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Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-Loving New York | [Richard Zacks]

Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-Loving New York

In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with forty thousand prostitutes, glittery casinos, and all-night dives. Police cap­tains took hefty bribes to see nothing while reformers writhed in frustration. With cameos by Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, and a horde of very angry cops, Island of Vice is an unforgettable snap­shot of turn-of-the-century New York in all its seedy glory and a brilliant miniature of one of America’s most colorful presidents.
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Publisher's Summary

When young Theodore Roosevelt was appointed police commissioner of New York City, he had the astounding gall to try to shut down the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. This is the story of how TR took on Manhattan vice... and vice won.

In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with forty thousand prostitutes, glittery casinos, and all-night dives. Police cap­tains took hefty bribes to see nothing while reformers writhed in frustration.

In Island of Vice, Richard Zacks paints a vivid portrait of the lewd underbelly of 1890s New York, and of Theodore Roosevelt, the puritanical, cocksure police commissioner resolved to clean it up. Writing with great wit and zest, Zacks explores how young Roosevelt goes head to head with Tammany Hall, takes midnight rambles with muckraker Jacob Riis, and tries to convince two million New Yorkers to enjoy wholesome family fun. When Roosevelt’s crackdown succeeds too well, even his supporters turn on him, and TR discovers that New York loves its sin more than its salvation.

With cameos by Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, and a horde of very angry cops, Island of Vice is an unforgettable snap­shot of turn-of-the-century New York in all its seedy glory and a brilliant miniature of one of America’s most colorful presidents.

©2012 Richard Zacks (P)2012 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

“Here is young Teddy Roosevelt as the reformist New York City Police Commissioner confronted in 1895 with a cabal of unaccountably wealthy police officials, whole neighborhoods of brothels, and the paws of the Tammany Tiger in everything. A delicious municipal history, impeccably researched, excitingly told.” (E. L. Doctorow, award-winning author of Ragtime)

"In the early 1890s, New York was America's vice capital, with thousands of prostitutes and countless all-night gambling halls. But then, in 1895, Teddy Roosevelt was appointed police commissioner. Richard Zacks paints an engagingly vivid picture of the rise of Roosevelt, the birth of the reform movement, and the creation of 20th century America. Roosevelt comes alive with all of his blustery and belligerent passion, and so does New York City." (Walter Isaacson, best-selling author of Steve Jobs and Einstein: His Life and Universe)

“From the opening pages of his rousing new book, Island of Vice, Richard Zacks plunges readers into the filth, debauchery and corruption of 1890s New York. When an ambitious young Theodore Roosevelt strides in to clean up the mess, the story, already brimming with incredible characters and jaw-dropping details, only gets better. “ (Candice Millard, best-selling author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (116 )
5 star
 (21)
4 star
 (46)
3 star
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3.7 (97 )
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3.9 (95 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    James Hampstead, NC, USA 04-22-12
    James Hampstead, NC, USA 04-22-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting and informative"
    What did you love best about Island of Vice?

    Provided a very good understanding of turn of the century (19th to 20th) NY and national politics, morals, and how Theodore Roosevelt tried to put NYC on a better path against overwhelming odds.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Island of Vice?

    Anecdotes captured from letters, journals, etc. detailing Roosevelt's hands on approach to changing the cutlure in the NYPD.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent book that is very readable/listenable. I have read several TR books and thoroughly enjoyed the detailed material focusing on TR's time as a Police Commissioner and the insight it provided into big city machine politics. While this book is entertaining, it is not a historical fiction nor is it intended to read like a novel. Bottom line, this book kept me entertained during 15hrs of commute and exercise time and I was smarter at the end; it was worth my credit and I have recommended to others.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 07-17-12
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 07-17-12 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    590
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    Story
    "The making of a man"

    TR, at age 35. left a comfortable job in Civil Service in 1895 to become the chief commissioner of New York's police department. He was ill-prepared for the bureaucratic tangles that faced him. He set out to inforce ALL laws and clean up a corrupt police department. The city was one of the countries most violent, crooked, crime-ridden place. Other biographers has skipped this two year period of TR's life but Zack covers it completely. The book bogs down in too much statistics of crime therefore is an overkill trying to prove that the corruption and crime was rampant. The book does point out the crucial period in the evolution of TR. The job did much for TR in that he learned the impracticality of bitter feuds, the dangers of impulsive crusades and toughened his skin and established him as a reformer. If you can get through the repetition of data the book provides an interesting look at New York City in the 1890's and the making of TR. Joe Ochman did a good job with the narration.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 05-01-12
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 05-01-12 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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    Story
    "A lesson lost for Prohibition!"
    Where does Island of Vice rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This one is in the middle. I enjoyed it, but it isn't the best I have listened to. Great story, great narrator.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Island of Vice?

    The character of Theodore Roosevelt. I believe he must have been OC/D. Everything to him was either black or white. He could never do anything half way. A remarkable man.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The scene when the policeman arrested everyone at this one bar, and then the judge releasing everyone (about 200 men and women) except the owner. Craziness!


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

    Theodore Roosevelt really wanted to do what was right. He wanted to obey all the laws. Unfortunately, no one else in New York City wanted him to enforce the Sunday laws of no liquor. It was a poor man's only day they could drink and relax and he just couldn't understand why they wanted that. A case of a rich man being way out of touch with regular working people.


    Any additional comments?

    If only the Temperance movement had taken to heart the lesson from New York City trying to regulate morality maybe the Prohibition era would have never happened. What if???

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 04-11-12
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 04-11-12 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "the good old days....or were they?"

    Quite a detailed view of how Teddy Roosevelt spent a couple of years trying to "clean up" the Big Apple. The politics of the day are tightly woven-in throughout the story. No doubt about it, the guy was on a mission.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 06-06-12
    Mr North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 06-06-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting but dry"

    I had high hopes for this book, but it didn't really deliver for me. It comes across as a rather dry, stale retelling of the events that took place - like a history textbook - when it could have been so much more.
    It's an interesting slice of American history, and the narrator does a good job, but I wasn't that engaged with the story, and never really cared about any of the characters.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pete Spokane, WA, United States 07-11-13
    Pete Spokane, WA, United States 07-11-13
    ratings
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    4
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    Story
    "Not very intersting. Book kind of drags on and on"
    Any additional comments?

    Not very intersting. Book kind of drags on and on. I would not recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    WILLIAM 09-21-12
    WILLIAM 09-21-12 Member Since 2010
    ratings
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    27
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    Story
    "Thought it would be better than it was."

    I've always been fascinated with the life of T.R. But this book, although deep in facts, is a little boring. Not the author's fault. It's just a very boring period in the life of Teddy.
    He comes off sounding more like Rudolph Guilliani in his pre-9-11 years, then he does when he took on the big corporations and the Anti-trust battles at the turn of the century.
    Overall, kind of blah.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NICHOLAS milford, MA, United States 03-30-12
    NICHOLAS milford, MA, United States 03-30-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "tough to follow"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    It read like a history book that was poorly written.


    Has Island of Vice turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Somewhat


    What didn’t you like about Joe Ochman’s performance?

    Voice wasn't bad but no inflection


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    no didn't get through it


    1 of 7 people found this review helpful
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