Meticulous, squalidly atmospheric reconstruction of a landmark case.




A sensational 1912 murder dissected as a watershed event in the history of organized crime in New York City.

Seasoned magazine and newspaper journalist Cohen joins a number of writers who have taken on the intrigue and lingering doubts surrounding the trial of the only New York police officer ever executed for murder. Becker’s actual guilt or innocence in ordaining a hit on smalltime gambler Beansie Rosenthal may remain forever moot, the author allows. In the steamy summer of 1912, Rosenthal, one of countless numbers of brothel and “casino” operators—all strictly illegal—in New York’s Tenderloin District (now the Times Square area) got fed up with Lieutenant Becker’s constantly shaking him down. The process was, Cohen avers, so regular and perfunctory it was known simply as The System. Becker, one of the dirtiest cops on a dirty force, answered only to state senator Tim Sullivan in Tammany Hall; “between them,” Cohen states, “they had begun to give shape to . . . the incipient structure of organized crime.” But Rosenthal found an eager young District Attorney, Charles S. Whitman, ready to listen to revelations on police corruption, and then to massively leak them to a friendly newspaper reporter. Result: Two days after talking to the DA, Rosenthal was called out of a late-night café in midtown and gunned down by four men. Three years later, implicated by “friends” on the force as well as his criminal enemies, Becker was electrocuted at Sing Sing after two trials that blew NYPD corruption into a public frenzy. Later, when the advent of Prohibition vastly fattened the pot, payoffs went directly to the crime bosses and crooked politicians. “[Cops] would get their cut,” writes Cohen, “but they were now on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder.”

Meticulous, squalidly atmospheric reconstruction of a landmark case.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-7867-1757-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2006

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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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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

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