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Gangsters of the Twenties and Thirties

by Ward, David A.

Description: Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alvin Karpis, “Dock” Barker–these were just a few of the legendary “public enemies” for whom America’s first supermax prison was created. In Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, David Ward brings their stories to life along with vivid accounts of the lives of other infamous criminals who passed through the penitentiary from 1934 to 1948.

by Nickel, Steven.

Description: Using new information that comes from the formerly classified files of the FBI, this book tells the full story of the remarkable criminal career of Baby Face Nelson.

by Johnson, Nelson.

Description: This riveting and wide-reaching history explores the sordid past of Atlantic City—forever a freewheeling town long-dedicated to the fast buck—from the city’s heyday as a Prohibition-era mecca of lawlessness to its rebirth as a legitimate casino resort in the modern era. A colorful cast of powerful characters, led by “Commodore” Kuehnle and “Nucky” Johnson, populates this stranger-than-fiction account of corrupt politics and the toxic power structure that grew out of guile, finesse, and extortion. Atlantic City’s shadowy past—through its rise, fall, and rebirth—is given new light in this revealing, and often appalling, study of legislative abuse and organized crime.

by Ross, Ron.

Description: Bummy Davis vs. Murder, Inc. features a cast of colorful villains whom you’ll love to hate, a boxing legend who was the unwitting pawn of fate, and the human drama of the boxing world. With his vivid, street-smart Damon Runyonesque writing style, Ron Ross redeems a tragic hero who fought the pull of one of the most brutal groups of killers to grace the twentieth century.

by Elmaleh, Edmund.

Description: Crime writer and historian Elmaleh offers his own explanation of the death of Abe Reles, a hit man with the Murder, Inc. gang who was mysteriously killed after he began talking with authorities–violating the underworld’s code of silence. The author probes into the details of Reles’ mysterious death (he was found dead on a roof below his hotel room while under heavy police protection) armed with previously classified FBI documents and other primary sources.

by Shmelter, Richard.

Description: The city of Chicago led the nation when it came to gangland violence during the Prohibition era. As a result, many infamous, unforgettable personalities became a part of America’s criminal history. Chicago Assassin is the story of “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, one of the people responsible for putting much of the roar into the Roaring Twenties. McGurn was born in Liscata, Sicily, in 1905. His family immigrated to Chicago in 1906, and he grew up in the city’s slums and later took up boxing as ‘Battling’ Jack McGurn. When his father was assassinated by members of the White Hang Gang in a case of mistaken identity, he avenged his father’s death by killing the three hit men responsible.

by Helmer, William J.

Description: Meticulously documented, lavishly detailed, exhaustively researched, and written with an eye for the truths that have remained largely hidden, The Complete Public Enemy Almanac provides a reliable source of information about the violent and lawless era of the twenties and thirties.

by Gorn, Elliott J.

Description: In an era that had witnessed the rise of celebrity outlaws, John Dillinger had been the most famous and flamboyant of them all. Gorn provides a riveting account of the period between 1933 and 1934, when the Dillinger gang robbed more than a dozen banks.

by Poulsen, Ellen.

Description: Buried under decades of stereotype and parody, the true history of the female companions of the Great Depression’s bank-robbing gang is uncovered. Don’t Call Us Molls carefully examines the legacy of the Dillinger women using eyewitness and descendants’ accounts as well as courtroom and prison records. This book explores the collective experience of these fugitives and offers a thoughtful, well-informed commentary on past attitudes toward the marginalized women of the day–the lawbreakers, the informers, and a lone female sheriff.

by Bilek, Arthur J.

Description: The First Vice Lord is the story of an immigrant Italian lad who grew up in the tenements of Chicago, where he worked first as a lowly street sweeper, then as a brothel operator and vice lord, and finally as the owner of the most famous restaurant of his day. His story is told against the backdrop of an open red-light district so famous it was known to the crown heads of Europe. Here are the painted ladies, the smarmy pimps, and the tough madams in their duel with the reformers and crusaders, from journalist Reverend William Steed to fiery evangelist Gypsy Smith.

by Waugh, Daniel.

