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Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City [Kindle Edition]

Nelson Johnson , Terence Winter , Terence Winter
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Providing the inspiration and source material for the upcoming HBO series produced by Academy Award–winning director Martin Scorsese and Emmy Award–winning screenwriter Terence Winter, this riveting and wide-reaching history explores the sordid past of Atlantic City—forever a freewheeling town long-dedicated to the fast buck—from the city's heyday as a Prohibition-era mecca of lawlessness to its rebirth as a legitimate casino resort in the modern era. A colorful cast of powerful characters, led by “Commodore” Kuehnle and “Nucky” Johnson, populates this stranger-than-fiction account of corrupt politics and the toxic power structure that grew out of guile, finesse, and extortion. Atlantic City's shadowy past—through its rise, fall, and rebirth—is given new light in this revealing, and often appalling, study of legislative abuse and organized crime.

Editorial Reviews


"As good, if not better, than the television series" Independent "The book is full of compelling anecdotes and characters ... Nucky Johnson's description of Atlantic City is equally applicable to Nelson Johnson's book: "We have whiskey, wine, women, song, and slot machines. I won't deny it and I won't apologise for it" Telegraph "Enthralling ... Johnson deftly straddles centuries while using nearly 20 years of research and an energetic, novelist style to bring to life the mobsters, bootleggers and bent politicians behind Atlantic City's rise and fall" Shortlist "Fascinating" Daily Express "Stranger, and scarier, than any fiction" Independent

About the Author

Nelson Johnson, whose family s presence in Atlantic County predates the founding of Atlantic City, is a lifelong resident of Hammonton, New Jersey. He practiced law for 30 years and was active in Atlantic City and Atlantic County politics through much of that period. As attorney for the Atlantic City Planning Board at the time of the approvals for many of the casinos, he was inspired first to make sense of Atlantic City and later to write an objective political history of the town. The interviews, research, and writing Johnson undertook spanned nearly two decades and resulted in the 2001 book, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. Johnson continues to work as an author, researcher, and historian but his day job has changed since the release of Boardwalk Empire: He is currently a Judge of the New Jersey Superior Court, sitting in the Civil Division of Atlantic County. His next book will cover the history of Atlantic City s black community and the contributions of African-Americans to the city s growth and success.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2396 KB
  • Print Length: 339 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0966674863
  • Publisher: Plexus Publishing; TV Tie-in Edition edition (February 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0053GEH4Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,225 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
195 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable History September 28, 2009
When HBO wanted to develop a crime series with the unenviable task of following "The Sopranos," they turned to Martin Scorsese to produce it. The great director chose to base the show on a history book by Nelson Johnson, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, first published in 2002 and now re-released in paperback. The cable drama, starring Steve Buscemi, is shooting this fall in New York and will air next year, with Scorsese directing the pilot.

When people hear the name "Atlantic City," they most likely think of gambling and casinos. But probably not many know that it was the birthplace of the American Mafia. On the Boardwalk today is a picture of a smiling Big Al Capone in a snazzy one-piece bathing suit on one of its historical markers. Few cities can boast of that. In just 30 years of the 19th century, Atlantic City went from being a 10-mile strip of sand dunes to a city based entirely upon two things: tourism and vice.

Nelson Johnson, a New Jersey politician and judge, decided to write the hidden history of Atlantic City; the result is this fascinating and meticulously researched book. Decades-long visitors to the resort like myself, as well as first-time travelers, will find it a good read. He based BOARDWALK EMPIRE on an amazing fact. For the first 70 years of the 20th century, Atlantic City was controlled by just three political bosses who were also, for lack of a better term, gangsters: Louis "the Commodore" Kuehnle, Enoch "Nucky" Johnson (no relation to the author) and Frank "Hap" Farley.

