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The Gangs of New York: An Informal History…
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The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld (1928)

by Herbert Asbury

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,225109,885 (3.34)37
  1. 00
    The Gangs of Los Angeles by William Dunn (Hedgepeth)
  2. 01
    The Great Riots of New York: 1712-1873 by Joel Tyler Headley (baobab)
    baobab: The gangs of New York had a hand in most of the riots that Headley describes. In fact, Headley's book covers much of the same material as the first half of Asbury's book, the major difference being that Headley was writing a generation earlier.
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» See also 37 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
When reading a book written some time ago, it's important to remember that standards and tastes may have been different back then. Such is the case here. It's entirely possible (in this case, likely) that this book was considered eminently readable when it was published in 1927, but today's readers might find it somewhat more difficult.

Asbury presents us with a dizzying array of names of people (real names, pseudonyms, and nicknames) and places (modern and historical), barely pausing for breath, let alone meaningful distinction among them (I lost count of the number of gangsters described as "huge"). A map would have been nice, and a cast of characters even better.

Anecdotes are piled one on top of another, with little or no explanation as to why any of them are important or how any of them are connected. And each one is more sensationalistic than the last, making me wonder where Asbury got his information from. A bibliography is appended at the end of the book, but it's impossible to tell which stories he got from which sources (and, indeed, which came from "personal interviews" with criminals and police officers). So, as hard a time as I had just wading through the mass of details, I almost had an even harder time believing them. ( )
  mzonderm | May 8, 2011 |
History, though not scholarly history, he's telling (mostly) true stories, but it's stories and not footnoted historical material. Written eighty-some-odd years ago, the writing holds up surprising well, though from time to time a bit purple and incorrect for modern tastes. ( )
1 vote Tyllwin | Jan 4, 2011 |
Not worth reading if you are interested in history. Asbury was a journalist, not a historian. ( )
  IreneF | Sep 30, 2010 |
I concluded I would have to read Gangs of New York after hearing that it had stuck with Martin Scorsese for forty years until he was able to make the movie of the same name. With that much staying power it did not disappoint. The endless gangs and characters become a blur, and the amount of crime staggers the imagination. I often thought the Cagney era gangster names and lingo were fantasies of Hollywood, but they were nothing compared to the reality. From the Plug Uglies to the Whyos to the Baxter Street Dudes the gangs constantly morphed with each new wave of immigration. Little Augie, Goo Goo Knox and the Turtle were just a few in this cast of millions. The story of any one of them could carry a movie or a book devoted to them alone. A compelling read, but be warned the level of violence that was the reality makes the movie of this world look mild. ( )
1 vote varielle | Jan 21, 2008 |
http://www.fireandsword.com/Reviews/gangsofnewyork.html

Subtitled “An informal history of the underworld” this is Herbert Asbury’s best-known and perhaps most important work. Asbury made his career by writing the secret history of America’s big cities, the scandalous underbelly you never get to see in the official, "chamber of commerce approved" version. The story of New York's seemy underbelly is at once sordid and epic. ( )
  DaveHardy | Aug 23, 2006 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Orell
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This book is not a sociological treatise, makes no pretense of offering solutions for the social, economic and criminological problems presente by the gangs.
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (208)

1876 in organized crime

1880 in organized crime

Ah Hoon

Ah Ken

Al Rooney

Alexander S. Williams

Harry Hill (sportsman)

Harry Lazarus

Harry Vallon

Hell-Cat Maggie

Henry O'Brien (colonel)

Herbert Asbury

Mike Saulter

Monk Eastman

Morello crime family

Mott Street

Neighbors' Sons

New York City Police riot

Book description
Life in mid-19 century New York was tough, and violence and corruption were rife. Nowhere was tougher or more violent than the Bowery and the Five Points area. Two gangs, the Dead Rabbits and the Native Americans, were locked in a seemingly endless battle for supremacy. Amsterdam Vallon, son of the Rabbits' murdered leader, is seeking vengeance for his father's death at the hands of Bill 'The Butcher', head of the Native Americans who are in cahoots with a deeply corrupt Tammany Hall..."Gangs of New York" has long been a cult book.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099436744, Paperback)

The Gangs of New York is a tour through a now unrecognisable city of abysmal poverty and habitual violence centred around the infamous slum of Five Points, with its rival Irish and American gangs. Cobbled from legend, memory, police records, the self-aggrandizements of aging crooks, popular journalism, and solid historical research, this is a powerful account of New York City's tumultuos past. Asbury presents the definitive work on this subject, an illumination of the gangs of old New York that ultimately gave rise to the modern Mafia and its depiction in cult films like The Godfather.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:44 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This is a tour through a now unrecognisable city of abysmal poverty and habitual violence. Asbury presents the definitive work on this subject, an illumination of the gangs of old New York that ultimately gave rise to the modern Mafia.

» see all 3 descriptions

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