Scarface and the Untouchable : Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago
by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz

Overview -

At last, the definitive history of Al Capone, Eliot Ness's Untouchables, and gangster-era Chicago - a landmark magnum opus on America's great crime epic that reads like a novel


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More About Scarface and the Untouchable by Max Allan Collins; A. Brad Schwartz

At last, the definitive history of Al Capone, Eliot Ness's Untouchables, and gangster-era Chicago - a landmark magnum opus on America's great crime epic that reads like a novel


In 1929, thirty-year-old gangster Al Capone ruled both Chicago's underworld and its corrupt government. To a public who scorned Prohibition, "Scarface" became a local hero and national celebrity. But after the brutal St. Valentine's Day Massacre transformed Capone into "Public Enemy Number One," the federal government found an unlikely new hero in a twenty-seven-year-old Prohibition agent named Eliot Ness. Chosen to head the legendary law enforcement team known as "The Untouchables," Ness set his sights on crippling Capone's criminal empire.

Today, no underworld figure is more iconic than Al Capone and no lawman as renowned as Eliot Ness. Yet in 2016 the Chicago Tribune wrote, "Al Capone still awaits the biographer who can fully untangle, and balance, the complexities of his life," while revisionist historians have continued to misrepresent Ness and his remarkable career.

Enter Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz, a unique and vibrant writing team combining the narrative skill of a master novelist with the scholarly rigor of a trained historian. Collins is the New York Times bestselling author of the gangster classic Road to Perdition. Schwartz is a rising-star historian whose work anticipated the fake-news phenomenon.

Scarface and the Untouchable draws upon decades of primary source research--including the personal papers of Ness and his associates, newly released federal files, and long-forgotten crime magazines containing interviews with the gangsters and G-men themselves. Collins and Schwartz have recaptured a bygone bullet-ridden era while uncovering the previously unrevealed truth behind Scarface's downfall. Together they have crafted the definitive work on Capone, Ness, and the battle for Chicago.

  • ISBN-13: 9780062441942
  • ISBN-10: 0062441949
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company
  • Publish Date: August 2018
  • Page Count: 736
  • Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.25 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Criminals & Outlaws
Books > True Crime > Organized Crime
Books > History > United States - 20th Century

BookPage Reviews

The duel for Chicago

The collision of celebrated mobster Al “Scarface” Capone and his larger-than-life nemesis, Prohibition agent Eliot “The Untouchable” Ness, has become an American myth. In Scarface and the Untouchable, the latest narrative of their convergence—which played out primarily on the streets of Prohibition-era Chicago—Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz go into great detail to present the day-to-day realities that made this law-versus-lawless conflict so colorful, violent and headline-grabbing.

Both Capone and Ness were the sons of immigrants, and both were equally animated by ambition. Capone showed his viciousness and enterprise early, while Ness was a late bloomer who took time out for college before drifting into law enforcement. But Ness’ childhood fascination with Sherlock Holmes foretold an enthusiasm for evidence gathering and “the chase.” After he became famous, Ness assumed Sherlockian importance of his own by serving as the model for the cartoon crime buster Dick Tracy.

In spite of creating a bootlegging empire and ordering a string of murders, Capone was finally convicted and jailed for mere tax evasion. Ness did his part to bring down Capone by relentlessly raiding his breweries, thus eroding his economic base. Although the two never had a face-to-face confrontation, Ness was on hand to help escort Capone to prison. The repeal of Prohibition did little to dismantle the criminal organizations like Capone’s that it brought into being. It did, however, coincide with the end of Capone’s career. Straight-shooter Ness would move on to clean up the Cleveland, Ohio, police department and, two years after his death, come to life again as the central figure in the television crime series “The Untouchables.”

The scholarship displayed in Scarface and the Untouchable is extraordinary, probing deeply into the activities, interrelationships and mindsets of the many principal characters. Publicity-seeking Capone is especially well-drawn. The graft-ridden but vibrant city of Chicago achieves character status as well.


This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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