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Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City Paperback – July 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Plexus Publishing (NJ) (July 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937548499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937548493
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,443,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

197 of 208 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on September 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
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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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By James I. Manion on September 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By Robert Wallis on January 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. Rush on May 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Dennis J. Boccippio on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By RM on February 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I originally bought this book for my husband. We don't get HBO, but he had heard about the show and decided reading the book was the next best thing. Then he waited impatiently for the show to come out on DVD which it finally did around Christmas. After watching a few episodes, I decided it would be worth while to read the book myself. I grew up in New Jersey and went to Atlantic City many times with my parents. All I knew was the beach, the boardwalk (wonderfully tacky) and the convention center where my dad attended the teacher's convention. I had no idea how Atlantic City came to be or how the influence of people like Nucky Thompson effected it's growth and development. What a compelling story. There's just enough detail and so many fascinating characters that it's hard to choose the most interesting. Don't confuse this book with the HBO show. It's the real story of Atlantic City with all it's warts.
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