Description: Far too many organized crime books are narrowly focused on New York and Chicago, as if nothing of any consequence ever happened in the underworlds of other cities. St. Louis has a gangster past just as colorful and violent and indeed supplied many of the killers who made the Twenties roar in other urban battlegrounds around the nation. Many books mention Egan’s Rats as the premier St. Louis gang but provide little and usually erroneous detail. Dan Waugh, a native St. Louisan, a fantastic researcher, and a wonderful writer, has corrected this with an incredibly in-depth and entertaining history of the gang. Stretching from its 1890s roots as saloon toughs in the employ of politician “Snake” Kinney right on through the bloody Prohibition gang wars and the million-dollar mail robberies that brought the gang down, and the exodus of ex-Rats to the gang war scenes of New York, Detroit, and Chicago, it’s an action-packed history that’s long overdue.

by Humble, Ron.

Description: Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti is arguably the most glamorized gangster in history. He was an infamous Chicago wiseguy who eventually rose to command the city’s premier underworld organization–The Outfit. Though he has been widely mentioned in fictional works, this is the first book to document Nitti’s real-life criminal career alongside his pop culture persona, with special chapters devoted to the many television shows, movies, and songs featuring Nitti. Author Ronald Humble chronicles The Enforcer’s beginnings in New York’s Navy Street Boys to his position as Al Capone’s second-in-command and eventual leadership of the outfit, with bodies piling up along the way.

by Russick, John.

Description: The city of Chicago was incorporated March 4, 1837, and quickly grew to be the largest city incorporated that century. With the completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal, Chicago’s real growth began. It is thought that Chicago’s position on the map; as a last stop for many bachelors headed west to find fortunes added to the criminal activity that made Chicago a city of crime. Adding to the reputation is perhaps the most famous citizen of Chicago Al Capone. A man known for his grasp on organized crime, Capone is often single-handedly credited with the collapse of law during Prohibition. However, Capone was not alone. The pages of this beautiful coffee table book include photographs of many of Chicago’s worst gangsters, thugs, and all-around street rats. A must-read for anyone who loves a good mob classic!

by Downey, Patrick.

Description: Arguably the most complete book ever compiled on New York City’s underworld from 1900-1935. It chronicles virtually every known mafioso, bootlegger, racketeer, and thug who terrorized the city in the early 20th century.

by Charyn, Jerome.

Description: In this heady tribute to an unforgettable time and place, Jerome Charyn takes readers back to the golden era when Broadway the street became Broadway the legend. While Damon Runyon was the street’s first chronicler, feting its good-guy gangsters and moxie’d molls, Charyn enlarges the story, capturing Broadway’s vagabond nature, outlaw culture, and self-mythologizing. In prose both bombastic and cinematic, one of New York’s quintessential contemporary writers brings a rollicking, rough-and-tumble time in the city’s history to life, conjuring an intoxicating portrait of Jazz Age excess by examining the denizens of that greatest of all “staggering machine[s] of desire,” Broadway.

by Eig, Jonathan.

Description: Drawing on thousands of pages of recently discovered government documents, wiretap transcripts, and Al Capone’s handwritten personal letters, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Eig tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the nation’s most notorious criminal in rich new detail.

by Guinn, Jeff.

Description: In Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, bestselling author Jeff Guinn combines exhaustive research with surprising, newly discovered material to tell the real tale of two kids from a filthy Dallas slum who fell in love and then willingly traded their lives for a brief interlude of excitement and, more important, fame.

by King, Jeffery S.

Description: Draws on FBI reports, government records, local newspapers, and contemporary journalistic accounts to provide a detailed account of the life, crimes and death of one of the last of the so-called Robin Hood outlaws. The author addresses questions still surrounding Floyd such as whether he had contact with other notorious outlaws of the period and whether he was executed by the FBI. He also links Floyd to the infamous Kansas City massacre and assesses the effectiveness of the FBI and of J. Edgar Hoover’s talent for self-promotion.

by Newark, Timothy.

Description: In this myth-busting biography, Newark tells the real story of the gangster from his early days as a hitman to his sex and narcotics empire, and exposes Luciano’s decades-long deception by detailing what he really did to help the Allies during World War II.

by Hamilton, Stanley.

Description: In an account of that celebrated manhunt, Stanley Hamilton rekindles the spirit of yesterday’s newsreels to chronicle the pursuit and capture of George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife, Kathryn. Tapping a wealth of newspaper reports, court transcripts, literary accounts, and recollections of participants, he draws readers into the chase and its aftermath, unraveling what was then considered the most compelling crime mystery of the day.

by Keefe, Rose.

