified into Ness’ “obsession, consuming much of his time and energy.” His team of agents, known as the Untouchables, became as famous in crime-fighting as Capone was in perpetrating crime. Like an urban hero, Capone was the first mobster depicted on a Time magazine cover. “He is, in his own phrase, ‘a business man’ who wears clean linen, rides in a Lincoln car, leaves acts of violence to his underlings,” the magazine reported. Chicago tour buses pointed out his “old haunts.” Law enforcement dubbed him “Public Enemy Number One,” an epithet that became his “enduring nickname,” rather than “Scarface,” which he hated. Scrappy and debonair, he had risen to the status of myth, “a symbol of government ineptitude and incompetence” and “the breakdown of the rule of law.” When he was finally tried for tax evasion, the courtroom attracted more than 30 journalists, including Damon Runyon. Jurors’ deliberations, the authors assert, “boiled down to a question Chicagoans—and so many Americans—had wrestled with through Capone’s rise to infamous fortune: Was this man, this bootlegger, pimp, and killer, really all that bad?” The authors recount how Capone (the model for gangsters played by Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney) and Ness (model for Dick Tracy) took firm hold in popular culture.

A fast-paced tale related with novelistic drama.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-244194-2

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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