An entertaining slice of the fabled (and familiar) gangster epoch.



The colorful story of George “Machine Gun” Kelly (1895-1954), a Depression-era kidnapping, and the rise of J. Edgar Hoover and his G-men.

In 1933, the year after the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping, oilman Charles Urschel (no relation to the author) was abducted from his Oklahoma home and held for nine days. After Urschel’s release in exchange for a $200,000 ransom, the kidnapping turned into “a national melodrama that…played out over the nation’s radio networks and on the pages of its newspapers.” The notorious Kelly and his gangster-moll wife, Kathryn, were pursued in a frantic manhunt coordinated by the ambitious Hoover, who, at 36, had just become head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s new Bureau of Investigation. In this action-packed debut, author Urschel, the former managing editor of USA Today who now directs the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., offers a vivid re-creation of the massive, multistate manhunt that led to the capture and imprisonment of America’s “new Public Enemy Number One.” Sometimes overly detailed and containing liberal quotations from contemporary newspaper accounts, with prose matching its tough-guy, B-movie aura (“She snapped the waistband closed with a definite click, like the sound of a .38 slug sliding into its chamber”), the book captures the rampant criminality of the 1930s and the public’s yearning for a return to law and order. The author packs the pages with shootouts, bank robbers, and corrupt cops. With the passage of the Lindbergh law, making it a federal felony to take a kidnapping victim across state lines, the self-promoting Hoover was poised to stop Kelly and show that his agents had the makings of a federal police force. His bureau became the FBI in 1935.

An entertaining slice of the fabled (and familiar) gangster epoch.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-02079-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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 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...


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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