Description: George “Bugs” Moran was most likely the target at the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago that killed seven of his associates and that he blamed on his gangland rival Al Capone. The “man who got away” survived that assassination attempt as well as numerous other brushes with gangland violence, later to succumb to cancer at Leavenworth penitentiary in 1957. Writing for a general audience, researcher and historian Keefe reconstructs his criminal career and personal life through interviews with former associates and other materials.

by Nash, Arthur.

Description: Throughout the United States, there is no single major metropolitan area more closely connected to organized crime’s rapid ascendancy on a national scale than New York City. In 1920, upon the advent of Prohibition, Gotham’s shadowy underworld began evolving from strictly regional and often rag-tag street gangs into a sophisticated worldwide syndicate that was incubated within the confines of its five boroughs. New York City Gangland offers an unparalleled collection of rarely circulated images, many appearing courtesy of exclusive law enforcement sources, in addition to the private albums of indigenous racketeering figures such as Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Al “Scarface” Capone, Joe “The Boss” Masseria, “Crazy” Joe Gallo, and John Gotti.

by Burrough, Bryan.

Description: Burrough examines the stories of John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barker-Karpis Gang, Machine Gun Kelly, and Bonnie and Clyde as a single narrative history of the FBI’s “War on Crime” from 1933 to 1936. His examination of the recently release FBI files reveals a story vastly different from the largely mythical narrative promoted by J. Edgar Hoover or the romantic portrayals of the gangs by Hollywood. For Burrough, the story is about the bureaucratic evolution of the FBI from a bungling group of amateurs to a professional crime-fighting organization and his central aim is to reclaim the history for the individual agents involved.

by Kavieff, Paul R.

Description: The Prohibition Era allowed the sinister practices of the black market to gain a foothold in American commerce. When legal trade was no longer allowed to supply American consumers with the alcohol so desperately desired, the consumer turned to those who could supply that booty. And so in Detroit, a city perfectly positioned to receive contraband from neighboring Canada, a group of young men grew in power and profile to become one of the nation’s most notorious gangs of organized crime.

by Ling, Sally J.

Description: From Carry Nation’s spearheading of the Temperance Movement to mobster Al Capone’s connection to South Florida, a freelance journalist who lives in the state traces the story of South Florida’s role in the Roaring Twenties era of rumrunners, bootleggers, and moonshiners. The many period photos also feature women who were in the liquor smuggling business along “the Whisky Road.”

by Morgan, R.D.

Description: Wilbur Underhill “the Tri-State Terror” is the Boogeyman of Depression-era outlaws in more ways than one. For nearly a decade in the turbulent period of the 1920s and 30s, he was one of the most infamous and feared criminals in the Southwest. Convicted of one of his murders in Oklahoma he was sentenced to life and escaped, killing a cop and receiving another life term in Kansas, and then escaped again, leading ten others in a mass breakout. In the last months of his life, he rose to national notoriety as a prolific bank robber and suspect in the infamous Kansas City Massacre and became the first criminal ever shot down by agents of that fledgling agency which would soon become the FBI.

by Parr, Amanda Jayne.

Description: Once described by crime boss Sam Giancana, as the ‘archetypal movie star gangster,’ ‘Machine Gun’ Jack McGurn, not only offers a unique insight into the life and mind of the most flamboyant gangster of his time, but also explores his close relationship with crime czar Al Capone and the extraordinary history of Chicago’s criminal underworld.

by Balsamo, William.

Description: Despite the best efforts of previous biographers lacking true insider’s access, details about Capone’s early years have, until now, mostly been shrouded in mystery. With access gained through invaluable familial connections, the authors were able to open the previously sealed mouths of Capone’s known living associates. Collecting information through these interviews and never-before-published documents, the life of young Al Capone at last comes into focus. Among the many revelations in Young Al Capone are new details about the brutal Halloween Night murder of rival gangster “Wild Bill” Lovett, grisly details on how Capone and his Black Hand crew cleverly planned the shootout and barbaric hatchet slaying of White Hand boss, Richard “Peg Leg” Lonergan, insight into the dramatic incident that forced Capone to leave New York, and much more.

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