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Capone: The Man and the Era

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  349 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In this brilliant history of Prohibition and its most notorious gangster, acclaimed biographer Laurence Bergreen takes us to the gritty streets of Chicago where Al Capone forged his sinister empire.

Bergreen shows the seedy and glamorous sides of the age, the rise of Prohibition, the illicit liquor trade, the battlefield that was Chicago. Delving beyond the Capone mythology
Paperback, 704 pages
Published August 5th 1996 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1994)
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Books Set in Chicago
133rd out of 354 books — 270 voters
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Chicago in history and fiction
98th out of 145 books — 47 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jeff McArthur
Jan 08, 2015 Jeff McArthur rated it it was amazing
A big influence on my own book about the Capone family.
Jul 01, 2012 LaurieH118 rated it really liked it
I have lived in Chicagoland all my life and yet there is so much about our still most emblematic citizen (sorry, Michael Jordan; sorry, Oprah) that I didn't know. For example, his nickname was "Snorky." He was colorful and imaginative and charming. And scary-smart. (I kept thinking of that old saw, "if only he had used his powers for good.") A good son and a loving father. And we must not forget to add, he was a very, very bad man.

The book is not only about Capone but also about Chicagoland in t
Mar 02, 2010 Tamcamry rated it really liked it
• Man, this book took me a long time to read. That was my first reaction after finishing it, but then I thought about the book itself. I have to say that I’m really happy I took the time to read the whole thing. Capone has been so idolized, lionized, crucified, or canonized by so many different people it’s really difficult to have any idea who the real Capone is. I believe that if any book or other type of media is going to get it right, it’s this book. Everyone says, “Well, what if the info in ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Chuck rated it it was amazing
Wow! A well research book on Al Capone? This is it and it's told in a totally readable book by Laurence Bergreen, who wrote another book about Marco Polo on my list. I could almost smell the Chicago of the 20's reading this book. Al Capone was a very complicated man to say the least.
Lora Shouse
Aug 16, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This book was long, but it lives up to its title. It tells the story of Al Capone from his boyhood in Brooklyn to his eventual death from syphilis in Florida. It includes his entire career in the rackets in Chicago and vicinity. Also included are insights on the treatment of Italian immigrants in America and Prohibition. And there are stories of Capone's mentors in crime, his subordinates and rivals, his brothers, especially his older brothers Frank (who was killed by police fairly early on ...more
CJ Ruby
Apr 12, 2014 CJ Ruby rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, crime
Always had a soft spot in my heart for Al Capone. My grandmother worked for him (at his resort in northern Wisconsin) and described how he took care of her and her sister when times were tough. He paid for my great aunt's medical bills and wouldn't think of being repaid.
Heather Lewis
Oct 10, 2015 Heather Lewis rated it really liked it
I am technically cheating because I haven't finished reading it. I've been at it for almost a month now and I'm only half way through with it. The book as other reviews mention is very detailed. Nonetheless Mr. Bergreen does a wonderful job at making it run smoothly and the information provided is thought provoking and is something new to this Chicago native. My only draw back is that I would like for it to provide more insight into the 1920s. When not talking about Capone the author discusses o ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Alison rated it really liked it
Long, but a very interesting read with details not just about Capone's life but about the world he lived in too. Great book!
Oct 01, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Bergreen gives an excellent account of Al Capone and the Chicago rackets of the 1920's and 1930's. This book provides a detailed and interesting look at Al Capone and the Capone family in general and treats the reader to a brief history of Italian immigrants in America and an in depth look at organized crime -- most notably in Chicago and its outlying suburbs. I could not help but feel sympathy for Capone throughout the book as the author does an excellent job of describing all facets of Capone' ...more
May 13, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
My first venture into the True Crime genre and I enjoyed all 625 pages. I would give the book 4 stars if not for the length, I started to lose interest somewhere in the middle. The book started picking up again during the trial, seriously who would have the balls to testify against Al Capone? Most memorable moment would have to be the poop throwing fight in Alcatraz which would eventually get Capone transferred to the mainland. He pretty much loses it due to the syphilis he contracted when he wa ...more
Greg Kerestan
Jan 25, 2016 Greg Kerestan rated it it was amazing
This is the best biography available of one of America's most dynamic public figures- part gangster, part politician, part socialite, part philanthropist humanitarian. Three times in the past I have attempted to write and produce a stage musical based on Capone, but the composer has quit every time for personal reasons. It'll still happen someday, I believe, and Bergreen's book is one of the most useful and riveting nonfiction works I've come across yet.
Andrew Arbow
Aug 03, 2014 Andrew Arbow rated it it was ok
Informative but really exhausting.
There was a lot of information in this book but I'd have preferred it to be more concise and more sensationalized but this really went on some long tangents when I would have just have it rather focus all on Al Capone
Geoffrey Hazelton
Jan 23, 2016 Geoffrey Hazelton rated it liked it
This turned into a slog. There was just too much detail. The book was still interesting in that it completely covered the period and the life of Al Capone. If you or you have a family member with a Chicago connection you might like the book.
Aug 11, 2015 Ger rated it really liked it
Al Capone. A riddle wrapped up in an enigma. How do you distinguish fact from fiction? Laurence Bergreen does a pretty good job of this. The public Capone was a bootlegger, racketeer, pimp, gambler. The private Capone was a devoted family man, generous to a fault. Capone loved the limelight and ultimately this lead to his downfall on income tax evasion of all things.
Bergreen presents a detailed and interesting account of Capone's life. It takes us back to a time when Gangsters ruled the roost in
Jun 22, 2016 Cathy rated it liked it
Fascinating. Comprehensive. At times maddening and unbelievable. Worth lumbering through the 619 pages.
Oct 15, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok

