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.
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
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.
There's only one thing to say about the narrator...it's Joe Montenga, so it's perfect.
I did have a bait-and-switch feeling about the buy. The book is hyper-connected to the HBO series. Audible offered a 30 minute teaser that even started with a component of the HBO series. That's it. That's all. About one chapter of story and the rest is non-fiction narration.
For me, the appeal is that my family is from Philadelphia, and during any vacation from our Midwest home to the relatives in Philly included a day-jaunt to Atlantic City. I love Monopoly, so nothing more need be said about the connection to Atlantic City.
I found the book interesting and the history of the resort fascinating. But I could push pause and walk away for hours, even days. Try doing that with a Spencer novel Montenga narrates.
Just know going in, you will learn everything you never realized about Atlantic City, but you're not going to find out whether Nochy Thompson (Johnson) marries Mrs. Schroeder and adopts the two kids. You're not even going to hear about a weird federal agent trying to bring him down.
The television series portrays the characters well from the book's real life. The book is not a novel.
It's well written, thorough, documented, and interesting listening. The last chapter is a bit of a lecture to the folks living in Atlantic City today that's a little smarmy.
I kept it, and might even listen again some day, but not before I re-listen to the Spencer series Montenga narrates. I think I hear "Potshot" calling.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
I really enjoyed this history of Atlantic City on which parts of the HBO show is based. The early years of getting a city built were quite interesting and the fact that the city was never an uncorrupted town. It was so out of the way that the only way to get everyday people to come was to have 4 different railroads and gambling and entertainment.
The locals determined that these hardworking people wanted to let loose and they decided to look the other way so they would come back. Prostitution was accepted and booze (when it was illegal) and gambling were tolerated. It was a wild town especially in Enoch Johnson's day. HBO calls him Nucky Thompson but they are the same.
My favorite parts of the book were the parts about the blacks and religion. It's always a good reminder.
The later parts of the book are not as appealing. Who cares how The Donald arrived in Atlantic City? The machinations of getting gambling legalized was enthralling.
The narrator was very good.
Say something about yourself!
I absolutely will listen to Boardwalk Empire again. It is a sensational story about a time period that I love. I could nearly hear the jazz playing in the background. Every character is so well defined that it leaps from the recording. The plot is easy to follow, no bogging down in details but still detailed enough to make it real and interesting. I watched the HBO series (based on this book) before getting the audiobook. The book is better in a lot of ways but the series was fabulous and I was disappointed when both came to an end.
Of course, the main character but there were many colorful ones.
I learned about corruption of that era and geographical area in a way I had not known before reading the audiobook.
A delightful book.
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