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Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City Paperback – August 16, 2010

199 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Read Boardwalk Empire. . . . Johnson spares no detail when painting a picture of the illegal activities that flourished in Atlantic City."  —Egg Harbor News (New Jersey)

About the Author

Nelson Johnson practiced law for 30 years, during which time he was active in Atlantic City and Atlantic County politics. He lives in Hammonton, New Jersey. Terence Winter is an Emmy Award–winning screenwriter for his work on The Sopranos. Along with Martin Scorsese, he is currently an executive producer for the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. He lives in New York City. Terence Winter is an Emmy Award–winning screenwriter for his work on The Sopranos. Along with Martin Scorsese, he is currently an executive producer for the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Plexus Publishing; TV Tie-in Edition edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0966674863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966674866
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

198 of 210 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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68 of 74 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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47 of 51 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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37 of 40 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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29 of 31 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael Storm on May 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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