Bergreen is a very good writer and this is a well-written, comprehensive biography. The problem is that Al Capone simply isn't that interesting and his life of crime isn't that fascinating. It picks up a bit when the US government starts pursuing him, but it isn't enough to save the book from Capone's dullness. In truth, the peripheral characters are more interesting than Capone and help give the book some life. At over 600 pages, the book was simply too long and reading it was ultimately exhau
Jul 16, 2008 Lyndsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favourite books, not just within it's own topic but of all my books. At the moment, it's tucked away in a box in my loft but I think a re-read is about due.
For someone highly interested in the subject but also wanting a juicy read rather than dry facts - as I am - this hits the spot.
This is a hefty book, 3 inches deep, thin pages, small typeface. Start in the autumn and hibernate with it all winter.
Eddie Miranda
Aug 05, 2013 Eddie Miranda rated it liked it
This book explains the life of the greatest mobster in Chicago history, Al Capone. He was a helpful man, but he wasn't scared to get his hands dirty. Capone didn't want anyone in the mob life style, and he joined because he was in street gangs in New York to stay protected since he had parents who immigrated from Italy. Great biography.
Jerry Smith
Jun 16, 2008 Jerry Smith rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jerry by:
Shelves: organized-crime
Very well balanced review, written in a very approachable style. Extremely well researched and covers Capone's life, but equally interesting is the picture it paints of the time, especially prohibitioh Chicago. It's important it is well written as it runs to around 700 pages.
Jan 27, 2010 Walt rated it liked it
Shelves: organized-crime
Currently the favorite book on Capone. There is not much added from the earlier books by Kobler and others. He really adds some incidental information about jazz, politics, and Chicago.
Jun 10, 2009 Damian rated it really liked it
I found this book in a discarded pile while I was working as an intern at Simon and Shuster. It's one of the best, most colorful, and well-balanced biographies I ever read.
Jon Messner
Nov 20, 2010 Jon Messner rated it liked it
This book was simply packed with information. Sometimes the sheer amount lead for a slower, more tedious read, but all in all a very interesting book.
Jul 14, 2009 Declan rated it liked it
Not a quick read, but a really well written account of Al Capone's life, and the state of America in his era which remains interesting throughout.
Jan 06, 2009 Kpaul rated it really liked it
Comes off as a tragic figure in this. Pretty cool history, well researched.
Aug 28, 2011 Scott rated it really liked it
Learning a bit of family history -- my grandfather Joe Leeson is in the index!
Deb Cutler
May 25, 2010 Deb Cutler rated it really liked it
In depth account of the actual facts behind the larger than life legend.
Feb 02, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Contains a great deal of information without being tedious.
Judy Hilvers
May 08, 2010 Judy Hilvers rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting view into Chicago history.
Apr 04, 2007 YFC rated it it was amazing
The infamous mobster and his life
Paul Mccarthy
Feb 04, 2013 Paul Mccarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Laurence Bergreen is an award-winning biographer, historian, and chronicler of exploration. His books have been translated into over 20 languages worldwide. In October 2007, Alfred A. Knopf published Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, a groundbreaking biography of the iconic traveler. Warner Brothers is developing a feature film based on this book starring Matt Damon and written by William Monahan ...more
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