Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City
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Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City

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3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  1,336 ratings  ·  224 reviews
Providing the inspiration and source material for the upcoming HBO series produced by Academy Award–winning director Martin Scorsese and Emmy Award–winning screenwriter Terence Winter, this riveting and wide-reaching history explores the sordid past of Atlantic City—forever a freewheeling town long-dedicated to the fast buck—from the city's heyday as a Prohibition-era mecc...more
ebook, TV Tie-in Edition, 337 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Medford Press (first published July 2002)
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Kemper
If fans of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire read this hoping just for more stories about corrupt politicians, gangsters, bootlegging, sex, violence, and a disfigured hit man, they’re probably going to be disappointed. However, anyone looking for an interesting history of Atlantic City from its humble beginnings of a second rate resort town through it’s glory days of as a popular destination point during Prohibition because of it’s total unwillingness to enforce anti-booze laws to it’s current sta...more
The Library Lady
No, this isn't a pot boiler full of sex, violence and perfect looking people. That's the highly entertaining, fiction based on fact TV series, and this is not the novelization of that show.

What this is is the whole history of Atlantic City, from its founding as a health resort, its success mainly as a resort for working class folk from Philadelphia, its golden age under "Nucky" Johnson (NOT "Thompson"), its post-prohibition fall that continued for decades and its rebirth as a casino resort town....more
Michael
Atlantic City has quite a history, from the rocky beginnings to its colourful characters like Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson (subtitle: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City) tells the history of this US city. While this book inspired the current HBO series of the same name, this is not a reason to read this. The HBO show tells the story of a fictional character based on Nucky Johnson (called Nucky Thompson in the show). I...more
Ryan
If you are planning to read this book for supplemental background for the HBO show, don't bother. This book is more of a concise history of the city than a focus piece on Nucky and the players of that time. Only roughly 3 chapters cover the Nucky era and there's no depth at all. A few quotes here and a 3 sentence Al Capone story there. The only depth is spent on descriptions of attempted indictments and trials. It really doesn't do much to expound on the players of the time or specifics of the c...more
Hood
Bound: City of Swing
SunPost Weekly September 16, 2010 | John Hood
http://bit.ly/90vmwP

Getting with the Book behind Boardwalk Empire

The 500 Club, Paradise Café, Club Harlem, Little Belmont, The Bath and Turf Club, the Cliquot Club… just saying names of these fabled swing spots evokes an era of high vice and low blows. These were gambling dens, before the era of casinos, yet run wide open. Why? Because in Prohibition era Atlantic City, what was once vice was now habit and it wouldn’t be broken for...more
Janell
Sep 14, 2012 Janell rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: American political history scholars, fans of the TV series "Boardwalk Empire"
I'm sure that readers of in-depth, detailed political history will find this book fascinating from cover to cover. Because I am not quite the "in-depth political history scholar", I didn't find the entire book so much fascinating as I found it to be long-winded.

That said, there were in-depth parts of the book I did like. These were the parts that focused more on the characters I was familiar with as a fan of the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire".

It was interesting to find out how Atlantic City star...more
Bryan
If you're a fan of the HBO series based on this book, as I am, you may or may not be surprised to find that this is a serious history, and a good one.

The book covers the entire history of the city. Early chapters run from its founding (when horses were bitten to death by stinging flies that bred in the undrained tide pools), through the establishment of the railroads, the early tourist industry, and the predominantly Black working class that made it run, and the rise of the Republican/mafia mac...more
Toni
I enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book quite a bit. As an island and a city dedicated to "sin" and vice, it's one of the most interesting places to study how the political boss system worked. Obviously, every city had political bosses in that era, but other cities managed to have other industries and usually two political bosses, but not AC, so it was really fascinating to see how deep and widespread the corruption could really get.

The last quarter of the book really lost my interest. Since Trump...more
Manny
If you are looking for a book to mirror the HBO series, continue to look. I must admit, it was what I was looking for. I wanted more insight on Enoch "Nucky" Johnson AKA Nucky Thompson. Although it was not that, I was pleasantly surprised.

