Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
on October 6, 2012
This book is well-written and detailed for those interested in mob-infested 1920s Chicago. For a good bio on Capone, look elsewhere. A 1-star reviewer said this book had way too much detail regarding useless facts. I agree. This is the bio's biggest and most unforgivable flaw. We're given information regarding person, places, or things that have very little or nothing at all to do with Capone. For example, a passage in the book might read, "Albert 'Crazy Legs' Bonatelli was a sometimes gunman for Joe Lombardo. His weapon of choice was a six-shooter he kept tucked in the pocket of his dark grey overcoat. He was a serious man but a dapper dresser. His wife had no idea he was a gangster. She thought he was an insurance salesman for Acey's Insurance in Cicero, Illinois. She also didn't know he had two mistresses he saw regularly at the Shake's Hotel not far from the Loop. One of his mistresses, Sally McCruise, an Irish dancehall girl who had grown up in Detroit, was eight months pregnant with his third child.
"On Sunday, July 11, in 1924, Bonatelli walked out of the Shake's Hotel smoking one of his usual cigars that he bought from Gunter Reinhardt's drugstore on 5th and Penn. He waited patiently on the sidewalk for the traffic to clean before he crossed the street. After hurriedly crossing the street, he headed west toward Lake Avenue, where he would meet his good friend Frankie 'Two-Strong' Mastini. Mastini was a childhood friend of Bonatelli. Mastini was also a man employed by Joe Lombardo to force saloon owners to pay protection money to Lombardo. His favorite weapon of choice was a blackjack he kept in the breast pocket of his pinstripe suit.
"When Bonatelli reached Mastini, he greeted his friend as usual by offering Mastini a cigar. Mastini gladly accepted, and, after lighting the cigar, he talked with Bonatelli about an upcoming baseball game they were going to attend. Little did they know an unknown gunman dressed in overalls was waiting in an alley. When Bonatelli and Mastini walked past the alley, the gunman opened fire with two police service revolvers. Mastini was killed instantly with a gunshot to the head. Bonatelli was only slightly wounded in the thigh before he was able to pull out his gun and return fire, causing the gunman to flee the scene. No witnesses were able to identify the gunman. Bonatelli kept his mouth shut when questioned by the police."
Did my example above seem distracting? After reading it, did you wonder, what does that have to do with Capone? Exactly. Examples like the one above are throughout the entire book. Pages and pages of stuff like this. The writer gives detailed accounts of the killings of dozens and dozens of two-bit hoods whose lives (and deaths) had nothing to do with Capone whatsoever. Not just random hoods, either. We're also given detailed accounts of the bios and incidents involving various politicians, FBI agents, IRS agents, police officers, etc. that have little or nothing to do with Capone. Most of them Capone never even met. Some he met, but he had only slight acquaintance with them.
I understand the writer wanted to give an understanding to the reader about the world Capone lived in, but such details are unnecessary. I don't need to know the bio of an IRS agent whose investigations played a small role in bringing Capone to jail for tax evasion. I don't need the bio of Florida politicians who shunned Al Capone when he went south to live in Miami. I don't need the bio of some random goon who never met Capone but helped load his bootlegged whiskey into trucks for two months in 1928.
Where are the detailed studies of important people in Capone's lives: Charley Fischetti, Jack Guzik, Frank Nitti, etc. These man had a huge, huge hand in running the Capone empire but each appear on less than two dozen pages in this 350+ page bio. These men were important figures in Chicago's mob scene during the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Yet they're mentioned briefly throughout this book that is bogged down in useless info regarding things that have little to do with Capone.
Important information is left unanswered in this book. For instance, how did other top gangsters from other cities in the U.S. view Capone? Did they like him? Hate him? Did they respect him? In Sid Federer's Luciano Story, it's said that Lucky Luciano deplored the violence that overwhelmed Chicago in the 20s and 30s. And in either Federer's book or T.J. White's book Havana Nocturne, it is said that when Luciano was in Havana during the late 40s, he heard of Capone's death while driving to a casino. In front of his bodyguards he loudly and openly sobbed upon hearing the news, saying Capone was a real swell guy who went to his grave too early. Why doesn't Schoenberg's book give good info like this?
Schoenberg's book spents so much time bogged down in useless info on things that have nothing to do with Capone that we learn little about the powerful gangsters that Capone associated with, and who played a huge role in organized crime during the first half of the 20th century.
I gave this book two stars for being detailed. But I chopped off three stars for spending little time exploring and analyzing in depth Capone, his close friends, family, and associates.