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Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster Hardcover – April 27, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Not since the hunt for John Wilkes Booth... had so many sources been brought to bear in an attempt to jail one man, writes former Chicago magazine editor Eig (Opening Day). But Al Capone eluded them all—even J. Edgar Hoover. In a page-turning account, Eig details the chase for the elusive Capone, dissecting both the man and his myth. Born in Brooklyn in 1899, Alphonse Capone came to a booming, bustling, corrupt, and very thirsty Chicago in 1920, just as Prohibition began. Rising swiftly through the underworld ranks, Capone soon headed a crime syndicate he dubbed the outfit, which dealt in bootleg alcohol, racketeering, drugs, and prostitution. Eig traces the largely unsuccessful efforts by various law enforcement agencies to bring him down. He focuses on U.S. Attorney George E.Q. Johnson, who finally saw Capone convicted in 1931 for tax evasion and conspiring to violate Prohibition laws, leading to an 11-year prison sentence. Using previously unreleased IRS files, Johnson's papers, even notes he discovered for a ghostwritten Capone autobiography, Eig presents a multifaceted portrait of a shrewd man who built a criminal empire worth millions. 16 pages of b&w photos. (May 1)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Certainly enough has been written about Capone to make new books on the gangster and the hunt for him seem extraneous, but Eig takes a fresh approach to his subject by relying on new interviews and IRS files on Capone's 1931 prosecution. Critics praised Eig's solid reporting and ability to draw a rich, historical context and tease out Capone's complexity. "He's wiped away the garbage and given us a man," noted the Chicago Sun-Times, "[s]omeone monstrous, in short, but recognizably human." A few reviewers disagreed about Eig's writing style, and not all enjoyed his details on tax evasion or bought his claims about the St. Valentine's Day massacre. If previous books cover the same material, Eig, in the end, manages to put a more human face on Capone--where possible.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141658059X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416580591
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,076,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy S. Hays on April 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This thoroughly-researched, richly explicative history of Al Capone and his times should be in the library of anyone who enjoys reading about 20th Century crime, and its roots; Al Capone, Prohibition, or Chicago-- it is authoritative on all counts. "Get Capone" is excellently written, and painstakingly produced, without a fault. The author knows his economic history, too: his contrast of Capone's Chicago with the excesses of Wall Street are succinct.
"Get Capone" lays to rest the myth of Eliot Ness, whose role in convicting Al Capone has been greatly over-romanticized since the 1950s. Jonathan Eig rightly credits the quieter law enforcement figures who ended Capone's crime career. Eig is a scholar who recaptures Pres. Herbert Hoover's role in chasing Chicago's gangsters.
If you enjoyed Bryan Burrough's "Public Enemies," you will love this book.
For that matter, if you enjoyed "Luckiest Man" as much as my two sons and I did, "Get Capone" is another book for your permanent library. Jonathan Eig is a biographer on a par with Evan Thomas, Walter Isaacson, or Robert Caro.
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Format: Hardcover
Get Capone is a truly riveting piece of work. It succeeds equally well as: a gin and morality-laced tale of an anti-hero's rise and fall; a nuanced social history of America roaring into modernity; and a page-turning detective thriller about crime-fighting on the cusp of the age of CSI.

Not only does every page of the book advance an incredibly compelling narrative, but it is also full of snappy language - alternatively poetic, hysterical, and profound -- that makes this book a literally delight but never distracts from its central story.

Here are just two of my favorite passages:

"The Great War was over. Men were back home, maybe a little shell-shocked, maybe a little bored, certainly thirsty."

"(Herbert Hoover's) father was a blacksmith, a pious man, with a hot dash of American ambition."

Eig is extraordinarily careful to separate provable fact from the massive tumult of myth and conjecture that still surrounds Capone's life, but he is nevertheless able to masterfully portray Capone as a complex figure who is alternatively ruthless, pathetic, funny, managerially brilliant, and tone-death to the real-life consequences of both his media pronouncements and his chosen profession. Decades before Tony Soprano ended up on Dr. Jennifer Melfi's couch, Eig gives us a multi-faceted portrayal of Capone's ever-fascinating psyche.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Jonathan Eig has written three books and all of them have been blockbusters. I have two biographies on Al Capone, and both of them are worthy additions to one's library. However, Eig's latest effort on the infamous Chicago gangster tops them all. I initially wondered what his biography could offer that wasn't in the previous two I have in my library, and I have been anxiously anticipating the release of this book. Mr. Eig's biography is not a rehash of the gangland killings that took place during the 1920s, although they obviously must play a part. In addition to interviewing several members of the Capone family author Eig had access to papers that previous Capone authors did not. I also enjoy the author's unique writing style in describing the various incidents throughout the book. An example would be the death of Hymie Weiss on North State Street next to the Holy Name Cathedral. We have heard several versions on what actually took place and who was involved in the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and author Eig has his own theory based on a letter written in 1935. It is quite interesting and could very well answer several previously unanswered questions. Perhaps Capone wasn't involved at all.

The main heroes of the book are the incorruptible U.S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson and Frank Wilson of the U.S. Bureau of Internal Revenue who built the case against Al Capone. Being unable to obtain a conviction for the numerous murders attributable to Capone they achieved a conviction on a lesser charge, that on income tax evasion. This is now done routinely in courtrooms today.

Unlike Capone's mentor, Johnny Torrio, Capone had a weakness of not maintaining a low profile. Does John Gotti come to mind?
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Format: Hardcover
My Uncle Al Capone was quoted in the newspapers during his botched up 1931 trial as saying:

"I've got a mother who never misses mass unless she's too sick to get out of bed. I've a wife who loves me as dearly as any woman could love a man. They have feelings. They are hurt by what the newspapers say about me. And I can't tell you what it does to my twelve-year-old son when the other school children, cruel as they are, keep showing him newspaper stories that call me a killer or worse."

"I was willing to go to jail. I could have taken my stretch, come back to my wife and child, and lived my own life. But I'm being hounded by a public that won't give me a fair chance. They want a full show, all the courtroom trappings, the hue and cry, and all the rest. It's utterly impossible for a man of my age to have done all the things I'm charged with. I'm a spook, born of a million minds."

Author Jonathan Eig has done a very good job at researching and reporting some big errors in most of the previously written biographies on Al Capone and his era. I know my cousin Theresa is upset that another book has been written about her grandfather, but unlike Theresa I have read all of the previous books and I have also read Mr. Eigs'. Get Capone gives the reader an understanding of what life was like in the 20"s. It was a time of "kill or be killed". It is not easy for a family member to read such details.

Let's look at the facts. When my grandmother and grandfather immigrated to this country and settled in Brooklyn, the Italians were the low men on the totem pole. What chance did most of them have to be a lawyer or a doctor. The teachers in the schools complained about having them in their class calling them lazy and even claiming they smelled `greazy'.
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