Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series
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Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  38 reviews
History remembers Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, an underworld genius. The real-life model for The Great GatsbyOCOs Meyer Wolfsheim and Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls, Rothstein was much more?and less?than a fixer of baseball games. He was everything that made 1920s Manhattan roar. Featuring Jazz Age Broadway with its thugs, speakeasies, s...more
ebook, 528 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Basic Books (AZ) (first published January 1st 2003)
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Harold
Excellent bio on AR. Lots of interesting insights here concerning not only Rothstein but the state of politics and corruption in the earlier part of the 20th century. I found this very readable. I would like to revisit Leo Katcher's The Big Bankroll,another (earlier) AR bio for a comparision. It's a long time since I read that and I would like to see if it is as readable and to what extent, if any, this is derived or influenced by Bankroll.
Thomas
Near the end, I finally had to abandon this too-long, too-slow, too-discursive "biography" of Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein is a fascinating figure and the times he lived in are amazing, and there are a lot of great anecdotes in this book. But I'm afraid the overall information is too random and all over the place. I have read over 100 books on organized crime, so when I read a new one I should have at least a vague sense from the first few chapters where this guy fits into the ove...more
Aditya Kane
I started reading this book thanks to being a big fan of Boardwalk Empire. This book is more or less the only one available on Arnold Rothstein. The first 100 pages the narrative is a bit too difficult to follow with too many names being a little overwhelming. But then it starts laying down the various cons, setups, scandals of Rothstein very well and the research seems impeccable. Thankfully the author also manages to not be too judgemental or apologetic to his subject.
Bob
This book took me a long time to finish. That was in part because I got married and went on a honeymoon after I got. But, it also was a somewhat ponderous undertaking.

Arnold Rothstein's life should have been fascinating. Maybe it was, but the book is mostly just a string of anecdotes about Rothstein and Broadway and other New York lowlifes in the first 28 years of the 20th Century. There are a lot of stories to wade through. And it's hard to keep track of who is who.

The part about the 1919 World...more
Matt
Rothstein is a very good read. This book does a great job or describing the inner workings and history of “A.R.” and his life and times. Clearly a manic, brilliant and troubled individual, A.R. was wired as a pure man who had to constantly be involved in some form of gambling.

Known as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series (and got away with it). He also had a substantial hand in both the Bootlegging and later drug trade in New York City.There are a number of very interesting episodes which th...more
Mark Nader
Author's slow narrative killed this story
Curtis Butturff
Arnold Rothstein is not a well known figure these days but he was a major player in the American underworld back in the day. I've run across various mentions of him in any number of books but this biography is probably the best monograph on his life to date.

That being said there will be those who argue that Petrusza has essentially over played his hand here and magnified A.R.'s importance but I'd argue that the sources and extensive research give his point of view some merit. This is not a polem...more
Paul Donahue
The story of the life and times of Arnold Rothstein -- his many criminal exploits in iconic 1920s Manhattan -- is fascinating. Unfortunately this particular book fails to convey the forest for the trees, and what could have been an epic tale gets bogged down with an impossible-to-remember amount of names, court cases, and circumstances. I saved it from 2-star status largely because I don't really blame the author: there's an absurd amount of hijinks to catalog in Rothstein's relatively short lif...more
Cactusjac
A very entertaining and interesting account of the life and times of Arnold Rothstein, criminal extraordinaire. He helped invent the modern drug trade, nurtured future super-crooks Lucky Luciano & Meyer Lansky, worked extensively with the corrupt political machine of Tammany Hall, and fixed the 1919 World Series... and those are just a few of the highlights detailed in this book. It is almost hard to believe that one man could do so much in a shortened lifetime, but Rothstein was a very spec...more
Heather
I have always been fascinated with the notorious gangsters of the early 1900’s America – it probably stems from my criminal justice degree background. I also have always loved reading about the period of the 1920s and 30s – all the glitz and glamor. This book has both of those qualities and was absolutely packed with random tidbits and facts.

Rothstein is one of the most fascinating characters of this period – he had his hands in every piece of the pie from gambling, to rum running, fixing sports...more
Oldak
There are plenty of good synopses among these reviews, so I'll post a few notes. I decided to read to this book after encountering Arnold Rothstein on Boardwalk Empire. He's a vastly intelligent man who carries on his business with finesse. The real life counterpart of this character is quite the same, playing many games and playing them well. The book gives you some insight into the mind of the man and his relationships, and paints a picture of the corruption in New York in the 1920s.

My main pr...more
Tyler
This can be pretty slow going for awhile. It can seem to throw out way too many facts like the author is trying to tell the history but not let a story get in the way of his research. I agree to that but stick with it and by about the halfway point, magically or Matrix-like, the facts read like a story and the pages start flying by. It's weird but this is a similar experience I had when reading a few other New York-based histories such as, The Murder of Helen Jewett and Triangle: The Fire That C...more
Christopher Lonero
I picked up this book to learn more about an intriguing character in the current hit series Boardwalk Empire. This book like other Mob historical non-fiction books I have read is a complex read. Mob books often include many names, double-triple crosses that are often confusing, and concentrate heavily on legislative documentation from court history. This makes the pleasure of reading these books difficult and at times exhausting. As noted in other reviews on Goodreads of this book, the author hi...more
Kavita
Admittedly, I got interested in Rothstein after watching Boardwalk Empire. But who knew that the real AR was depicted so exactly in the show?!

The book is very well researched and dug deep into Rothstein's life, presenting all aspects of his life from birth to his death. It also discusses most of his 'businesses' and alliances in detail. It can certainly be the definitive bio of AR, but there are weaknesses.

