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The Confessions of Al Capone: A Novel Hardcover – June 11, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From the always reliable Estleman comes this involving novel in which a low-level employee of the FBI is given a plum assignment: infiltrate the inner circle of Al Capone—recently released from Alcatraz—and get as much information as he can about Capone’s fellow criminals. Peter Vasco is picked for the job because he has an entrée into Capone’s world (his father once did some odd jobs for Capone’s gang), and posing as a priest, he quickly gains Capone’s confidence. He expected to get some good dirt on the man, but one thing Vasco didn’t expect was that he would like Capone. This is really two books in one: the story of Vasco’s relationship with Capone, and Capone’s own story, told in his own (fictionalized) words. Estleman looks at the gangster with a compassionate eye, revealing him to be ruthless and violent, of course, but also to be a devoted family man with a deep, albeit ambiguous, moral core. We’ve seen Capone before, in movies and in books, but we haven’t seen him like this—a textured human being for whom crime is a career but isn’t necessarily what defines him. --David Pitt

Review

This is a book that took courage as well as talent to write. Loren Estleman has managed a literary miracle, a story full of surprising discoveries and often deep emotion. (Thomas Fleming, New York Times bestselling author)

Remarkable research, rich storytelling and a rapid, riveting pace make The Confessions of Al Capone one of this year's most stimulating and exciting reads. Hits with the force of a burst from a tommy gun. (Ralph Peters, New York Times bestselling author of Cain at Gettysburg)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; 1 edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765331195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765331199
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Loren D. Estleman graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Journalism. In 2002, his alma mater presented him with an honorary doctorate in letters. He left the job market in 1980 to write full time, after a few years spent "pounding out beat-the-train journalism" during his day job as a reporter before going home and writing fiction at night.

His first novel was published in 1976, and has been followed by more than 70 books and hundreds of short stories and articles. His series include novels about Detroit detective Amos Walker, professional killer Peter Macklin, L.A. film detective and amateur sleuth Valentino, and the Detroit crime series. On the western side is the U.S. Deputy Marshal Page Murdock series. Additionally, he's written dozens of stand-alone novels.

His books have been translated into 27 languages and have won multiple Shamus, Spur, Western Heritage, and Stirrup awards. He has been nominated for the National Book Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. In 2012, the Western Writers of America honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He lives in Michigan and is married to writer Deborah Morgan. Find out more about Estleman and his books on his website: lorenestleman.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Wheeler on June 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loren Estleman, celebrated author of mystery and western fiction, has written a distinguished historical novel about the last years of Chicago mobster Al Capone. The story revolves around an effort by J. Edgar Hoover to insert an agent, garbed as a priest, into Capone's Florida household, to see what can be learned about the mob. But this richly textured novel is much larger than the storyline suggests. The FBI agent, who once studied for the priesthood, has deep reservations about what he is doing as he wins the trust of a dying, syphilitic, and sometimes volatile Capone late in World War Two. The novel becomes an examination of conscience, of right and wrong, of characters who have large virtues and vices trapped in the same body. We are introduced to Capone's remarkable wife Mae, shadowy, tough, in many ways the dominant force in the household. Hoover, the vanity-saturated head of the FBI, emerges as someone more sinister and ruthless than Capone, and by the end of the novel the tables have largely turned. The cruel Hoover is less a man of honor than the mobster. This is a large novel. Its compass includes the straitened life of Americans in 1944, the mores and beliefs of a country radically different from what it is now, and the ethnic and tribal struggles of various people who were not yet absorbed by the American melting pot. This novel will loom large in the selection of the next Pulitzer Prize.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ted Feit VINE VOICE on August 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The question is: Is this book a novel in search of history, or history in search of a novel? Certainly, it is a well-researched effort, recalling the career of Al Capone, one of the most notorious crime bosses in the history of the United States. His career is traced through a series of meetings with Peter Vasco, posing as a Catholic priest, who is placed in a position of intimacy with Capone after his release from prison for tax evasion by J. Edgar Hoover in an effort to obtain evidence to go after his associates in Chicago.

Characterizations are the key to the novel, portraits that are incisive and penetrating. J. Edgar Hoover comes up short as a person. Vasco, who is merely a clerk in the FBI, suddenly becomes a special agent and blossoms as an undercover agent, more than unlikely in real life. His putative father, Paul, is an amusing personality. Other characters are merely fill-ins.

It is a gripping tale, well-written. The author apparently set out to capture the essence of Al Capone, and it seems he was successful. Whether he did so for the others who populate the pages is questionable. However, the confessions, after all, are those of Al Capone, and as such are vital and readable.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mona on February 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My dad at the age of 84 seldom reads. Mostly due to macular degeneration, however he persevered and finished this book due to its content and large print. Highly recommend...
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Format: Hardcover
Like a book like that? A book—a crime story; a character study—that’s so satisfying, you do not want it to end? Then this is the one for you.

I got to know Loren Estleman through his earlier westerns. His 2001 award-winner, The Master Executioner—one of the finest I’ve ever read—is one of the few paperbacks on my bookshelves. He’s also the author of a slew of Detroit-based 20th crime novels that span the 20th century.

The Confessions of Al Capone is the best Estleman book I’ve read. It’s likely to be one of the best of two dozen novels I’ll read this year. It’s 2015, and I’m betting this’ll be one of the best I’ll read this decade. I’m only half-way through it and I know I’ll never forget it. Here’s why.

The ingenious concept. “Scarface” Al is dying. But Al possesses a prodigious memory. He could tell you stories... The FBI wants to hear them all. So, J Edgar sends the son of one of Al’s old-time wheelmen to tease out the truth of who, where and when. Especially, “who.”

The finely-wrought characters: Every single person I’ve met while living Estleman’s story is fully developed, even the “walk-ons,”—the lowly literary devices that get the reader in and out of scenes—a waiter, a railway porter, a secretary, a maid, a priest. A cook is “the biggest negro Vasco had ever seen...a knee-length apron over a twill shirt rolled up past massive forearms and old dress trousers two inches too short....feet the size of swim-fins in scuffed brown oxfords. Strips of scar-tissue pulled his eyes into oriental slits. The hand Brownie used on the front doorknob was missing its third and fourth fingers, the stumps healed over hard and shiny. He caught Vasco looking at them. “Prison cafeteria.” They were as many words as he ever spoke to him at one time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Hagen on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The history of the prohibition era is replayed in this stretch. The descriptions of the hits in this book are somewhat graphic.
If you like mob history in the golden days of the 1930s, you won't get whacked buying this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Fran Ashton on February 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a long comprehensive read, but one you will stick to. The guy was ruthless, charming and admired by many locals - like a celebrity. Great book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loren Estleman has one of the most supple imaginations of any fiction writer of his era. He has written convincingly and well in several genres, but this is the closest he's come yet to a straight novel. Not only does he wonderfully evoke the epoch of which he writes, he's managed to humanize one of the great villains of the twentieth century. If he weren't so closely identified with the crime genre, he'd probably win some kind of award for this engrossing novel.
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