• Handsome Johnny

  • The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin
  • By: Lee Server
  • Narrated by: B. J. Harrison
  • Length: 18 hrs and 55 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (172 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“No one knew more about the mob, Hollywood and Las Vegas than Johnny Rosselli, and Lee Server got it all in Handsome Johnny.” (Nicholas Pileggi, best-selling author of Goodfellas)

A rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century’s darkest secrets: an untold story of Golden Age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal, and international intrigue from Lee Server, the New York Times best-selling author of Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing....

A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli’s career flourished for an extraordinary 50 years, from the bloody years of bootlegging in the Roaring Twenties - the last protege of Al Capone - to the modern era of organized crime as a dominant corporate power. The Mob’s “Man in Hollywood”, Johnny Rosselli introduced big-time crime to the movie industry, corrupting unions and robbing moguls in the biggest extortion plot in history. 

A man of great allure and glamour, Rosselli befriended many of the biggest names in the movie capital - including studio boss Harry Cohn, helping him to fund Columbia Pictures - and seduced some of its greatest female stars, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. In a remarkable turn of events, Johnny himself would become a Hollywood filmmaker - producing two of the best film noirs of the 1940s.  

Following years in federal prison, Rosselli began a new venture, overseeing the birth and heyday of Las Vegas. Working for new Chicago boss Sam Giancana, he became the gambling mecca’s behind-the-scenes boss, running the town from his suites and poolside tables at the Tropicana and Desert Inn, enjoying the Rat Pack nightlife with pals Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In the 1960s, in the most unexpected chapter in an extraordinary life, Rosselli became the central figure in a bizarre plot involving the Kennedy White House, the CIA, and an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. 

Based upon years of research, written with compelling style and vivid detail, Handsome Johnny is the great telling of an amazing tale.

©2018 Lee Server (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Handsome Johnny

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great book, not so great narration.

The story itself is excellent, very detailed, obviously well researched. The narrators impressions almost ruin it however. He makes almost every character sound like a mix of Mickey Mouse and Mike Tyson. I really have no idea what he was aiming for. It's pretty distracting. The audio quality is very good however. If you're interested in the subject matter it is worth a credit or reading a print version.

3 people found this helpful

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Great Story

Another example for the youth of how crime does not pay. It also shows your grandfather probably had a better sex life than you.

6 people found this helpful

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Wide-ranging tale, with colorful, odd narration

I live in Southern California., where plenty of this action happened, so right off the bat I was avid to hear this. I was not disappointed.

This Johnny Roselli was quite a versatile character. He took on the coloration and style of Hollywood, but was a little more sly and diplomatic and suave than Bugsy Siegel. He ranged wider too. However, he ended up in a way about as messy as Bug's exit.The telling here is casual in tone and approach, yet peppered with colorful little details and a sort of sly wit.

The tone is pretty tabloid (as in, gratuitous cussing, a pretty loose style, and as usual in an audio, not the usual disciplined citation of sources), and sometimes it seems as if Johnny was a sort of mafia magical figure, being everywhere from meeting Al Capone at the Dempsey-Tunney fight, to Judith Campbell Exner's bed (between her bouts with Giancana and JFK) to many other storied locations. But who knows? It was a time of amazing crossed paths. The author is the master of the historical narrative (and the mountain of questionable books and tales swirling around the Cold War, JFK, Rat Pack, Chicago mob, and so forth), and he is not shy to inject all sorts of casual "facts," assumptions, innuendo, conversations and thoughts. This is stimulating stuff, but not serious history. But there were actual absurdities, in this bubble of Keystone Kops and Keystone Kriminals. Plenty of sources if authentic just blather opinions of this and that, and this is tossed in, too. Why would I tolerate it? It is entertaining and sometimes yields insights and angles. It alternates between big themes and flashy celebrities and exciting times and the pettiness and fog, all of which do depict this odd "Johnny."

Lots of listeners complained about the narration. I take a different view. Yes, it is definitely weird. But it is a fitting kind of weird. The narrator, it seems, tried (successfully) to combine a sort of old-fashioned radio-announcer golden warmth (and consciously mannered old-style phrasing) with a sort of slick, sleazy side. He sounds like he takes nothing too seriously, and at moments, seems to sneer and purr through it, and sometimes at odd unexpected moments. Sometimes voices are completely whiny and bizarre. There is no gravitas here. But on balance, this sort of works for this specific subject, because Johnny Roselli was that sort of cynical poser in that sort of cultural period. The narrator handles foreign names better than average, and very rarely makes any errors. At first I was distracted by his style, but I got used to it.

2 people found this helpful

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Very interesting

This is an excellent audiobook goes into the entire lifespan of mobster Johnny Roselli is Vegas stays with the mob in LA and Jack dragomire the Chicago syndicate of course from al Capone to Sam Jean Cana so well put together story talks about president Kennedy is killing also although Roselli may have played more of a role there than we know some people believe Roselli was actually a shooter that day though this book says he has an alibi

2 people found this helpful

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Informative

Makes you wonder who’s the criminal the us government or the mobthis book was very informative

1 person found this helpful

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Needs Narrator Playing It Straight

Very annoying narrator talking out of the side of his mouth . . . unless he's quoting characters . . . then it gets a lot worse. Cartoonish, high-pitched, fast-talking, nasally impressions of '30's gangsters in B movies . . . like someone doing variations of bad Walter Winchell impersonations. If you can stomach the reader, the book's alright.

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Unbearable narration

Whoever hired this narrator as the voice should be fired on the spot. I couldn’t make it five minutes into the book.

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Entertaining

I felt that this book was pretty good, not sure how accurate it was about John roselli's life, but was good regardless. The narrator read in a way where it felt like you were involved in the scheme with Mr. roselli.

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could have been shorter.

The story is enthralling, the performance was okay, could have been 2hrs shorter. There was a good bit of filler, and the narrator did the thing where he would do terrible accents when speaking dialog for some characters. All in all this was quite good and I recommend it.

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ANOTHER WONDERFUL READ

very interesting a great narrator ....the facts were on point with other mafia books great job

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  • Laura Lee Murray
  • 01-14-22

Fascinating insight into Johnny's life and death.

I didn't want it to end. Fascinating life he led. In a sense he was a mobster but with a kind side to him and also helped people who where close to him. I tend to believe this version of the JFK event's and how Johnny was the original contact and Sam came into the plot after.

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  • Rob Taylor
  • 02-28-19

Fascinating stuff !

A good insight into the American Mobs far reaching tentacles, into the world of politics..

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  • Peter Grumpy
  • 01-30-19

History of the USA

beautifully read despite a few mistakes with ‘foreign’ words and the worst Spanish accent ever - the reader never flagged, never sounded bored, never lost my interest in what was a long, complex narrative.
The story was fascinating, from the roaring 20’s and Prohibition to the birth of the movie business in Hollywood and organised crime’s move into Las Vegas, the assassination of JFK, Frank Sinatra, the Cuban invasion, the FBI and the CIA all examined in a fresh way from an entirely different point of view. The portrait of a fascinating life in the American century. You will not be disappointed.