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King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America Paperback – Bargain Price, September 1, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599219956
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599219950
  • ASIN: B007BWD3PE
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Conway (American Literacy) relates the engrossing tale of the greatest bank robbery in American history. The central figure is architect George Leslie, who was 27 when he arrived in Manhattan in 1869 seeking success and adventure. With impeccable manners and good looks, Leslie led a double life, inserting himself into the Gilded Age city's most elite circles, while assembling a gang of the cleverest criminals in New York City's underworld to carry out a series of bank robberies. His biggest was the October 27, 1878, theft from the Manhattan Savings Institution of some $3 million in cash and securities (the equivalent of $50 million today). Conway skillfully paints a backdrop of fierce and flamboyant personalities who paraded across the Gilded Age, from Brooklyn Bridge engineer John Roebling to Marm Mandelbaum, queen of the criminals. The author overstates his claim to be following in John Dos Passos's footsteps in quoting real newspaper headlines and stories of the period as well as song lyrics, but he capably recounts his story against a background of glitter and greed. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Engrossing . . . Conway skillfully paints a backdrop of fierce and flamboyant personalities who paraded across the Gilded Age, from Brooklyn Bridge engineer John Roebling to Marm Mandelbaum, ‘queen of the criminals.’ . . . [H]e capably recounts his story against a background of glitter and greed.”
Publishers Weekly

 
“...a page-turning account of one of the most brazen crimes of our time.” —Reader’s Digest
 
"Conway, a college prof and ex-newspaper man, covers this ancient tale in a way that makes it feel like a hot news story." - New York Post
 


 


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Customer Reviews

A lot and a lot of filler, just to fill up space.
Rocco Dormarunno
The book was not at all about the "King of Heists, The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878..."; it was a gossipy biography of a dandified bank robber, George Leslie.
Vanessa Prouty
A fun read for both history buffs and fans of true crime stories.
W. B. Farris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Artful Dodger on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When I bought this book, who could tell that I and my fellow readers were being robbed of our $25 purchase price! Not only was KOH repetitive and terribly edited, but also, poorly researched. There was nothing new written about George Leslie. What was recounted could better and more interestingly be read in a good crime encyclopedia such as that of Carl Sifakis.
The author's main contemporary source was the New York Times which was certainly not anywhere near as good a reference as the Police Gazette, the leading crime reporting newspaper of the time.
There isn't a footnote in the book and much of the "facts" about Leslie are conjectural,at best. In direct comparison to this minimum opus, I suggest Mike Dash's First Family which is interesting, well written, and thoroughly researched. As compared to Luc Sante's Low Life, this work pales.
After slogging through KOH, I know how Leslie's victims felt.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ntnrocket on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This was one of those little known aspects of the Gilded Age frequently overshadowed by the true larger than life personalities of the day. The facts of George Leslie and his knack for non-violent bank robberies were fascinating, but because Conway wrote it more as a fictional narrative (or TRIED to) the more unique elements of the story got lost in the shuffle. For instance, Leslie's invention, the Little Joker; I really wanted to see a diagram or a copy of a blueprint of how it actually worked once placed inside a safe dial to help reveal the combination. I also wanted to see a photo or drawing of Leslie, I'm sure that one must have existed somewhere, college graduate photo--something!!! I went on google and got a drawing of him, why wasn't one put in this book???? I actually "googled" a few things that Conway refered to in this book to see if images were available anywhere. As usual, that fine website didn't disappoint. The only photos we really saw in "King" were of financiers Fisk and Gould, who have had thier likenesses published in almost every book about that time and of places in New York at that time; again, easily accessable images.

The text was a bit repetative and that was all the more confusing and watered down the story that much more. I hope Mr. Conway is more forthcoming and less of a "broken record" when teaching his collegate english classes. As the old saying goes, "those who can't do teach." I guess, in that respect, some things really never do change, do they????????
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa Prouty on February 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although the book promised to be a work of true crime, the only true crime was the apparently endited form the book was published in. It seemed more like a working draft of a book, not a finished work. Identical thoughts and phrases were used over and over again. It was as if the author had been paid by the word.

Conway filled the book with tidbits of Old New York history, but made shocking errors that a quick trip to Google might have prevented. One small example was his reference to the infamous prison in the "City of Sing Sing". There is no such place. The jail was and is located in Ossining, New York. Conway got neighborhood boundaries incorrect, particularly the location of the Bowery. His tidbits, while interesting in themselves, often had no relationship to the story he was attempting to tell. He also filled the book with political commentary, that had nothing to do with the story.

The book was not at all about the "King of Heists, The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878..."; it was a gossipy biography of a dandified bank robber, George Leslie.

Not recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. E. Allen on December 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be entertaining, but like other people who have reviewed this book, I also found the author has a bad habit of telling the end of a particular story and then going back and telling the beginning. I found this very frustrating as well. Also the repetition. It also seems to me that a large section of the book, esp having to do with Leslie himself, was fictionalized. The conversations, etc. Or, lets say, conjecture....

He gives a bibliography at the end of the book, but I REALLY would have liked to see the footnotes, to see where he got his particular information. He also included a few mistakes, like Jim Fisk's role "Black Friday", when he and Gould tried to corner the Gold market. And some of the details he mentions about Fisk's girlfriend, Josie Mansfield. He suggests that she may have had some lesbian relationships, but in all the books I have ever read about James Fisk, that was never mentioned. And I can't imagine any contemporary sources hinting at a subject like that.

I think a book about "Marm" Mandelbaum might have proved more interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on May 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book has a nice cover and the paper stock is fine. And that's about all I can say to recommend this book. Professor North's "King of Heists" was a huge disappointment. It started out promising enough; I enjoyed the description of George Leslie at Delmonico's and his first visit to Marm Mandelbaum. Then I noticed things began to repeat themselves.

Then I noticed that the narrative would be interrupted by a lengthy digression into someone's background. Then sentences began to repeat themselves. Did you know that John Walsh's nickname was "Johnny the Mick"? You will, after struggling through this. His full name with nickname is only mentioned two thousand times. And then things started repeating themselves. Sentences started repeating themselves. Did you know that George Leslie detested violence during his robberies, and was very upset when an employee of a bank died during a heist? You will.

And then there were too many newspaper accounts. Under the guise of giving us what the press and, presumably, the City was thinking, they were mostly (and sometimes dubious) filler. A lot of filler in this book. A lot and a lot of filler, just to fill up space. The book struggled to make just over 210 pages and it showed. Did we really need to have full accounts of the Fisk/Stokes/Mansfield trials? (No. The trials had NOTHING to do with the great heist.) And then things started repeating themselves. Sentences started repeating themselves. Did you know that George Leslie had a dangerous and deadly soft spot for women? You'd better, after reading this. It's only pounded into your head a million times. And then things started repeating themselves. Sentences started repeating themselves.

And then great leaps of logic filled the pages.
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