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

ROTHSTEIN

THE LIFE, TIMES, AND MURDER OF THE CRIMINAL GENIUS WHO FIXED THE 1919 WORLD SERIES

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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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