The choice of opening music for this recording of Nelson Johnson’s Boardwalk Empire is telling: though the book charts the rise and fall of Atlantic City from its beginnings as a shyster health resort in the late 19th century through the Donald Trump years to the beginning of the new millennium, the Jazz-age ragtime announces the real crux of this sprawling epic the age of prohibition, gambling, and mob protection. These transgressive themes are woven throughout the city's history as well as (the author tacitly implies) the recent history of the United States. Johnson shows how Atlantic City was one of the cradles of the American mafia as it served as an entry point to those wanting to get around prohibition (including a young Al Capone), and played host to a cast of Damon Runyon-esque characters.
Overseeing it all was the archetypal character of Enoch "Nucky" Johnson: half politician, half underworld boss, his career "personifies the greed, corruption, and high times that were of Atlantic City in its days of glory". His ties with the Republican Party and invites to the White House are a case study in official corruption, and his personality is nailed down here to memorable effect: he was "a master at holding the hand of a widow and whispering gently what a fine man her husband was".
Many will be drawn to this book on the basis of the Scorsese-produced HBO series, though they should be forewarned that Boardwalk Empire can be exhaustive in its cataloging of each step of the myriad legal processes that variously built up and tore down the antiheroes of Atlantic City; the author was professionally involved for several decades in the city's politics, and it shows on more than one occasion. But luckily for the listener, Joe Mantegna's voice immediately and effortlessly invests each word with sly insinuation and more than a hint of malevolence. He's particularly good at hinting at the self-serving and dishonest motivations behind acts of public munificence, as his voice becomes a knowing wink, a secret handshake turned into sound. His narration makes an offer you can't refuse, and at its considerable best the result is along the lines of Citizen Kane as narrated by The Simpsons’ Fat Tony (another Mantegna performance). DafyddPhillips
From its inception, Atlantic City has always been a town dedicated to the fast buck, and this wide-reaching history offers a riveting account of its past 100 years, from the city's heyday as a Prohibition-era mecca of lawlessness to its rebirth as a legitimate casino resort in the modern era.
A colorful cast of characters, led by Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, populates this stranger-than-fiction account of corrupt politics and the toxic power structure that grew out of guile, finesse, and extortion. Atlantic City's shadowy past through its rise, fall, and rebirth is given new light in this revealing, and often appalling, study of legislative abuse and organized crime.
This audiobook, narrated by Joe Mantegna, is the true story that inspired the upcoming HBO series of the same name. It includes a foreword written and narrated by Terence Winter.
©2009 Nelson Johnson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
Atlantic City, perhaps more than most others, seems to have little history other than its politicians. Boardwalk Empire is well-researched and well-presented, but is far less the history of a city than of the politicians in charge of it.
Slightly disappointing, though not the fault of the author or narrators.
I had no acquaintance with the HBO series (other than wanting to see it) and virtually no knowledge of Atlantic City's history prior to the 1980s, and that only superficial. For this reason I went into 'Boardwalk Empire' with somewhat unrealistic expectations. I assumed that since this book purported to feature the mob in a large role (which it does), the book's pages would be littered with the bodies of snitches, gangsters and hard-luck losers. This is not the case, as virtually all of BE's characters die of natural causes.
Having said that, BE was a rewarding read despite my shattered expectations. The book is replete with stories of crime, graft and corruption, which makes for exciting reading. Some of the earlier, pre-crime chapters are a little slow, but the book soon shifts into full gear all the way up to the ill-advised afterword, which seems unnecessary. Moreover, the use of a different narrator for the afterword (although I enjoy T. Winter's work) is jarring.
Joe Mantegna is the highlight of the work. His heavily-inflected, but precise diction is a treat.
Life long fan of the mystery story. I like books where something actually happens, so history and biography are favorites of mine also. I also think that even good books are improved tremendously when an actor performs the narration.
This is a history of Atlantic City, from it's beginnings at a mosquito filled wetland to the glitter of the Trump Tower. It's just the facts with no romance or cliffhanger endings -- and it's a very good history. It's clear why HBO opted to serialize and fictionalize the life of Nucky Johnson -- its an amazing story and I think the most interesting part of the book, but don't give THE DONALD a short shrift. Before he was a joke with bad hair, he was an egomaniacal businessman and he turned AC around. Well narrated by Joe Mantegna, it's a very interesting slice of American History.
