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The Man with the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block
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Arcade 2018
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They stand proudly gazing across the Hudson River at the cliffs of New Jersey. Their brows are marked by ornamental pediments. Greek columns stand as sentries by their entrances and stone medallions bedeck their chests. They are seven graceful relics of Beaux Arts New York, townhouses built more than 100 years ago for a new class of industrialists, actors and scientists — many from abroad — who made their fortunes in the United States and shaped the lives of Americans.This book brings to life the ghosts who inhabit that row of townhouses on Manhattan's stately Riverside Drive for the first fifty years of the 20th Century, including a vicious crew of hoodlums who carried out what at the time was the largest armored car robbery in American history. It was a daring, minutely planned exploit that ended in blood, when one of the gangsters accidentally shot himself. He was taken to one of the townhouses — then, in 1934, an underworld safehouse — where he died and was stuffed in a steamer trunk (but his cohorts had to saw off one of his legs to fit him in it). From gangsters to industrialists, from future mayors to murderers, from movie stars to mafia dons, one block in a burgeoning city saw it all. The people who lived in each of the "Seven Sisters" reads like a mini Who's Who. Meet: * Percy Geary and John Oley, two Albany gangsters with a background in kidnapping and bootlegging; * Lucretia Davis, baking powder heiress whose parents were engaged in a bitter divorce that included allegations that her mother was trying get her father declared insane and take over his business; * Jokichi Takamine, the world's first biotech engineer and a rare Japanese scientist in the United States at the turn of the 19th century—He discovered diastase, an enzyme to ferment whisky and settle the stomach, and the adrenaline, a major scientific discovery; * Marion Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, who rose to movie stardom on the back of W.R.'s publicity machine while living on the block; * Julia Marlowe, American's greatest Shakespearean actress around 1900, just to name a few. If only the buildings could speak. * The Fabers of pencil fame * Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (Albany gang made famous by William Kennedy) * Duke Ellington, two mayors, and lurking in the background Legs Diamond.... If only the walls could talk? Dan Wakins makes it so in this unforgettable intimate glimpse into the history of New York City.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/23/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781628728491
ASIN:
B0754J61T7
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Daniel J. Wakin. (2018). The Man with the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block. Arcade.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Daniel J. Wakin. 2018. The Man With the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block. Arcade.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Daniel J. Wakin, The Man With the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block. Arcade, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Daniel J. Wakin. The Man With the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block. Arcade, 2018. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
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Date Updated:
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      • bioText: Daniel J. Wakin has been an editor and reporter at The New York Times since 2000. As a reporter for the Times, his beats included religion, classical music and dance, and general assignment in the Metro department. He has covered stories in more than a dozen countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, including the election of two popes. He also took part in the group that produced the Emmy-nominated multimedia project Inside the Quartet. A graduate of Harvard University with a degree in the Classics, Mr. Wakin continues to be an avid amateur clarinetist. The Man with the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block is his first book.
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shortDescription

They stand proudly gazing across the Hudson River at the cliffs of New Jersey. Their brows are marked by ornamental pediments. Greek columns stand as sentries by their entrances and stone medallions bedeck their chests. They are seven graceful relics of Beaux Arts New York, townhouses built more than 100 years ago for a new class of industrialists, actors and scientists — many from abroad — who made their fortunes in the United States and shaped the lives of Americans.
This book brings to life the ghosts who inhabit that row of townhouses on Manhattan's stately Riverside Drive for the first fifty years of the 20th Century, including a vicious crew of hoodlums who carried out what at the time was the largest armored car robbery in American history. It was a daring, minutely planned exploit that ended in blood, when one of the gangsters accidentally shot himself. He was taken to one of the townhouses — then, in 1934, an underworld safehouse — where he...

isOwnedByCollections
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title
The Man with the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block
fullDescription

