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Al Capone : His Life, Legacy, and Legend
by Deirdre Bair


Overview - From a National Book Award-winning biographer, the first complete life of legendary gangster Al Capone to be produced with the cooperation of his family, who provided the author with exclusive access to personal testimony and archival documents.  Read more...

 
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More About Al Capone by Deirdre Bair
 
 
 
Overview
From a National Book Award-winning biographer, the first complete life of legendary gangster Al Capone to be produced with the cooperation of his family, who provided the author with exclusive access to personal testimony and archival documents.

From his heyday to the present moment, Al Capone--Public Enemy Number One--has gripped popular imagination. Rising from humble Brooklyn roots, Capone went on to become the most infamous gangster in American history. At the height of Prohibition, his multimillion-dollar Chicago bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling operation dominated the organized-crime scene. His competition with rival gangs was brutally violent, a long-running war that crested with the shocking St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929. Law enforcement and the media elite seemed powerless to stop the growth of his empire. And then the fall: a legal noose tightened by the FBI, a conviction on tax evasion, Alcatraz. After his release he returned to his family in Miami a much diminished man, living quietly until the ravages of his neurosyphilis took their final toll. But the slick mobster persona endures, immortalized in countless novels and movies.
The true flesh-and-blood man behind the legend has long remained a mystery. Unscrupulous newspaper accounts and Capone's own tall tales perpetuated his mystique, but through dogged research Deirdre Bair debunks the most outrageous of these myths. With the help of Capone's descendants, she discovers his essential humanity, uncovering a complex character that was flawed and sometimes cruel but also capable of nobility. And while revealing the private Al Capone, a genuine family man as remembered by those who knew him best, Bair relates how his descendants have borne his weighty legacy.
Rigorous and intimate, Al Capone provides new answers to the enduring questions about this fascinating figure, who was equal parts charismatic gangster, devoted patriarch, and calculating monster.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385537155
  • ISBN-10: 0385537158
  • Publisher: Nan a Talese
  • Publish Date: October 2016
  • Page Count: 395
  • Dimensions: 1.25 x 6.75 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.66 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Criminals & Outlaws
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical - General
Books > History > United States - 20th Century

 
BookPage Reviews

Al Capone and his enduring fame

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the glory days of Al Capone—Scarface, Big Al, Public Enemy Number One—is how short they were: six years, from mid-level thug to big boss to jail. So why is he still the iconic American gangster, nearly 70 years after his death from the complications of syphilis? 

Well, he loved publicity. But because his legend was a creation of newshounds and Hollywood, much of what we think we know is wrong. Biographer Deirdre Bair tries to uncover the man behind the flamboyant image in Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend. It seems a surprising project for an author who has written about Samuel Beckett and Carl Jung. Bair fell into it by happenstance when she met a man who was trying to find out if he was related to Capone. Eventually, she was able to talk extensively with Capone descendants.

They mostly turn out to be private, law-abiding folks whose reminiscences are engrossing and sometimes touching. Capone’s Irish-American wife, Mae, is at the heart of their memories—a woman who was, in their eyes, decent, loyal and loving. Syphilis, likely contracted from a prostitute, destroyed Capone’s mind, but Mae never gave up on him.

Bair carefully tries to sort out truth from baloney. No one knows how many people Capone and his minions killed. But Bair can say with confidence that the federal income tax evasion case that sent him to prison would have fallen apart if he hadn’t had incompetent lawyers and a biased judge.

Bair is particularly good at putting the Capones in the context of the Italian immigrant culture that shaped them. Capone himself wouldn’t have liked that; he always stressed that he was American-born, not an Italian. But he would have gotten a huge kick out of his enduring fame.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews