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True crime, evil doings, and monumental double-crossing by the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, and the Machine in a savory...

Colorful biography of the crook who served as the model for Damon Runyon’s Nathan Detroit and Scott Fitzgerald’s Meyer Wolfsheim.

In the wide-open precincts of the Tenderloin and Times Square, Arnold Rothstein (1882–1928), scion of a devout Jewish family, carried the moniker “The Brain.” He was also known as “The Great Bankroll” and “The Man to See,” pioneer of the floating crap game and the guy who fixed (though it wasn’t broke yet) the 1919 World Series. His story makes a (slight) change of pace for baseball writer Pietrusza (Ted Williams, etc.), who notes that the Black Sox were not the only colorful characters in Rothstein’s life and premature death. There were the grafters and grifters, the touts and toughs, the horse dopers, con artists, cops gone wrong, thieves, prostitutes, goons, bootleggers, labor racketeers, gold diggers, chiselers, and killers. Rothstein knew Fanny Brice and her man Nicky Arnstein, Max Factor’s bad brother, Herbert Bayard Swope, Lepke, Gurrah, and Legs. He did business with mugs on the way from Lindy’s and Belmont to Sing Sing and the hot seat, citizens more dangerous than Runyon ever depicted them. Rothstein was power broker to them all, displaying a cool that once enabled him to sidestep an armed robbery by taking the gunman to a Turkish bath. He played a tricky role in the Series fix, more fully dissected here than in standard histories of the event. His adventures were rife with unexplained, untimely deaths—his own among them. Nobody ever took the rap for Rothstein’s murder, but Pietrusza undertakes to name the perp in prose that recalls the verve of writer Gene Fowler, who used to hang out with these guys. Stick around for the epilogue, which thumbnails the lives and deaths of more than a hundred characters.

True crime, evil doings, and monumental double-crossing by the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, and the Machine in a savory account of the legendary bad old days.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1250-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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