Very interesting book about the rise, fall and rise again of Atlantic City, New Jersey or formally known as the Island of Absegami. Although it does spend a considerable time on Enoch "Nucky" Johnson and his predecessor, Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle, it delved int...more
Ian
Admittedly, I picked this book up because of the tv show, since I was curious to find out just how much of it was based on actual fact. After reading it, I can say that the producers have generally stuck to the spirit, if not the letter, of the historical record, and although they've taken a fair bit of dramatic license with the material, it's not because Atlantic City's history lacks drama. From its early days, when it was planned as an upper-crust health resort (something that went by the boar...more
Julie
Boardwalk Empire is an interesting, and enjoyable, if rather uneven, read. Victims of this, most recent, recession economy will undoubtedly be interested to know that Atlantic City’s initial development and success was brought on, not by the nation’s wealthiest vacations, but rather, by blue collar workers and wage earners, eager for a weekend getaway they could afford. The resort’s unique and complicated relationship with minority workers during that time, also makes for rather fascinating read...more
Amatullah Richard
Compelling read about the growth and history of Atlantic City from a sand dune to a den of corruption to a megapolis for casinos. The book is the basis for the hit tv show Boardwalk Empire. Much of the book focuses on the reigns of power and corruption under "The Commodore" and Nucky Johnson. However, the book is more. It tells how Atlantic City started as the dream of an unassuming doctor, the unique racial situation in the city over the years, and the multi decade deterioration of the city bef...more
Barbara VA
I've started going to Atlantic City when I was about 5 from New York with my parents, so I saw the city thru the early 60's and into the late. We would pass hotels and clubs and they would tell me who they saw perform, enjoyed the diving horse on the Steel Pier and swam in the ocean. By the time I was a teen they felt it was not a safe place to go anymore, so I messed the building of the casinos but do remember reading all about it. I am still an east Coaster and I finally had a chance to visit...more
Lauren Albert
The cheesy cover on my edition does a disservice to this interesting history of Atlantic City from its beginnings as an idea in the mind of an overworked and underpaid doctor in 19th century New Jersey. It is about more than corruption and organized crime--Johnson shows us how the City got its start from the building of rail tracks and its sordid fall from the boom in car ownership and the ending of prohibition. Along the way he relates the changing race relations in the city and the early segre...more
Kelly
I really wanted to like this book, but I eventually had to abandon it. I knew going in that it wasn't a novelization of the hit HBO show. I didn't mind; in fact, I welcomed it as I like non-fiction and wanted to learn more about the history of Atlantic City. But the book is so dry... I had a really hard time getting interested in it. (view spoiler)...more
Kacey
I'm going to preface this review by saying that yes, I have seen some of the television show Boardwalk Empire. However, I'm a huge fan of history and I had a feeling I would enjoy this even without having seen the show. And I did indeed enjoy the history presented here. If this book focused on the history and the people, maybe I would have enjoyed it even more.

It may be unfair of me to give this fewer stars because of the huge political focus, but unfortunately that's where the book lost me. I w...more
Jay
I wish Goodreads had a choice in scales. I had to chose between a 2 - it's ok, and a 3 - I liked it. What I really wanted to chose was more a "it was not what I thought it would be, though that's not the author's fault, and it seemed to be written in a style that should work well for a history but in this case felt a little flat, and why is Donald Trump in this". I was hoping for a real life look at Atlantic City in the Twenties, a la the HBO series. This book actually starts a few decades prior...more
Ken Lawrence

Boardwalk Empire is a fascinating true history of Atlantic City's birth and development through the 20th Century. It's the basis for the HBO series but it's more entertaining because it's all true. The intersection of politics and racketeering in running the city is unbelievable. Fans of the series might be disappointed that it's not all about Nucky but it's a good read for any fan of politics, gangsters, cities and the Shore.
Brian
"When freed Black tradesmen were thrown into competition with White workers, there was often open social conflict. White workers, in both the South and North, reacted violently. They wouldn't permit one of their own to be displaced by a Black worker, regardless of how skilled he might be. Despite their newfound freedom, few employers risked hiring skilled Blacks, regardless of how cheap they'd work, for fear of reprisals by White workers. African-American historian E.F. Frazier found that at the...more
Beth
An enjoyable read about the history of Atlantic City. As others mentioned I enjoyed the first half to two thirds the latter was a bit less intriguing and more a listing of corrupt politicians who controlled the city. It did make me think as it sure seemed AC faired much better under corrupt regimes than honest ones.
Kristi Richardson
I really enjoyed this history of Atlantic City on which parts of the HBO show is based. The early years of getting a city built were quite interesting and the fact that the city was never an uncorrupted town. It was so out of the way that the only way to get everyday people to come was to have 4 different railroads and gambling and entertainment.

The locals determined that these hardworking people wanted to let loose and they decided to look the other way so they would come back. Prostitution wa...more
Chris
Surprisingly interesting. Atlantic City has quite the history behind it, starting as more or less a sandy wasteland, into one of the most innovative and popular resort locations on the east coast, to an utter waste of derelict buildings, and then once again to a pretty decent resort town. It hasn't accomplished it's former glory even with it's rise from the ashes, but could be eventually. Still sounded pretty impressive though, especially if you are interested in gambling (which I am not).

