©2003 David Pietrusza; (P)2003 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Writing a biography of the notoriously secretive Arnold Rothstein, a rum-and-drug-running, bookmaking loan shark who became one of the richest men in the world, is a gamble that, for the most part, pays off for Pietrusza." (Publishers Weekly)
Comprehensive period account for those interested in early 20th century American history. Narration was more than adequate but for some mispronunciation of Yiddish names, terms and idioms. The narrative timeline was sometimes disjointed (major disadvantage in audiobook). Held my interest throughout.
Arnold Rothstein was a pioneer of 20th century organized crime. He took the street-level and gambling-house tricks to new heights of craft and organization. He brought a spiritedness and an element of sly humor to his business. His proteges include Meyer Lansky, Benjamin Siegel, and Lucky Luciano, launching the multi-ethnic criminal organization that loomed so large later in the century. Arnold was a white glove kind of guy who almost never got his own fingernails dirty; he was great at using straw men and having numerous fall guys between him and trouble. He brought an extreme discretion and skills of quiet manipulation of every player in sight, along with fastidious risk management, that would become a standard way of life in modern America's political economy. He should stand as an icon for every slick well-dressed manicured slimeball out there. As such, he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Grover Gardner's narration has just the right sophisticated twang for this. The story drags a bit at a few points, but it moves plenty well, and was well worth my time.
I can't say enough about Grover. By far my favorite narrator, hands down. The book itself was excellent as well, with lots of facts, but great story as well. The chapters on the 1919 scandal were riveting, and the human story was well told. 5 stars from me.
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