The most revealing and interesting part about this book is how the Republican party supported and encouraged organized crime in Atlantic City. The ties between republicans and gangsters gave rise to this city of bars, casinos and brothels. But as it is said in the books: "People want bars, casinos and brothels, so we give it to them. If they had wanted bible studies, we'd had given them bible studies".
The story is interesting, if a little too exhaustive with too many details about what happended several generations ago. But still worth listening to. Well read as well.
At half way through Boardwalk Empire I thought the author was getting too redundant about what it took to be an Enoch Johnson - favors, power, votes; but I stuck with the book and the second half was excellent. From Steven Wynn and Donald Trump to suggestions about what's wrong with AC and how to fix it were all entertaining and informative.
I too purchased this thinking it would have the excitement as the previews for the upcoming series show. This isn't that kind of book. It is very interesting and really gives a great historic account of Alantic City, but it isn't the fast action you might be expecting from the series with the same name. It is however a really well written account if you're interested in the real history of the area. I've never been there, but I think I'd be familiar with a lot of it if I did decide to go there. I was a bit disappointed because of my expectations, but I can't say there's anything wrong with this book....
I can't remember if I actually finished this one or not - I might have lost interest after 2/3 of the book or so. Interesting diversion from my usual type of books (fiction). Wouldn't call it great, but not bad either
As an NJ resident who considers NJ the 50th of the 50 states, it was enlightening to learn some history of the 20th century NJ politics. Home rule enables NJ to remain the crony capital of the USA.
My wife and I bought this book because we were big fans of the HBO series. We enjoyed hearing the true story which inspired the series.
The real Nucky Johnson was even more powerful and organized than the fictional "Nucky Thompson" played by Steve Buscemi in the series. It was interesting to contrast the entire life story of Nucky Johnson with that of the fictional character.
This is a nonfiction book and doesn't really have"scenes.'
Boardwalk Empire - The Real Story.
This book covers a much longer period than the HBO series. Its epilogue ends in 2010, I think. Some of the history of the Farley machine era, which followed Nucky Johnson's time in power, was detailed and a little bit tedious. My wife dropped out during this period, but I continued. I was impressed by the extent of the decline of Atlantic City after Prohibition was repealed, and its revival through legalized gambling, with a whole new set of problems and opportunities.
I should add that I think Joe Mantegna was the perfect narrator for this book.
The narrators are excellent. I never felt bored or turned off by their voices. The narrations were so enjoyable that I was sorry when the book ended.
None come to mind. This is a unique, stand alone story.
The narration is even paced but never dull. Joe Mantegna's appreciation for the material is evident in his voice throughout. As I listened, I felt like he and I had gotten together for coffee so that he could tell me this fascinating tale. He is a relaxed yet actively interested narrator.
This is a recounting of the long history of Atlantic City, starting from before its existence began. It has plenty of personal descriptions which are well done, but is not a book full of moving moments.
I knew next to nothing about Atlantic City except that it had fallen on hard times and was somewhat revived in recent decades by the establishment of casinos. My parents' honeymoon took place in Atlantic City in 1951--in early February! I don't know what they were thinking, honeymooning at the Jersey shore mid-winter. The weather that week turned into one big snowstorm. I have a photo of my mother standing on the pier, clutching her winter coat to her neck, trying to smile for the camera in spite of the blasts of snow pelting her face. With few options for outdoor activities in that climate, I suppose it can't be a surprise that I was born exactly nine months later. Personal history aside, I wanted to know how the city was born and what had transpired there between its early days and present time. Boardwalk Empire does the job and then some! I loved this book and all the characters in it. The TV series portrays just one segment of Atlantic City's long and colorful history. Besides the focus on the city itself, the author does an excellent job of linking various phases of the city's development to the larger picture, the historical events happening concurrently in the country and the world. I learned more about the treatment of African-Americans post Civil War from this book than I had previously from any other source. That information and all the other details in this book were presented in a concise and compassionate form. Nelson Johnson is not only a good author, he is a thorough researcher. I highly recommend Boardwalk Empire.
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