They stand proudly gazing across the Hudson River at the cliffs of New Jersey. Their brows are marked by ornamental pediments. Greek columns stand as sentries by their entrances and stone medallions bedeck their chests. They are seven graceful relics of Beaux Arts New York, townhouses built more than 100 years ago for a new class of industrialists, actors and scientists — many from abroad — who made their fortunes in the United States and shaped the lives of Americans.
This book brings to life the ghosts who inhabit that row of townhouses on Manhattan's stately Riverside Drive for the first fifty years of the 20th Century, including a vicious crew of hoodlums who carried out what at the time was the largest armored car robbery in American history. It was a daring, minutely planned exploit that ended in blood, when one of the gangsters accidentally shot himself. He was taken to one of the townhouses — then, in 1934, an underworld safehouse — where he died and was stuffed in a steamer trunk (but his cohorts had to saw off one of his legs to fit him in it). From gangsters to industrialists, from future mayors to murderers, from movie stars to mafia dons, one block in a burgeoning city saw it all. The people who lived in each of the "Seven Sisters" reads like a mini Who's Who. Meet:
* Percy Geary and John Oley, two Albany gangsters with a background in kidnapping and bootlegging;
* Lucretia Davis, baking powder heiress whose parents were engaged in a bitter divorce that included allegations that her mother was trying get her father declared insane and take over his business;
* Jokichi Takamine, the world's first biotech engineer and a rare Japanese scientist in the United States at the turn of the 19th century—He discovered diastase, an enzyme to ferment whisky and settle the stomach, and the adrenaline, a major scientific discovery;
* Marion Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, who rose to movie stardom on the back of W.R.'s publicity machine while living on the block;
* Julia Marlowe, American's greatest Shakespearean actress around 1900, just to name a few. If only the buildings could speak.
* The Fabers of pencil fame
* Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (Albany gang made famous by William Kennedy)
* Duke Ellington, two mayors, and lurking in the background Legs Diamond....
If only the walls could talk? Dan Wakins makes it so in this unforgettable intimate glimpse into the history of New York City.

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crossRefId
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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Jonathan Rabb, author of Among the Living, and many others.
      • content: "Wakin's aim is to find the hidden lives in these stalwart buildings of New York's Upper West Side, but it is he who breathes life into them in this wonderful reverie of a book. All city streets should have such history; and all micro-histories -- peopled with Runyan-esque gangsters, early biotech adventurers, and unscrupulous society folk -- should have a chronicler the likes of Wakin to lend them the breadth, insight, and vitality that you will find on each and every page."
      • premium: False
      • source: Michael Gross, editor, Avenue Magazine, and author of 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building
      • content: "A riveting true crime story that also unlocks the doors of some of New York's most evocative characters of the last century. A great read for anyone interested in the secrets of the city."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Review
      • content: "For fans of New York–iana, including historic preservation buffs as well as collectors of true crime, eccentrics, and odd moments."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        November 13, 2017
        Wakin, a reporter and editor at the New York Times, delivers his shallow history of New York City from the perspective of residents of the same Riverside Drive block during the first half of the 20th century. Upon returning to his childhood neighborhood in 2000, Wakin’s fascination with “the notion that buildings have life stories drawn from the flesh and blood beings who pass through them” prompts him to revive obscure stories of those who had lived in the buildings on his block. Wakin’s “juiciest tale,” about a 1934 armored-car heist in Brooklyn, occupies a disproportionate amount of the book and has only a minimal connection with its ostensible focus: one of the thieves accidentally shot himself and was taken to a boardinghouse at 334 Riverside Drive, where he succumbed to his injuries. Other sections recount the construction of buildings and the stories of their occupants, including Japanese scientist Jokichi Takamine, a scion of the pencil-manufacturing Faber family, and William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies. In the absence of more substance, Wakin resorts to imagining what interactions between some of the residents would have been like. The result is superficial and a lost opportunity.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        November 1, 2017
        A septet of Manhattan buildings becomes the setting for this study of prewar comings and goings on the part of their wealthy, famous, and criminal inhabitants.Pity Bernard McMahon, aka Bennie the Bum, who, in 1934, had the bad fortune to blow his kneecap off accidentally after taking part in a notorious armed robbery that "was then the most lucrative armored car heist in United States history." Bennie bled out and died, making his association with Legs Diamond all the more ironic--though, as New York Times reporter and editor Wakin writes, John Dillinger may also have played a part in the caper, and just about anyone who was anyone in the Gotham crime scene came under suspicion. McMahon's case lies at the heart of the book, which centers on a group of seven stately Beaux Arts buildings on Manhattan's Upper West Side, buildings whose fortunes have waxed and waned and waxed again. Among the inhabitants he profiles are Marion Davies, the one-time mistress of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, and Lucretia Davis, heir to a baking powder fortune, who, as a widow, "shocked and outraged the circle of family who experienced her benevolence" by marrying her chauffeur, then had the marriage annulled but sold off one of the buildings in order, Wakin speculates, to buy him off. Other figures in the book include Jokichi Takamine, a Japanese inventor well-known in his native land but obscure here; members of the of-pencil-fame Faber family; and jazz great Duke Ellington. Wakin never goes deep, and though his book is gossipy fun, it might have been more effective if confined to the Rubel heist itself, which is a fascinating case study in crime and (eventual) punishment in the heyday of organized crime. Some of the force of that story is diluted by side tracks into the less interesting, though still meaningful, threads involving the lesser players.For fans of New York-iana, including historic preservation buffs as well as collectors of true crime, eccentrics, and odd moments.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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