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Boardwalk Empire Audiobook

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

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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

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  •  
    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
  •  
    Jojo 01-19-14
    Jojo 01-19-14

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Era lover"
    Would you listen to Boardwalk Empire again? Why?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Of course, the main character but there were many colorful ones.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I learned about corruption of that era and geographical area in a way I had not known before reading the audiobook.


    Any additional comments?

    A delightful book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony S. McComas Newton, MA, United States 01-23-13
    Anthony S. McComas Newton, MA, United States 01-23-13 Member Since 2011

    Captain Nemo

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    ""Fat Tony" narrates the history of the mob in NJ!"

    Joe Mantegna does an amazing job of narrating a very well written book about the history of the Mob in Atlantic City. This book takes you through the more seedy side of Atlantic City's history. The author really did his research and the book keeps you entertained and informed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angelo Torquati luxemburg 06-19-12
    Angelo Torquati luxemburg 06-19-12 Listener Since 2004
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    "A good and thorough storybook"

    A good and thorough storybook that should be found in every NJ middle school library. Listening to this book, I learned a lot, that I didn't know before. Nevertheless, the book is a far cry from the HBO series. Many listeners will feel disappointed by the absolute lack of action scenes. Thanks to Joe Mantegna, the whole thing is somewhat salvaged from boredom.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Wilmington, NC, United States 12-08-11
    Laura Wilmington, NC, United States 12-08-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Well done tale of a fascinating place..."

    Few places have such unusual stories as the founding and growth of Atlantic City. And this author serves it well, telling that story in fast-paced, clear prose. The narrator adds to the clarity with a well-done reading. If you have any interest in American urban history, listen to this whether you've seen the prohibition-era chapters dramatized in the HBO series or not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pete 08-06-10
    Pete 08-06-10
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    "Disappointing"

    I bought this one after seeing the HBO ads. Reads more like a history paper than a novel. It makes for great research but a poor tale if you're looking to be entertained. The only saving grace is Montegna's skill as a narrator. Don't waste your monthly credit on this book.

    22 of 47 people found this review helpful
  •  
    james 11-26-11
    james 11-26-11
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    "Sychophantic apologia for New Jersey politics,"

    Don't get this book hoping for some of Nucky Thompson a la Steve Buscemi. Sure, a good part of the book is about this era and those bracketing it, but the rest of the book, and its a lot, concerns New Jersey and particularly Atlantic County politics. If someone told me the chairman of the Republican party of NJ had commissioned this book I'd believe it.
    Towards the end the justifications and obsequiousness becomes really noticeable.
    In my opinion the bad parts did not make up for the good and time would be better spent on something else. I ditched the book with 10 minutes to go, just could not listen anymore.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. V. Anden 10-10-10
    N. V. Anden 10-10-10

    Iconoclast

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    "How I finally learned to sample before buying"

    An outline of the effect of polical machines on American cities Atlantic City in particular, from the Civil War to present times. Atlantic City is an excellent case study since the original Sin City was created on a desolate barrier island off the coast of New Jersey starting in the 1870s. Amidst some historical details, the author indulges in several treatises about american life: vice, corruption, political machines' exploitation of minorities and the working class, etc...
    The only connection between this book and the HBO series of the same title is just that. This book's thin outline is the frail structure on which HBO drapes imagined events and characters. By itself the book might be interesting but it is undermined by an atrocious reading. They apparently recorded the narrator's first encounter with the book and the misplaced emphasis, swallowed words and general sense of confusion are blatant. The producer and director have failed the listener. Listen to the sample.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louis A. Ferendo NJ, USA 04-08-14
    Louis A. Ferendo NJ, USA 04-08-14 Listener Since 2010

    Professor Lou

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    "Too Llong"
    Would you listen to Boardwalk Empire again? Why?

    Perhaps ,I might have read the second half, but I can’t say since I became bored to death by the first three hours of the reading; a precise History of Southern NJ railroad system as related to Transportation to Atlantic City. Joe Montagne is a great reader/narrator but nevertheless I had to put the book down. Wish I had returned it back then but I wasn’t aware of that option. When Working with Audio books it is difficult to jump ahead (or back) to a set point in the book.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Again, I can’t say because I never finished the book. I can say It is too long for my reading temperament.


    Did Joe Mantegna and Terence Winter (foreword) do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    They are both excellent readers


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Again, I can’t say because I never finished the book. I can't really comment


    Any additional comments?


    sorry, NO.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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