Despite few groundbreaking insights, this is entertaining, vivid cultural history.



A swinging, blood-drenched history about the symbiotic relationship between jazz and organized crime through much of the 20th century.

In this steamy, noirish account of the Jazz Age and beyond, similar in spirit to English’s Havana Nocturne and other books, the author takes readers from the bordellos of New Orleans and the speak-easies of Chicago to the tropical clubs of Havana and the desert empire of Vegas. The music provides the soundtrack to a wide range of illicit activity, which generated revenues that allowed the mob to flourish and to launder money from less legitimate endeavors. Within the strictures of so-called respectable society, both the Black musicians who developed jazz and the immigrants who built an empire on vice were outsiders. The musicians often felt that they had a better shot at success and protection by aligning their professional lives with the underworld rather than with the police and authorities of the straight world. Yet as nightclubs with names such as the Cotton Club and the Plantation indicate, there was plenty of racism, as well. Black musicians were often restricted to the stage, and the audience and management of the clubs were almost entirely White. English splits the narrative into two halves: In the first, the author focuses on Louis Armstrong; in the second, Frank Sinatra, both of whom had connections with organized crime throughout their careers. By the end of the century, both jazz and organized crime had changed, with the former declining in popularity and the latter in power. The civil rights and Black Power movements, as well as the progression of the music from the dance floor to the conservatory, contributed to the severing of a relationship that had allowed both to flourish through the eras of red-light districts, Prohibition, and corrupt city bosses. Much of this story has been told elsewhere, but English capably brings it back to life.

Despite few groundbreaking insights, this is entertaining, vivid cultural history.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-303141-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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


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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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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