The new definitive history of gangster-era Chicago–a landmark work that is as riveting as a thriller. Now featuring a new preface, plus 115 photographs and a map of gangland Chicago.
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
“Gripping. ... Reads like a novel.” —Chicago
“Revolutionizes our understanding of Al Capone and Eliot Ness." —Matthew Pearl
In 1929, thirty-year-old gangster Al Capone ruled both Chicago's underworld and its corrupt government. To a public who scorned Prohibition, "Scarface" became a local hero and national celebrity. But after the brutal St. Valentine's Day Massacre transformed Capone into "Public Enemy Number One," the federal government found an unlikely new hero in a twenty-seven-year-old Prohibition agent named Eliot Ness. Chosen to head the legendary law enforcement team known as "The Untouchables," Ness set his sights on crippling Capone's criminal empire.
Today, no underworld figure is more iconic than Al Capone and no lawman as renowned as Eliot Ness. Yet in 2016 the Chicago Tribune wrote, "Al Capone still awaits the biographer who can fully untangle, and balance, the complexities of his life," while revisionist historians have continued to misrepresent Ness and his remarkable career.
Enter Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz, a unique and vibrant writing team combining the narrative skill of a master novelist with the scholarly rigor of a trained historian. Collins is the New York Times bestselling author of the gangster classic Road to Perdition. Schwartz is a rising-star historian whose work anticipated the fake-news phenomenon.
Scarface and the Untouchable draws upon decades of primary source research—including the personal papers of Ness and his associates, newly released federal files, and long-forgotten crime magazines containing interviews with the gangsters and G-men themselves. Collins and Schwartz have recaptured a bygone bullet-ridden era while uncovering the previously unrevealed truth behind Scarface's downfall. Together they have crafted the definitive work on Capone, Ness, and the battle for Chicago.
Mystery writer Collins (The Bloody Spur) and historian Schwartz (Broadcast Hysteria) dutifully trace the lives of Al Capone (1899 1947) and his lawman nemesis, Eliot Ness (1903 1957), in Prohibition-era Chicago. Drawing on a trove of sources, including Ness's scrapbooks, the authors look at the parallel arcs of these men in the 1920s and 1930s as Capone gained notoriety and status as Chicago's greatest public enemy while Ness climbed the ranks of law enforcement to head a squad devoted to bringing Capone to justice. The general contours of this real-life drama are familiar, including the irony that Capone was eventually convicted of tax evasion, rather than the hundreds of murders he orchestrated; the authors add depth to their depiction of both men with colorful details such as the fact that, prior to becoming adversaries, Capone and Ness both lived on South Prairie Street for a period in 1923. Collins and Schwartz present a balanced view of the role of Ness in capturing Capone, which accounts such as Jonathan Eig's Get Capone (2010) and Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's documentary Prohibition (2011) have largely dismissed. The result is an informed and valuable addition to the numerous books about Capone and Ness.
Excellent, but missing some important pieces
Excellent book, but unfortunately failed to mention the significance of Meyer Lansky at all. The book generally down played the Jewish involvement with the Chicago outfit. Had the feeling that the authors were outsiders (non-Chicagoans) looking in.