We have often heard of how gangsters historically corrupt elected officials and the police with bribes and payoffs. Atlantic City was different, though, because the gangsters and the Republican Party was one and the same organization. Atlantic City was a one-party city for decades.
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killer Read! September 30, 2002
Extremely solid research---the author says it took twenty years, and that is apparent. Johnson tells it all---from salacious anecdote (what the Reading Public demands!) to scholarly relating of broader historical movements to Atlantic City's unique and amazing (some might say "weird") story. So well written, it reads like a novel. From "The Commodore" to "The Donald", Johnson particularly excells at character description. Absolutely brilliant---Highest Recommendation.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NO GAMBLE January 15, 2003
I have been interested in this most amazing city for about 30 years now. I thought that I had nothing else to learn about the city until I read Boardwalk Empire. Thank you Mr. Johnson for bringing a lot of new information to light in a most enjoyable fashion. Once started, it was hard to put this excellent book to rest. I highly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in urban America. This book is a sure thing.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Shore Bet May 28, 2003
By J. Rush
I am pleased to be the first reader from Atlantic City to review this book. It goes without saying that it was of special interest to me. Throughout my life I have met several of the key figures in this book, so it was fascinating to learn more about their lives.
I enjoyed reading this book very much and would recommend it to anyone interested in Atlantic City. It was well written and researched. Nelson Johnson repeats facts when they become relative to another incident. This makes it much easier to keep track of the players and how one event or person influences another years later.
Johnson helps local residents understand why a unique racial tension still exists in this small northern city. This may not be apparent to readers unfamiliar with the area.
If I were to change anything about this book, it would be the last few pages. It ends with Nelson Johnson giving his opinion on the future of Atlantic City and how it can avoid its mistakes of the past. It is my feeling that this possibly belonged in a separate conclusion but not as the ending to the last chapter.
History buffs and political junkies will love this book.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
If the subject matter intrigues you, this book will probably be worth a read. However, don't expect high drama or strong narrative (and certainly not anything as spicy as the HBO series). Johnson does an excellent job reconstructing key eras in Atlantic City's (and New Jersey's) past, and is at his best when explaining the multifaceted politics-meets-racket machine that was Atlantic City, and the people that dominated it.

Balancing this are a tendency to start strong with narrative, then devolve to "note card transcription" modes of storytelling; these are at their worst during the chapters on Atlantic City's decline and early-casino organized crime forays. In these portions of the city's story, strong or dominant individual figures aren't present to capture and focus attention, and Johnson's writing style takes the already complex and muddy "histories" and renders them sometimes intractable.

Readers who are committed to following the story through to its end won't be disappointed, but may find themselves a little frustrated for having to slog through some portions of the tale. Those who stick it through only for the first half of the book (from Commodore to Nucky) but get bored and put it down, won't be at a great loss.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boardwalk Empire: A Classic May 15, 2010
This is an absolutely wonderful book. It starts from the very beginnings of Atlantic City from when it was just an empty sand pit of an island to almost the present day. The style of writing is very colorful and the characters are facinating. I am really looking foward to the author''s future books and the HBO series based on his book. I would definitely recommend that people read this book, especially if you live in the area, as I have and if yu really want to understand why Atlantic City was and has developed the way it has. The book is very well researched and contains many sources of information for anyone who wants to do further investigations. I really hope that the people who currently run Atlantic City and the people in the casino industry read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
Very interesting, with a lot of history.
Published 8 days ago by Linda Daniels
3.0 out of 5 stars Characters Not Real Enough
Just didn't catch my interest. Well written and many people will enjoy it. Norma
Published 9 days ago by Norma M. Heagy
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Hard read but very historical.
Published 9 days ago by AzMagic
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great and interesting read. Especially if you enjoyed the television show.
Published 23 days ago by Derrick DeMelo
3.0 out of 5 stars good on the 20's and 30's much weaker on later ...
good on the 20's and 30's much weaker on later years, a lot of racial analysis that seemed to come from a college paper that didn't fit and was an addon
Published 26 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than TV
I read this after seeing the HBO series. I am glad that I saw the TV fiction first as it did not follow facts as laid out clearly in this book. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Lisa Farmer
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
If you expect this to be like the I did, you may be disappointed.
Published 1 month ago by klynda
4.0 out of 5 stars The continuing saga of how to make Atlantic City relevant is well told...
As others have written, this is not the TV series. The historic parts of the series are represented, however the storylines on tv were historical fiction. Read more
Published 1 month ago by letsrock21
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyed it's historic value.
Published 1 month ago by lois jacobson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Hometown man wrote it
Published 1 month ago by J. Auletto
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