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Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series Hardcover – 1 Oct 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers (Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786712503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786712502
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.1 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,740,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From the Author

History remembers Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, the underworld genius, who as F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, played "with the faith of fifty million people—with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe." A.R. was so much more—and less. Loan Shark. Pool Shark. Gambler. Bookmaker. Operator of Illegal Gambling Houses. Thief. Fence of Stolen Property. Perjurer and Suborner of Perjury. Political Fixer. Wall Street Swindler. Real Estate Speculator. Labor Racketeer. Rumrunner. Mastermind of the Modern Drug Trade.

"The Big Bankroll" made 1920’s Manhattan roar. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to invent his own "Napoleon of Crime," Professor Moriarty, "the organizer of every deviltry, the controlling brain of the underworld." Arnold Rothstein invented himself, and made fiction pale in the bargain. Rothstein reveals the truth of Rothstein’s involvement in the Black Sox scandal. Rothstein unravels the mystery of the "The Big Bankroll’s November 1928 in a Times Square hotel room—who did it, who covered it up, and why.
Meet Arnold Rothstein and meet the legends of decades ago—con artists Nicky Arnstein and Wilson Mizner; legal mastermind Bill "The Great Mouthpiece" Fallon; crooked cops Big Bill Devery and Charles Becker; baseball’s John "Mugsy" McGraw and the Black Sox; boxers Abe "The Little Champ" Attell, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, and Benny Leonard; politicians Jimmy Walker, "Big Tim" Sullivan, and Fiorello LaGuardia; ganglords Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Legs Diamond, Lepke Buchalter, and Little Augie Orgen; newsmen Damon Runyon and Herbert Bayard Swope; show business’s Fanny Brice, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Billy Rose, and Fats Waller; speakeasy owners Larry Fay and Texas Guinan; gambler "Nick the Greek" Dandalos.

Rothstein is the epic story of Manhattan in the Roaring Twenties as its never been told before.

About the Author

David Pietrusza or edited over three dozen books. His Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis captured the 1998 CASEY Award. He was an editor of Total Baseball, the Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. Pietrusza’s most recent book, Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures, was written with Ted Williams. He lives in upstate New York.
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arnold Rothstein was the first of the modern Mob Godfathers- but he was refreshingly different from the thugs and sneaks who hold similar positions in the modern world. He used his brain to create complex and intelligent money making scheme's and avoided violence whenever possible. He was one of the first to recognise the power that the plug ugly street gangs actually had and the amount of money that translated into. Among his many nick-names was 'The Brain'. A label he certainly deserved.

So why is he relatively unknown compared to the Capones and Lansky's of the underworld? I don't know but this book goes some way towards righting this injustice.

This is the first attempt to understand Rothstein since John Koblers excellent 'The Big Bankroll' of the 1950s, which as been accepted as the definitive guide to Rothstein for over half a century. Although Pietrusza had a bigger 'try following that' problem than most he has managed to share the gold medal podium with Kobler by enlarging the information already in print and actually uncovering some revelations of his very own! Considering the subject of the book died in 1928 that is something of a miracle and the author deserves recognition for his skills as a researcher and a writer.

Going into more detail, especially on the 1919 'Blacksox' baseball scandal and Rothsteins 'unsolved' murder, Pietrusza has sharply observed the lesser known area's of his subjects life and used excellent research to shine a light on them.

His writing style is to the point and never stuffy. Which can sometimes make the reader unaware of the sheer volume of facts they are digesting whilst reading material that moves as fast as a thriller.

Excellent. Early Mob Essential.
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Format: Paperback
Arnold Rothstein used his brain to elevate the crude and bludgeoning style of the typical participant of organised crime into more of a slick corporate business with him, naturally at the top. Whereas other hoodlums looked the part and acted the part in their brash, crude and brutal activities, Rothstein skilfully and with great finesse and cunning, outshone them all in in the art of being a covert criminal genius.

This well researched and written book carefully examines each of his criminal activities which included casino's and speakeasies in the Tenderloin District of Manhattan, bootlegging during Prohibition, the fixing, for betting coups of horse races, even baseball matches and almost every other dishonest activity. It was widely thought, but never proven that he was the mastermind behind one of the greatest sporting scandals ever, the 'throwing' of matches by members of the Chicago White Sox in the World Series thus enabling Rothstein to make a significant sum betting against Chicago; an incident known as the "Black Sox Scandal."

It was, alas his greed and meanness that finally brought about his demise; he refused to pay-up a large card gambling debt, claiming the game was fixed but a few days later, and in probable retribution was mortally wounded - his death being linked to his refusal to settle his gambling debts.

Recommended reading for followers of crime and the under-belly of New York in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A rather mixed bag, this one. Parts are very interesting, while others are over long and unnecessarily detailed.
This is not a chronological biography in any way resembling the outstanding book by Leo Katcher: rather it picks up various details that appeared in Katcher's book which it then expands, clarifies or seeks to correct, as the case may be. As it is a relatively recent work, as opposed to Katcher's of 1959, one must assume that recent research has enabled Mr. Pietrusza to correct some earlier misconceptions. I am in no position to judge. What I can say, however, is that the earlier book was more comprehensive, and at the same time, concise. In fact, if I hadn't read the earlier work first, I would be somewhat confused by the selective approach that Pietrusza adopts towards his subject. He clearly prefers to deal with different aspects of Rothstein's life according to the subject matter rather than to timeline.
There are several nuggets of information to be found here that did not appear earlier, but you would really have to be familiar with the Rothstein story to appreciate them. The whole 1919 World Series episode is overworked, and becomes somewhat tiresome to read, without really adding anything of substance to what I already knew. It is stuffed full of shady characters, adding a lot of unnecessary detail, and I was relieved when I finally got to the end of this section.
The chapter dealing with the possible assassin was, on the other hand, most revealing and worthwhile.
As I have already said, this book is good in parts, and certainly worth reading if you want to know more than you would find in the average biography, but it is more in the nature of a complementary book than a biography in its own right.
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Format: Paperback
History may remember Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series; however this book does an excellent job of explaining how Rothstein's influence and power was far more widespread than a single World Series fix. From humble beginnings hustling in local pool halls, Rothstein's ambition and drive leads him to becoming one of the leading crime figures of the 20th Century.

The author, David Pietrusza, has painstakingly researched every aspect of criminal life in the 'Roaring 20s' and we are introduced not only to Rothstein, but a host of other characters, whether they be politicians, criminals, union leaders or even somebody who is simply financially indebted to Rothstein. These characters add further credence to truth of how powerful Rothstein was, through his various enterprises, bootlegging, casino owner and loan shark. The reader is also introduced to the personal turmoil Rothstein faced throughout his life, with his wife and family.

In my opinion the book is at its best once prohibition has been put into force, before this, Rothstein is mainly a go between for crooked politicians and the underbelly of New York City. Rothstein's true genius is exposed when he becomes one of the first to realise that securing routes and distribution for bootlegging was one of the most profitable businesses to have. From here we learn the extravagant lengths taken to ensure that New York and surrounding cities alike, were never to far from their next liquor shipment, the money earned, the characters involved and the consequences, all make for a very interesting read.

The only reason I fell short of rating this book 5*, is that at times the book becomes to preoccupied with facts of bit part characters and this draws away from Rothstein's more interesting pursuits.
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