There...more
Jim Kelsh
This book...contrary to popular culture is not the story of the great HBO series by the same name.
It is, however arealy well told and researched history of Absecon Island AKA Atlantic City.
There really was a Nucky...in this case Johnson; there really was a Commodore...AC was the hedonistic center of Prohibition breaking.
Johnson also goes back to when Atlantic City was a farm. He details the bossism personified by Nucky, and Frank "Hap" Farley (he of the rest-stop fame). He goes into the buildu...more
Jo Stafford
This history of Atlantic City traces the gambling resort's life from its birth as a planned seaside health resort through the years of corruption, vice and its cosy relationship with the local Republican Party machine, the arrival of organized crime and on to the city's decline following World War 2, and its emergence as a casino town with the legalization of gambling in the 1970s, which, author Nelson Johnson says, has revitalized the economy. The book is very informative and I found an early c...more
Ümit
"Gerçekten de dibe düşerken aynı kişilerle karşılaşıyorsunuz. Merdivenden yukarıya tırmanırken, onlara iyi davranırsanız daha doğru olur."

Breaking Bad'den sonra piyasada kalan en iyi dizi olan "Boardwalk Empire"ın uyarlandığı kitap. Enteresan bilgiler ve şaşırtan ilişkiler ağlarıyla dolu. Nucky Thompson karakterinin gerçek birisi olduğunu öğrenmem de o kadar enteresan. Ve tabii salt Nucky değil, onun öncesinden, Atlantic City'nin kuruluşundan; günümüzdeki durumuna kadar ilerleyen bir süreç. İşin...more
Tiffany
This is well written and mostly well-researched book. One glaring error was that one of the founders of Atlantic City was a Democrat in a Republican area. The Republican Party was not really founded until many years after and that made me a little skeptical of the research for the rest of the book. I had to cross reference the remainder of the book in order to see if what was being said was accurate. The stories were well told and enjoyable. I listened to this book on CD and Joe Mantegna was an...more
Debra
I came across this book from the HBO series of the same name that the show is inspired by. The show focuses on the the glamorous, gilded age of Prohibition but the book is far more encompassing. Starting from Atlantic City's roots as a farming community filled with biting flies, all the way up to The Donald(Trump).
Atlantic City started as a the brain child of a small town physician, Jonathan Pitney, who dreamed of raising his own fortune by creating a health resort for the elite of Philadelphia....more
Joel Arnold
I grabbed this book because it was on sale for the Kindle. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Quite entertaining, it gets you to the inside of what built the city, how it ran during its most corrupt period, how it almost died, and how it came back into prominence. In the process, it gave me a real sense of how corruption and graft has worked within our own culture in the past.

A few excerpts:

When it came to illegal booze, there was probably no place in the country as wide open as Nucky’s town. It was almos...more
Ru
A very direct & thorough historical accounting of New Jersey's famous tourist trap, despite this book not being what I was expecting at all. This book is the basis for the HBO show by the same name, but what threw me was that I expected this to essentially be a mobster story. It covers a lot of mob-like activity, but it transcends all of it. At the core, this is truly a book about the foundation under all of its many characters over many decades - Atlantic City itself.

I've not seen a single...more
Viv
After watching 3 seasons of HBO series, I finally picked up this book and, boy, I am so glad I did. For someone like myself, who has never been into American mafia history, this is a good book to start. Just like every place on earth, there's always a story behind it; so did the famous/infamous Atlantic City.

As I was reading it, I felt I was traveling back in time, seeing the rising, falling, and comeback of Atlantic City through the hands of notorious mobs, corrupted political (Republican) sys...more
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Nelson Johnson, whose family’s presence in Atlantic County predates the founding of Atlantic City, is a lifelong resident of Hammonton, New Jersey. He practiced law for 30 years and was active in Atlantic City and Atlantic County politics through much of that period.

As attorney for the Atlantic City Planning Board at the time of the approvals for many of the casinos, Johnson was inspired first to...more
More about Nelson Johnson...
The Northside: African Americans and the Creation of Atlantic City Boardwalk Empire. El nacimiento, el esplendor y la corrupción de Atlantic City Battleground New Jersey: Vanderbilt, Hague and Their Fight for Justice Battleground New Jersey: Vanderbilt, Hague, and Their Fight for Justice AutoCAD: The Complete Reference

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