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Mob Fest '29: The True Story Behind the Birth of Organized Crime (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Bill Tonelli
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this brilliantly subversive Byliner Original, Bill Tonelli investigates the long-standing myth of the mob's founding—a legendary week in May 1929 in which a who's who of American crime, led by Al Capone and including Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Frank Costello, among many others, are said to have assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to make peace and divvy up the country's illegal enterprises. In the process, they invented the concept of "organized crime" in America. "As legend has it," writes Tonelli, "as many as thirty top gangsters [enjoyed] wild parties and heroic feasts, with fancy ladies provided for any who hadn't brought his own. In short, this was nothing like the office meetings you and I have been made to attend."

But what really happened that criminally star-studded week? Did the mobsters actually wheel around the Boardwalk in rolling chairs, smoking cigars and cutting deals, as legend has it? Did they scream at and threaten one another in fancy conference rooms? Did they force Al Capone, fresh from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, to turn himself in to the cops to take the heat off everyone else?

At a time when the early mob days in Atlantic City are all the rage—thanks to the hit television series "Boardwalk Empire"—Tonelli sifts the facts from the malarkey, and in so doing reveals how and why the cops, the mobsters, and the writers who love them prefer not to get their stories straight. "Mob Fest '29" combines the thrills of a mostly true crime story with the madcap scholarship of a savvy Mafia investigator. Who knows: If a writer had applied the same reportorial standards and acid wit to what our founding fathers did in secret back in 1775, we might not be celebrating the Fourth of July.


Bill Tonelli has written about the mob for the "New York Times," "Slate," and "Philadelphia" magazine. He is the author of "The Amazing Story of the Tonelli Family in America" (Addison-Wesley, 1993) and editor of "The Italian American Reader" (William Morrow, 2002) and was an editor at "Esquire," "Rolling Stone," and "Conde Nast Portfolio."

Editorial Reviews Review

In Mob Fest '29, Bill Tonelli, a former editor at Esquire and Rolling Stone and longtime journalistic student of the Mafia, asks us to imagine the scene of the alleged genesis of organized crime in America. In the early summer of 1929, a who's who of mobsters--Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, and Atlantic City's Nucky Johnson, the real-life inspiration for Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson in the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire--rolled up their pant legs and walked the beaches of Johnson's hometown to hash out the future of organized crime. "Dozens of barefoot tough guys in expensive suits trying not to get their pants wet," as Tonelli describes them. With Prohibition winding down and the potential for even more money to be made in the liquor business, America's top mobsters agreed to this unprecedented summit and alleged "peace treaty," turning Atlantic City into a "Camelot of corruption." At the core of Tonelli's story, however, is an insistent aversion to myth. By acknowledging the questionable accuracy of "gangster literature"--and even getting famous writers to admit that much of the written history of the mob is bullshit--Tonelli debunks the commonly accepted versions of the '29 summit, and crafts a funny, obsessively reported hybrid of a story, part wise guy romp, part investigative mini-masterpiece, and part treatise on fact vs. fancy in the world of Prohibition-era mobsters. Thug lit at its best. --Neal Thompson

