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Open City: True Story of the KC Crime Family 1900-1950 Paperback – June 12, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Ouseley retired as Supervisor of the Kansas City FBI Organized Crime Squad, after a 25 year career. Over 20 of those years involved the investigation of organized crime and prosecution of "Crime Family" members and associates. He has testified in federal courts as an expert witness in various areas of syndicated crime and testified before a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He is the author of the book, "Mobsters in Our Midst - The Kansas City Crime Family.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Leathers Publishing (June 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585974803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585974801
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written by a former FBI agent, he provides a great deal on the history and structure of the Kansas City Mafia from its inception to the beginning of the Civella era. He includes information from the Kefauver Hearings and background files, from the recently published MAFIA book (from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and with an intro by Sam Giancana, the former crime boss's nephew), Nicola Gentile and the Kansas City Star. Unfortunately he gives no sourcing except for a small list of books that covers two pages. I wish he had footnotes or endnotes. The writing style is also rather dry and matter-of-fact, but it is accurate. As someone who has researched organized crime for over twenty years, I can definitely recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
In my book The Mafia and the Machine: The story of the Kansas City Mob, I described Agent William Ouseley as a man who "made history" by helping to take down the KC Outfit and the heads of three other crime families (including Chicago) in the 1980's. His accomplishments cannot be underestimated and he is a living legend in the annuals of law enforcement versus organized crime. It's no wonder then, that many folks in Kansas City were puzzled that he would write a book about events that preceded his involvement in Kansas City's long and sordid history of organized crime. Why would a guy who could easily write some extremely compelling personal memoirs of his involvement in the River Quay war and the Las Vegas skimming investigations in the 1970's and 80's, choose instead to write about the early days of the Mafia in Kansas City?

Well, as it turns out, Ouseley is an adroit historian who obviously studied the past as he investigated the powerful Civella clan that ran the KC rackets in the last half of the 20th Century. In Open City, Agent Ouseley constructs the most detailed account available of the events that led up to the conditions that he investigated in the 70's and 80's.

In Open City, you will find much information not covered in The Mafia and the Machine, which offers an overarching summary of the KC Mob but stops short of providing some of the deep, under-the-microscope investigative history that Ouseley offers in Open City. Ouseley drew on some rare source material including the personal memoirs of the omnipresent Nicolo Gentile, who penetrated crime families from coast to coast. Also of special note is a superb description of the Outfits involvement at the Stork Club in Iowa. These are just two examples.
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I can say "I wish he had picked his own era" but if he named names and listed best guesses of gangland hits unsolved to this day between 1960 and 1980, he'd probably have to be in a witness protection program. So he picked the safety of 1900 to 1950 and wrote nothing not already in the archives of the Kansas City Star.

More interesting or at least more current to the organized crime that still takes their cut of much of KC constructions, unions, strip joints, silent partners, etc. (Kansas City is as mob infested as it ever was except the "mob" has had a permanent Depression ever since Central American (not just Mexico) gangs took over drugs and violence in KC in the 90's.) The mob is scared to death of gangs like MS-13 as they have no "rules", no fear of death and don't value life -- theirs or anyone else's. The KC police just let these gangs kill each other as if they are helping society by ridding it of these gang members who would otherwise endanger innocent people or a police officer in a gun battle over nothing.

I see Frank Hayde commented on this book. His excellent book is also a compilation of KC Star articles. NOTHING not already publicly known. Smart. Although the did repeat a number of errors that were also wrong in the Star as in other material proving he did use the research material he listed. While it is just a summary of already known information (just as this book is) he still performed a service by putting it all in one book.

Several of my late uncles are named in Ouseley's book. He missed on a few of the "facts" but they are minor. I remember as a young boy my surviving uncle taking me along to large picnics north of the river where it seemed everyone had Italian names and some spoke only Italian.
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Written from an interesting perspective (the author being a retired law enforcement person who previously worked to help bring down Cosa Nostra in KC), this book mostly covers history and ground that has been written about in several other books (The Mafia and the Machine and Blackhand-Strawman, just to name a couple), but it also does go into some greater detail about certain vice operations the Kansas City mob were involved with back in the day, such as numbers, narcotics, alcohol, and the labor unions. However, it also can sometimes go far afield by taking the story away from Kansas City too much. Also, it was very poorly edited (many grammar and spelling mistakes) and not well referenced (told like the author was there for all of the history mentioned instead of what sources he used specifically to obtain the information and the conjectures he raises). All in all, not bad, but could have been better.
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