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.
Living in NJ, I found this story particularly interesting because Altantic City has had so many chapters to its history. I even know several surviving Pitneys and the tale they tell of their early ancestor corroborates this account. Mr. Montegna does a wonderful job. I thinking hearing this lays a terrific groundwork for the HBO series I'm looking forward to seeing this Fall.
I've been going to Atlantic City since the early 1960's. I know the place reasonably well for a tourist.
I had little idea of the history of the place, and the role politics played, until listening to this book.
If you like history, and politics, and are curious about Atlantic City, you'll like this book. The real life history of the political bosses that controlled Atlantic City from its founding after the civil war to modern times is better than fiction. The narration is good.
It seems that the author may have fallen in love with his subjects. His admiration for the corrupt political bosses seems a little curious.- although not a reason to not read the book
Since there aren't a lot of other histories of Atlantic City its hard to judge the historical accuracy. Some of the modern history was left out, particularly how Trump had a Wall St. analyst fired (Rothman) for predicting that his casinos were treading on thin ice. Rothman was right, as Trump's subsequent bankruptcy proved. Does he admire Trump a little too much? Trump wasted a ton of money on the Taj Mahal, by insisting on things like genuine imported marble be used in its interior, - for what? - for the scores of poor, recently arrived Russian immigrants who came down from Philly on buses and then ate their brown bagged lunches in Trump's gaudy monument to himself? -
The author's conclusion that the casinos should get together and sponsor air travel, to revitalize the resort, certainly is something that Gov. Christie should consider.
When I was in 4th grade, we had to pass "History of NJ." It was a boring class and one student even asked the teacher why we had to learn it. Our teacher told us we had to pass this course to be promoted to 5th grade. And we had to learn history because it was important to us so we would grow up to be informed and intelligent citizens who could vote responsibly. **sigh** If only that was really true ... However, when I listened to the foreward of this book, I recognized one name -- Hap Farley. I grew up just 10 miles from Atlantic City and my grandfather ran a roofing business there for many years, as well as inland tourist cabins. Just about everything I've heard in this book is new to me. One Canadian reviewer found the book boring and slow. I find it fascinating ...
My only complaint so far (I'm still listening to the first part) is that (as with any audio book) producers and readers need to familiarize themselves with LOCAL pronunciations. For example, Absecon has its accent on the second syllable and the 3rd is pronounced "kin" not "con;" Absegami is Ab-see-gah (as in gash not gosh) -mee; etc.
I recommend the book highly, even if you don't have a connection to southern NJ -- though I think people who are familiar with the locations and people in the "tale" will find it most interesting.
A contemporaty history with names and places that are part of my life. Narration was by a favorite reader. What is told of our history then, is3playing out in our Government at all levels today. As the old saying goes, if we do not read and understand history, be are bound to repeat it. Walt Doelp
I am an American History sponge, a boomer, and proud American. What is written in this book is not surprising. I grew up in a small town in Illinois and we also had our corruption. The State Trooper taking bribes to not give speeding tickets, the local bookie the county could not seat a jury to try him because everyone knew him, the city council meeting in the mayor's store back room then going to the city hall to vote. In those days as described in this book happened all over America in that time in history and still happens today. Great read, great narrator!
We're "hooked" on the tv series so I had to listen to the book since I was too impatient to wait for the next episode! Turns out the tv version and the book have very little in common, but it's ok - the book was excellent and the tv series is excellent; they're just very different.
I was expecting something quite different but regardless it was engrossing and enjoyable. Narration is outstanding and you won't be disppointed. I look forward to the HBO series.
I grew up in the city in the 60's so I took special pleasure in this historical account. This is a start to present day account of a city with a single goal in mind. Make as much money as you can in ten weeks. How things worked were out in the open and known to all the locals. Payoffs, protection, numbers and vice were part of life and even school children were aware of it. This book deals with the power brokers and politics on top of the whole thing and clarified for me why it all worked as well as it did. I imagine HBO will give us the grit, glamore and stories that were the daily life of the residents and visitors. I loved going up there and to know the whole history give my experience a context. The reader was clear and pace was perfect. I may get a hard copy to do further research. So many names were familiar to me.
If your read this book, do not expect it to be anything like the HBO series of the same name. However, you will know way, way more about most of the characters in the HBO show than your friends. Then you can tell them all about who the Commodore was in real life and they can think you are either really smart or a know-it-all.
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.
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