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Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City | [Nelson Johnson]

Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City

From its inception, Atlantic City has always been a town dedicated to the fast buck, and this wide-reachinghistory offers a riveting account of its past 100 year, from the city's heyday as a Prohibition-era mecca of lawlessness to its rebirth as a legitimate casino resort in the modern era.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2009 Nelson Johnson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (427 )
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  •  
    Val 08-22-12
    Val 08-22-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Who's who in the city"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Flavius Morro Bay, CA, United States 11-26-11
    Flavius Morro Bay, CA, United States 11-26-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Solid and Entertaining"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Moire Linden, VA, United States 11-23-11
    Moire Linden, VA, United States 11-23-11 Member Since 2002

    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.

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    "Well told history of Atlantic City"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wallen Danderyd, Sweden 09-11-11
    Wallen Danderyd, Sweden 09-11-11 Member Since 2003
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    "Republicans and gangsters"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura The Woodlands, TX, United States 03-31-11
    Laura The Woodlands, TX, United States 03-31-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Glad I stuck with it"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tundrabeast Grand Forks, ND United States 09-10-10
    Tundrabeast Grand Forks, ND United States 09-10-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Well Written...But"

    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....

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nils heber, UT, United States 02-05-11
    Nils heber, UT, United States 02-05-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Not bad"

    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

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gotta Tellya Santa Rosa, CA 08-25-14
    Gotta Tellya Santa Rosa, CA 08-25-14 Member Since 2013

    KEC

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    "Atlantic City's fascinating history."
    What made the experience of listening to Boardwalk Empire the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What other book might you compare Boardwalk Empire to and why?

    None come to mind. This is a unique, stand alone story.


    What about Joe Mantegna and Terence Winter (foreword) ’s performance did you like?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric J. Toll 08-15-14

    Desert Aries

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    "It's not the TV series"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 05-25-14
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 05-25-14 Member Since 2011

    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "More than Nucky Thompson!"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 31 results PREVIOUS1234NEXT
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  • Mikey
    poole, United Kingdom
    8/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Note: This is NOT a fictional novel!"
    Any additional comments?

    Having read some previous reviews for this audiobook, I saw that some people had bought this thinking it was the original story book for the HBO TV series, and I think they expected a novel that was more of a fictional storybook. Although it is not a fictional story, if you are a fan of the BE series or if you are interested in the roaring 1920s era, I would still recommend that you try this book. In fact, even if you are not particularly interested in this era, I think it is definitely worth giving this book a listen!

    I was hooked from the start, the author did his homework and I would definitely recommend this to my friends; of all ages and interests.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Meena
    London, United Kingdom
    6/8/11
    Overall
    "Good Book"

    I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. Thanks to Audible for having this in store.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Brian
    United Kingdom
    12/26/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing"

    I was expecting a fast paced novel on which the TV series of the same name was based. Instead, this book is a narrative and not all that edifying really. I returned it.

    Brian

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
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