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Legs Paperback – January 27, 1983


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (January 27, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140064842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140064841
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

8 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

About the Author

William Kennedy, author, screenwriter and playwright, was born and raised in Albany, New York. Kennedy brought his native city to literary life in many of his works. The Albany cycle, includes Legs, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Ironweed. The versatile Kennedy wrote the screenplay for Ironweed, the play Grand View, and cowrote the screenplay for the The Cotton Club with Francis Ford Coppola. Kennedy also wrote the nonfiction O Albany! and Riding the Yellow Trolley Car. Some of the other works he is known for include Roscoe and Very Old Bones.

Kennedy is a professor in the English department at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the founding director of the New York State Writers Institute and, in 1993, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has received numerous literary awards, including the Literary Lions Award from the New York Public Library, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Governor’s Arts Award. Kennedy was also named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France and a member of the board of directors of the New York State Council for the Humanities.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Much better written, and the story is essentially true.
Clipper
I wouldn't read this again, but if Kennedy wrote something with a little less violence, I'd probably give it a chance.
M. Godon
I enjoy gangster stories and I love the old James Cagney gangster movies, so this book appealed to me.
C. Irish

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Newton Munnow on April 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was the first book of Kennedy's that I'd read and am thrilled at the thought of having the rest of his books to look forward to. First of all, it's just the sheer quality of writing. Kennedy dances into, out of and all around the mind of Jack Legs Diamond, the prohibition era gangster. He'll take you close to him, then appal you with his ruthlessness. Kennedy is essentially trying to deal with a knot of myth and cliche. Legs' story has been played over again and again in literature and film. He really was the good-time gangster with the faithful wife and show girl mistress, the quick one-liners and aggressive ambition. This may have appealed to a writer, but how then to humanize him? Kennedy succeeds mainly because of the voice(s) through which he approaches the story. Marcus, Legs' lawyer, is the perfect guide - people tell lawyers their stories and here, he has passed them on. But the narrative is never that simple, flipping from waiter's anecdotes to mistress's yearnings, and all without losing or confusing a reader. Kennedy presents an incredible portrait. It simply doesn't matter whether or not he has figured out who Jack Diamond really was, for he has imagined an incredible three dimensional replacement of his own.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on September 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
_Legs_ opens with a number of former friends and associates of the late Jack "Legs" Diamond reminiscing about the nature of the legendary gangster's death. Despite the subject matter of this rambling discussion I was struck by its high content of "gallows humor."
What I liked about this novel was although William Kennedy attempted to humanize Jack Diamond to a certain extent, Kennedy did not sentimentalize or apologize for him. I had no doubt that Jack Diamond was exactly what he was: a booklegger, a thief, and a murderer. Despite numerous arrests, Jack Diamond was "The Teflon" gangster--none of the state charges against him would stick. Jack was a true media celebrity, in the same sense that the popular, but corrupt New York Mayor, Jimmy Walker, was at the time, although Jack was often unkind to reporters and photographers. Jack had loads of fans, who were mostly "the common man" who probably identified with Jack's humble beginnings. He also had many detractors, some of whom wanted to kill him. Jack also had a loving wife, Alice, and an adoring mistress, Marion "Kiki" Roberts, a dance hall girl. Jack loved them both in his own fashion. In a particularly trying time towards the end of his short life, Jack sought comfort from both women by keeping them near him, in separate rooms, on the same floor in a hotel in which he was staying at the time. His body guards were in another room. It seems that the only person Jack ever truly loved was his brother, Eddie, who died many years before of tuberculosis. Just mentioning Eddie would cause Jack's eyes to well-up with tears.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. Fahey on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
My brother mentioned that he liked this book and I started reading his copy to kill time, not intending to finish it. I found myself simultaneously repelled by the violence and seduced by William Kennedy's wonderful knack for storytelling and beautifully simple style. Needless to say, I kept reading. Kennedy's characterizations are as fascinating as his story. Legs Diamond is a murderous hedonist whose infectious personality makes his amorality palatable, if not forgivable. The narrator is appropriately colorless in contrast, making him the ideal non-intrusive storyteller. In other words, Legs is like sour candy--it makes you wince, but it's addictive!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Jack "Legs" Diamond, a larger than life thief/bootlegger/murderer, captured the imagination of the public during Prohibition, the Roaring Twenties, and the beginning of the Great Depression. Living the high life, surrounded by beautiful women, bodyguards, and associates, Diamond, in his early thirties, moved smoothly between speakeasies and sordid backrooms, between murder scenes and rural retreats, always exuding a sense of confidence and glamour. Setting this novel primarily in Albany, New York, in 1930-1931, Kennedy recreates the mystique of Diamond, a much handsomer contemporary of Chicago gangster Al Capone, and New York beer king Dutch Schultz, as he exercises his power, fights off intrusions into "his" territory, corners the market in illegal beverages, buys off politicians and judges, and tries to avoid conviction for his crimes.

Telling Diamond's story is Marcus Gorman, a lawyer who gets swept up in the excitement which surrounds Diamond and ends up as his attorney. Marcus, however, always insists that he be paid for his work, up front, and he refuses to be drawn into obviously illegal behavior. This makes him the perfect narrator-someone who admires much about Diamond but also someone whose judgment the reader can trust. Terse dialogue reminiscent of the novels of Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett, fills the novel, but Marcus's musings about what motivates Diamond offer a more thoughtful approach to this shady character and his life than what one usually finds in noir novels.

A man with no conscience, Diamond double-crosses and cheats his way to success, often killing his own associates, events described in gory detail. But Diamond's legend grows.
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