The topics fly all over the place and often jumps from one topic to the other, which makes...more
Lee
This is a biography of Arnold Rothstein the man infamous for fixing the 1919 World Series. It follows his childhood when he broke with his Orthodox parents. His early beginnings in gambling running floating crap games and casinos in NYC and Saratoga and his emergence as one of the preeminent fixers, it covers his involvement in the fixing of the World Series his involvement with bootlegging and the drug trade. It also speculates on the circumstances involving his murder. Pretty good biography th...more
Frank
Not getting enough of Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire, I dove into this detailed look at his life. As with any bio, the main question is what did I learn that I didn't know going in. I knew Rothstein was an influential figure of his era, but I didn't realize to what extent. He essentially held sway over both the 1920s underworld and, really, the whole of New York City. Not only did he fix the 1919 World Series (he did...from two different sides), but he also basically invented the modern drug trad...more
Frank
So happy to see I'm not the only one who felt this book was a bit on the dense side. don't get me wrong; the subject matter is great, and there are some fantastic tid bits in these pages, but I started to consider shelving it again when it began to feel more like studying than reading.
Tom Hammer
A little slow in pace, it's a good bio that helps provide the important context of criminal life in Manhattan during the dawn of the 20th century. In a criminal world still dominated by brutish thugs, Rothstein's intellect promoted h to the top, quickly. A good read.
Devin Wren
Interesting book about an interesting man. Scary to see how corrupt our institutions were and I doubt they are less corrupt now. Author does a good job of juggling a lot of players and keeping us involved. Does show that crime is a short term money maker and the man (read government and "legitimate" businesses) always get their's in the end.
Charles Salzberg
This exhaustively researched biography tracks the life and times of the milk-swilling Arnold Rothstein, best known as the man who fixed the World Series. Using a number of different sources the author puts the man in context of the times in which corruption, including the police and the judiciary, ran rampant. Rothstein seemed to have his hands in everything and knew everyone, and the reader gets a full picture of these rough and tumble times, as well as picking up fascinating mini-profiles of p...more
Ken Lawrence
Well-researched biography of Arnold Rothstein who I previously knew best from Hyman Roth's great line in the Godfather, Part II "I've loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919" and as a good character on one of my favorite shows, Boardwalk Empire. The "real" Arnold Rothstein also known as "the Great Brain" and "the Big Fixer" is even more interesting than the "fictional" one. The man was into everything from gambling, politics, bootlegging, real estate, drug runni...more
Denis
For fans of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Rothstein is a compelling, fascinating profile of Arnold Rothstein.
Penny
I found this an engrossing biography. Rothstein (AR to his contemporaries) had his hand in a mind blowing number of criminal activities, involving everyone who was anyone in that incredibly corrupt period in New York. There are one or two upright and honest folks mentioned, but not many - it seems you were in the pit, or you depended on those who lived there in some manner. AR was more odd than Vincent Gigante, in a different way. He lived a life that should have made him lonely and miserable, b...more
Jay Marcus
So far very interesting. A subject I'm really interested in.
Dakki
As other reviewers pointed out, there's just not enough information on Rothstein to convincingly portray him as a crime lord, yet his biographers (including this one) consistently attempt to do so.

Here's a slightly different take: Is it just -possible- that maybe Rothstein wasn't a major player, just a gambler and hanger-on who happened to know a bunch of people who were or became notorious?

It's at least as likely as the viewpoint pushed in this book, but I guess that second hypothesis wouldn't...more
Oyster
Arnold Rothstein treated life like one big masquerade ball, wearing his character like a costume: World Series fixer one day, loan shark or rumrunner the next. In a life stranger than fiction, no one epitomizes the Roaring Twenties quite like Rothstein.


alissa
The first hundred and fifty - two hundred pages were really interesting. Pietrusza was telling a great story. I didn't want to put the book down.

However, in the middle that started to taper off and by the last hundred or so pages, there were simply too many superfluous facts and dates and names, that getting to the end became a chore.

There was a little too much devotion to specific (often not pertinent) details and not enough to the story.
Andrew
there are so many facts to sort through in this book -- and at times this can be overwhelming -- but, ultimately, Pietrusza displays a phenomenally detailed portrait of who Arnold Rothstein was, all that he was involved in, and the mighty hand he held in almost all aspects of 1920s New York City -- and beyond. it is truly incredible the influence this man had when it is all laid out, as Pietrusza has done.
Meave
This took me two months to finish because David Pietrusza managed to make a fascinating story of an amazing historical figure into a dull, over-written, weirdly sensational nap-machine. How do you make the biography of someone so interesting into such a boring book? HOW? Two stars because of A.R.'s magnetism and also it wasn't the worst thing I've ever written. I mean, it could've been anti-Semitic?
Chris
I got into the character on Boardwalk Empire, did some research and found this book. You hear a lot of stories about prohibition, and Al Capone and the 20's and all that, but this guy was right in the middle of everything. He was a gambler, a bootlegger, a loan shark, a business owner, among many other things. He was really an interesting guy, its worth your time.
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David Pietrusza has produced a number of critically-acclaimed works concerning 20th century American history.

His book "1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies" was named by ForeWord Magazine as among the best political biographies.

Pietrusza's "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents" received a Kirkus starred review, was honored as a Kirkus "Best Books of 2007" tit

...more
More about David Pietrusza...
1920: The Year of the Six Presidents 1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies 1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America Silent Cal's Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis

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