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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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