MR. CAPONE by Robert J. Schoenberg

MR. CAPONE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Scholarly yet lively account of the legendary Prohibition- era gangster. Schoenberg (Geneen, 1984) chronicles Alphonsus Capone's Brooklyn origins; provides a microscopically detailed record of the gangsters, turf, and politicians of the decade of Capone's ascendancy in Chicago; and describes Capone's post-penitentiary retirement to Florida, where the dreaded gangster--infected with tertiary syphilis--spent his last years playing cards and fishing in the enforced calm thought necessary for syphilis victims. Schoenberg's closely focused annals provide an interesting view of the lesser-known young Capone, born in 1899 to an immigrant family. As a teenager, he was a member of the infamous Five Points gang and, by age 16, was working for Brooklyn boss Frankie Yale, serving an apprenticeship in extortion along the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Fleeing to Chicago after nearly beating to death an Irish member of the rival White Hand gang, the 21-year old Capone signed on with business-minded bootlegger and pimp John Torrio, who, besides dividing the Chicago turf with other mobsters such as the flower-loving Deany O'Banion, was expanding his operation into the middle-class suburbs. Capone mastered his volcanic temper, and, under the tutelage of the bland and friendly Torrio--whose signature remark was, ``We don't want any trouble''--took elocution lessons and became perhaps the first gangster to manipulate public relations, cooperating fully with photographers and making himself always available to reporters. At age 26, Capone bought the entire business from Torrio, who decided to return to Italy after being shot in the war that erupted after O'Banion's murder. Avoids the mythologizing of much Capone material, and likely to endure as a standard reference. (Eight pages of b&w photographs, maps--not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-08941-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992