Regular price: $33.60

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
OR
In Cart

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

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    38
  • 4 Stars
    61
  • 3 Stars
    37
  • 2 Stars
    14
  • 1 Stars
    6

Performance

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    43
  • 4 Stars
    57
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    4

Story

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    41
  • 4 Stars
    47
  • 3 Stars
    32
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    5
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 07-17-12

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • 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???

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Mr
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 06-06-12

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 04-11-12

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Informative and Interesting book

The book provides an important lesson that vice shall never be suppressed by brute force. Instead it should be accepted as an integral part of society and contained in managed compartments accessible to all that need it. Unfortunately the self righteous never learn. Our government has by harsh laws against drugs, prostitution and other such human entertainments have actually expanded crime.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • thomas
  • charlotte, NC, United States
  • 03-28-16

Roosevelt Loses But Wins in the End

Would you consider the audio edition of Island of Vice to be better than the print version?

I didn't read the print version. The Audible version was great, really enjoyed this book.

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

Roosevelt for all his success and likeable qualities was somewhat of a pedantic, lecturing do gooder who knew nothing about the way common people lived. His role in NYC politics was naive because of the way he grew up. A sheltered book reader who didtn understand the lives of impoverished people and what they were up against. He could come to a greater understanding, but this naivety was at the heart of his life long approach to problem solving.

Which character – as performed by Joe Ochman – was your favorite?

Roosevelt. I am a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt. This book gives a nuanced and mufti-dimensional view of a person who was flawed like all of us. Must read for Roosevelt fans and historians. This is not a critical book, it lays out the history based on meticulous research. Teddy met the Tammany Hall machine and couldn't get leverage, which was not entirely his fault. His policies however would lead to a stronger party machine that still lingers today.

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

I didn't realize how much his brothers death affected his politics. Very sad story, that in a modern era might have ended differently for both men.

Any additional comments?

I enjoy history books that tell the story of the lives of the common citizen. The life of NYers in the late 1800's was difficult, and its not hard to imagine that this period ultimately made the NY we know today. Fascinating book.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • 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 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • NICHOLAS
  • milford, MA, United States
  • 03-30-12

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

2 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Pete
  • Spokane, WA, United States
  • 07-11-13

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 2 people found this review helpful