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Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone by…
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Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone

by John Kobler

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"The Life and Time of Al Capone", this is really a book with two souls.

I liked the first part of the book a lot. This is the part devoted to the time of Al Capone, starting in his childhood, detailing the life of immigrants like his father, the very small word they were allowed to live in, the reasons why young men saw the gangs as the only way to get a living and to do something with their life... if they lived long enough, that it.
The way gangs were organized is detailed quite in depth, the Italians gangs, but also the others. The way gangs fought each other, the reason why they did it. It's like a little world on its own, with its own rules and its own heroes, and its own enemies. This part, detailing the history of the Five Pointers, where Capone started his life as an outlaw, was the more interesting for me.

I also like the part that followed. Capone arrives in Chicago as a young man and here he finds a world which is both the same, but also different from the underworld he knew in New York. A big chunk of the book is spent detailing how Chicago was divided into zones, how different ethnic gangs controlled different parts of the city, the alliances and the enmities. The bosses and their temperaments. The gangs were nearly always linked to ethnic communities and it was interesting to see what links and what bonds stood between these men and the communities they came from. It was a very complex relationship and it was very interesting reading about it.

Then the second part of the book tells Capone's life in particular... and my interest dropped.

Honestly, reading only this book, one will wonder what made Capone one of the better known men in America. He's presented here as a very violent man, with few interests other than make money through bootlegging, brothels and other illegal activities. It is said that he was a skilful manager, but nothing is provided to enforce this idea. There's a long section detailing the way he killed off all his rivals, which is quite repetitive, with no insight into what he was after, his tactic, even his reasons.
A very long part is devoted to the trial that put him in jail and the following (quite uneventful) years in Alcatraz, I suspect because this is probably one of the better documented part of his life, if maybe the least interesting. It was - honestly - quite boring.

This is the only book I read about Capone and I still know very little about him, so I wonder whether there might be more interesting books about him out there. But I did enjoy the first part about the Twenties underworld quite a lot.
  JazzFeathers | Jul 27, 2016 |
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