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Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2016
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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.
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Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
10/25/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780385537162
ASIN:
B01BAU4ERS
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Deirdre Bair. (2016). Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Deirdre Bair. 2016. Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Deirdre Bair, Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Deirdre Bair. Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016. 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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      • bioText: DEIRDRE BAIR received the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Her biographies of Simone de Beauvoir and Carl Jung were finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and her biography of Simone de Beauvoir was chosen by The New York Times as a Best Book of the Year. Her biography of Anaïs Nin and her most recent book, Saul Steinberg: A Biography, were both New York Times Notable Books.
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title
Al Capone
fullDescription
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.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "A meticulously researched and thorough account of the man described by a reporter in 1931 as 'gorgeously and typically American.'"
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        June 20, 2016
        National Book Award-winning biographer Bair (Samuel Beckett) interrogates the notion of the “real” Al Capone (1899–1947). Capone’s life has been well documented in countless books, articles, and movies, but most of it has been falsified or exaggerated, especially given Capone’s own marionette-like control of the media and his descendants’ desire to bask in reflected glory. Bair’s goal is to collect all the myths side by side, comparing their shortcomings and information gaps and debunking them as necessary. She follows Capone, in his fedora and lime green suit, from Brooklyn, Chicago, and Miami to a cushy jail cell in Pennsylvania prison, and then to progressively less cushy jail cells in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta and San Francisco’s Alcatraz before his death in 1947 after neurosyphilis left him with the mental faculties of a seven-year-old. She also explores the lives of his friends and family, including the ongoing feud between his elegant, reserved wife, Mae, and his fiercely protective mother and sister, who considered themselves to be in charge of the household. The biography is a meticulously researched and thorough account of the man described by a reporter in 1931 as “gorgeously and typically American,” but it’s best suited for those who are already somewhat familiar with Capone, bootlegging, and the Chicago Outfit. Less informed readers will find themselves bogged down by too much detail and the sorting out of conflicting accounts. Agent: Kristine Dahl, ICM.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        National Book Award winner Bair (Saul Steinberg, 2012, etc.) examines the life and legend of infamous crime boss Al Capone (1899-1947).In the 70 years since Capone's death, America's fascination with this underworld figure remains as strong as ever. He's been the subject of countless biographies, his legendary status ingrained in popular culture as an inspiration for the 1930s pre-code film Scarface and, more recently, the popular HBO series Boardwalk Empire. The story of Capone's rise and fall has long been familiar. He began his criminal career in Brooklyn during the height of Prohibition, involved with businesses ranging from bootlegging to gambling to prostitution, eventually leading to his supreme, albeit brief, reign in Chicago running multimillion-dollar operations. His surprisingly rapid downfall was caused by a conviction for tax evasion, and his prison stints included several years at the notorious Alcatraz Penitentiary. Upon his release in 1939, his final years were diminished by the long-terms effects of syphilis, which led to his early death. Bair attempts to uncover the more personal side of his story, claiming an authoritative position based on the cooperation of extended family members and exclusive access to personal and archival documents. Unfortunately, unlike the author's previous excellent biographies, the results here are mixed, revealing few new facts or fresh insights. "My intention was to look at his public behavior within the context of his personal life, to see how the two might possibly be interrelated, and how the one might have had influence or bearing on the other," she writes. "This was not an easy task, and like his family members I still wonder if it is possible to arrive at that curious postmodern concept of 'the real truth.' " In this case, it seems not; the "real" Capone remains a mystery. A serviceable addition to the extensive existing scholarship. Though intelligent and thoughtfully documented, considering the source material and colorful subject, the book is a somewhat anemic read, lacking the narrative verve readers expect from Bair. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        August 1, 2016
        Prolific and National Book Awardwinning author Bair has written biographies before, but mostly of subjects in the literary or intellectual spheres (Samuel Beckett and Carl Jung, for example). Here she tackles a subject of a very different sort: Alphonse Capone, America's best-known gangster. Although she covers the particulars of Capone's very public and much-written-about career, her main contribution is in unearthing the man's private life (and trying to sort out the myths surrounding it). She deals, in detail, with Capone's womanizing andnot unrelatedlythe syphilis with which he was stricken. Bair has secured a great deal of cooperation from some of Capone's extended family, has performed copious research, and writes capably, but, finally, the focus on the personal life is problematic, as the most interesting part of Capone's story remains his already well-covered criminal enterprises. Still, this is a serviceable biography and will be of interest to both true-crime fans and anyone fascinated by the Prohibition era.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 1, 2016

        A biography of notorious gangster Al Capone from the distinguished biographer whose books include the National Book Award-winning Samuel Beckett and the New York Times Best Book Simone de Beauvoir? Bair goes about it with her usual pinpoint scholarship, obtaining unprecedented access to family members and a few remaining associates.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from September 15, 2016

        National Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) has written a definitive biography of "Public Enemy #1" Al Capone (1899-1947). Based on extensive research and interviews with as many Capone descendants as could be tracked down, the author attempts to tease out fact from legend. Interestingly, many times she concludes that the several versions of events published and passed down through the years all contain some portion of the truth. For example, one persistent myth attributes a quote to Capone about how he should have taken up the milk business, not the beer business, because milk is legal and always in demand. Bair couldn't verify this statement but documents in several places how Capone presented himself as a wholesome family man to the press, referring lovingly to his family. This book came about because Capone's relatives have recently started talking and writing memoirs. Capone is such a mythical figure that he was named one of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time" by the Smithsonian in 2014 and has been compared to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. VERDICT Bair has written perhaps the last word on Capone. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/3/16.]--Karen Sandlin Silverman, Scarborough H.S. Lib., ME

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 15, 2016

        National Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) has written a definitive biography of "Public Enemy #1" Al Capone (1899-1947). Based on extensive research and interviews with as many Capone descendants as could be tracked down, the author attempts to tease out fact from legend. Interestingly, many times she concludes that the several versions of events published and passed down through the years all contain some portion of the truth. For example, one persistent myth attributes a quote to Capone about how he should have taken up the milk business, not the beer business, because milk is legal and always in demand. Bair couldn't verify this statement but documents in several places how Capone presented himself as a wholesome family man to the press, referring lovingly to his family. This book came about because Capone's relatives have recently started talking and writing memoirs. Capone is such a mythical figure that he was named one of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time" by the Smithsonian in 2014 and has been compared to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. VERDICT Bair has written perhaps the last word on Capone. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/3/16.]--Karen Sandlin Silverman, Scarborough H.S. Lib., ME

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription
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.
Born in 1899 in Brooklyn, New York, to poor, Italian immigrant parents, Al Capone went on to become the most infamous gangster in American history. In 1925, during the height of Prohibition, Capone's multi-million-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. Through it all, and despite the best efforts of law enforcement and the media elite, Capone remained above the fray. Federal income-tax evasion was the strongest charge that could be made to stick, and in 1931 he was sentenced to eleven years in federal prison. After serving...
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