Product Details

  • File Size: 412 KB
  • Print Length: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Byliner Inc. (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0093PYEA0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criminally entertaining August 31, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This much we know is true: in the spring of 1929, Al Capone left Chicago not long after the Valentine's Day Massacre, showed up in Atlantic City for meetings and recreation, did a little conspiring with fellow thugs from the Windy City, and soon thereafter gave himself up to the cops in Philadelphia on a minor gun charge. But in the retelling, this Atlantic City summit conference has been described as the Mob equivalent of the Paris Peace talks, with rival factions from around the country making nice, territories divided for illegal pursuits, and bad guys actually being wheeled around Atlantic City in rolling chairs like old folks at a nursing home. Who's telling the truth about this foundational event of American criminal history? With Mob Fest '29, Bill Tonelli has written a true-crime classic about the making of true-crime classics. He tells more stories than a cornered gangster on the witness stand, in the process revealing the secret motivation at the heart of nearly every good gangland story. Crooks, cops, and journalists conspire in making up the best tale for sale. What goon doesn't one day want to see his exploits commemorated on the sliver screen? Written with muckraking verve, wise guy prose, and an undying appreciation for bad behavior, Bill Tonelli's Mob Fest '29 is a major contribution to the literature of American crime.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boardwalk Wiseguys September 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is more fun than a rolling chair ride with an open box of salt water taffy. If you like mobsters, "Boardwalk Empire", tales of old Atlantic City--or if you're just a fan of rollicking crime stories--you'll love this sassy, myth-busting account of one very mysterious week at the Jersey shore.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great research September 6, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author does an excellent job in debunking one of the great myths in organized crime history. The book is meticulously reseached, which is not often the case with books of this genre. Tonelli makes the point that both sides of the law engage in "puffing", with the underworld exaggerating their exploits and importance due to ego or to sell books and law enforcement to enhance or justify their budgets. Looking forward to similar books by the author, perhaps he could make a study of the Night of the Sicilian Vespers.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mob Best September 8, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This is juicy material for anyone who is interested in the mob and its founding fathers like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Their behavior is blood-curdling, and it is impossible to put Mob Fest down. I loved reading about this week "at the beach."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
History tells us in 1929 there was a meeting of the minds of American gangsters from across the country in Atlantic City. It was at these meetings the future of organized crime was discussed and the nation was divvied up among the attendees. It is also said the gathered criminals figured out a way to streamline their business to introduce a corporate culture which put far less emphasis on the bloody violence which had begun to bring too much heat on those present.

For many years this version of events was taken for gospel in mob histories. In this well researched and thoroughly sourced essay Bill Tonelli dismantles everything we have believed as true up to this point about the big meeting and reassembles the events in a far more historically accurate, but far less colorful way. In the process he informs the reader just how much of pre-1970 mob history, some claim 70% to 80%, is fabricated.

This is an outstanding piece of journalism mostly because it works in the opposite direction of the sensationalism perverting today's news. Instead of exaggerating and glorifying the events of the 1929 meeting as accounts since then have done, Mr. Tonelli takes all the glamour out of it and does what he is supposed to do, he reports the facts.

I recommend this for anyone interested in seeing how quality journalism and research work together to provide an entertaining story. A great effort by Tonelli.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable for the price October 12, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Was sceptical when I bought but became very absorbed when I got into it. Good value and yet it is a quick read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid reporting September 27, 2012
By Jake
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is quality journalism. Solid reporting elevated by a good structure that frames it as a mystery to be solved. The information about Nucky Thompson alone is worth the read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best! September 11, 2012
By Don Val
Format:Kindle Edition
The book was thoroughly entertaining from front to back cover. A must read for anyone who loves organized crime. Mr. Tonelli does a thorough job.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing work in looking behind the scenes to see what ...
Amazing work in looking behind the scenes to see what was really happening at the alleged birth of organized crime.
Published 2 months ago by Duane H. Cook
4.0 out of 5 stars IS THIS FOR REAL?
Now one only wonders how much of the first and supposedly factual section if this book is in fact accurate. Great reading though.
Published 2 months ago by Mark/Cindi D.
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 3 months ago by Dean
4.0 out of 5 stars Capone...uh?
Good read! Short! Would recommend to anyone interested in the beginning of organized crime. Clears some misconceptions.
Published 5 months ago by Arthur Bouffard
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Really a Book - Nor Even A Long Essay!
Be forewarned - This is a very, very short book. It's actually an essay (and not even a long one at that). What is here is interesting, insightful, and even new. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gilberto Villahermosa
4.0 out of 5 stars quite interesting
I found this book to be very informative and tells the story or supposed story behind certain historical events.
I would recommend this book.
Published 9 months ago by Martin Reilly
3.0 out of 5 stars not that good
Nothing that captures the imagination, just keeps going on and on. Not what I expected , won't recommend it after reading it.
Published 10 months ago by FRANK
4.0 out of 5 stars Glad to see a fact-checker writing about Capone
So much of what is available on Al Capone is a repackaging of either what the nephew of a handyman who once worked for Capone's neighbor said or else the embellishment of material... Read more
Published 11 months ago by M. Lang
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Impressed
It read like a college kids research paper. Very little original material from the author. It's a subject that interests me so I got something out of it. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Douglas Keith
3.0 out of 5 stars More of a debunking than a proper history
This was a fascinating look into the myth of this Atlantic City meeting rather than an actual story of it. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Joshua Isiah Nativio
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