Next book

KING OF THE JEWS

Tosches’s Theory of Everything, disguised as biography: energetic, histrionic, polemical and heaps of fun.

Intoxicated with words, including those he crafts himself, Tosches (In the Hand of Dante, 2002, etc.) offers deft ruminations on large matters under cover of the biography of a gangster.

A foxy writer, Tosches starts at the beginning: Genesis. First, with the word, is Hebrew etymology, then the stories of Gilgamesh, Baal, Joshua, Ishtar (aka “Esther”) and, eventually, on to Louis the Lump, Big Tim Sullivan, assorted chorines, bimbos and Rudy Giuliani (who, like Adolf Hitler, wickedly outlawed smoking). Not forgotten are U.S. Grant, Heinrich Heine, Boss Tweed and many colorful denizens of New York’s notorious Five Points. All this is wrapped around the story of Arnold Rothstein, the Jewish-American Moriarty, mentor to Legs Diamond, banker to the drug trade, inspiration to Runyon and Fitzgerald and putative fixer of the 1919 World Series. Regarding the fix, Tosches says it ain’t so. He’s generally dubious about most received information. “I’m telling you,” says Tosches, “exactly what I told my ex-wife: Believe nothing unless you hear it from me.” Arnold’s father, “Abe the Just,” was less saintly than credited as being, he thinks. (One recent text is dissed, though not cited, for buying that notion, while the same book, this time cited, is called “enticing” on the topic of Rothstein’s unsolved murder.) The debunking is most liberally spread as the skein of tangled connections becomes as complex as string theory. Assiduous research, the author complains, “has brought me nothing but the worsening of my eyesight and the waste of years of my life. And I did it all for you.” Here are extracts from newspaper accounts of Rothstein’s death, the coroner’s report, surrogate’s hearings, and miscellaneous matter. But Tosches gives us less, frankly, on the gangster’s life than on world history with Rothstein somehow cast in the role of Everyman. The result is frequently flamboyant, often lively, always diverting.

Tosches’s Theory of Everything, disguised as biography: energetic, histrionic, polemical and heaps of fun.

Pub Date: May 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-621118-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Next book

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Close Quickview