Part of the appeal of The Gangs of New York is that journalist Herbert Asbury was writing in the late 1920s at a time when (as he saw it) the era of the gangsters was over. With hindsight the modern reader smirks at the thought of the great age of gangsterism that was just beginning, but the likes of Al Capone and the Warner Brothers anti-heroes were gangsters of a different cast from Asbury's protagonists. The Gangs of New York tells of huge neighbourhood armies which took to the field against each other (or the police or even the military) armed with staves and picks as often as firearms, bruisers rather than criminal masterminds. Though well organised, the book is inevitably disjointed, often turning the spotlight onto one gang for a page or two or simply focussing on one bloody struggle for leadership. However, the horrific tale of the Civil War Draft Riots is told very dramatically at decent length and the careers of some notable gangsters like Monk Eastman are well charted in some detail. The corruption of police and politicians is also a recurrent theme across the decades. In any case, Asbury's research is prodigious and his style racy and compelling, with more than a hint of admiration for some of his disreputable subjects. On the very last page of the last chapter, The Passing of the Gangster, Asbury recounts the killing of Little Augie in 1927 'while talking to his bodyguard Legs Diamond'. This reference to Diamond, and another to Owney Madden ('Owney the Killer') backing night-clubs in Harlem (the Cotton Club not named), moves the reader on to the new generation of gangsters.