A fast-paced tale related with novelistic drama.

SCARFACE AND THE UNTOUCHABLE

AL CAPONE, ELIOT NESS, AND THE BATTLE FOR CHICAGO

A gritty dual biography reveals the underworld of crime and corruption in 1920s and ’30s America.

In 1923, Al Capone (1899-1947) and Eliot Ness (1903-1957) became neighbors on a residential street in Chicago. As award-winning mystery writer Collins (Executive Order, 2017, etc.) and historian Schwartz (Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, 2015, etc.) reveal, their careers soon vastly diverged. While Ness was a college student, Capone was involved in one of the city’s major industries: crime. Within a few years, they would become fierce antagonists, Capone a notorious mobster, Ness a law enforcement agent focused on ferreting out bootleggers, especially Capone. By 1932, Capone had intensified into Ness’ “obsession, consuming much of his time and energy.” His team of agents, known as the Untouchables, became as famous in crime-fighting as Capone was in perpetrating crime. Like an urban hero, Capone was the first mobster depicted on a Time magazine cover. “He is, in his own phrase, ‘a business man’ who wears clean linen, rides in a Lincoln car, leaves acts of violence to his underlings,” the magazine reported. Chicago tour buses pointed out his “old haunts.” Law enforcement dubbed him “Public Enemy Number One,” an epithet that became his “enduring nickname,” rather than “Scarface,” which he hated. Scrappy and debonair, he had risen to the status of myth, “a symbol of government ineptitude and incompetence” and “the breakdown of the rule of law.” When he was finally tried for tax evasion, the courtroom attracted more than 30 journalists, including Damon Runyon. Jurors’ deliberations, the authors assert, “boiled down to a question Chicagoans—and so many Americans—had wrestled with through Capone’s rise to infamous fortune: Was this man, this bootlegger, pimp, and killer, really all that bad?” The authors recount how Capone (the model for gangsters played by Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney) and Ness (model for Dick Tracy) took firm hold in popular culture.

A fast-paced tale related with novelistic drama.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-244194-2

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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