The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America
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The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America

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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  227 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The never-before-told story of the great Chicago crime family called The Outfit.

It is a common misperception that all the true-life organized crime stories have been written. Yet perhaps the most compelling gangster tale is one that has been, until now, too well-hidden. This is the story of the Outfit: the secretive organized crime cartel that began its reign in prohibiti...more
Paperback, 552 pages
Published April 2nd 2003 by Bloomsbury (first published 2002)
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Kurt Reichenbaugh
An alternative history of America in the 20th Century. The book focuses on the heirs to Al Capone's criminal empire after he was sent to prison. Most of the shots were called by Joe Accardo, Curly Humphreys, Paul Ricca, Johnny Rosselli and Jake Guzik. The most fascinating one of the bunch, to me, was Curly Humphreys, the brains of the Outfit, so to speak. Along the way we're shown how the Outfit got footholds into the entertainment industry (Music and Movies), Gambling, Las Vegas, the service in...more
Brittany Kubes
I finally understand the difference between the Italian mafia and gangs after reading this book. There are obviously many similarities: crime, organization, code of conduct, simulated family, but the essential difference is that the mafia’s chosen crimes are white collar (racketeering, alcohol during prohibition, gambling, entertainment industry, POLITICS), whereas street gang crimes involve mostly drugs, petty thievery, and territorial violence. Actually, the mafia is vehemently against drugs (...more
Patrick
"The Outfit" gives readers a detailed and fascinating look at what was, at one time, the most powerful organized crime group in the entire United States. Author Gus Russo focuses on what is arguably the Outfit's glory years, the post-Capone era into the early 1970s, and details how Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo (whom the author refers to as "Joe Accardo", a mix of his given name and the nickname he preferred and was usually used by his compatriots, "Joe Batters"), & co. had their hands into every...more
Kasey
Very interesting book that has it's most value when talking about the organization of Chicago-land and how the criminal's were able to gain so much control and act with impunity in that city. Also very eye-opening about criminal (read: terrorist) activity that would cause modern America to shudder to a paranoid stop, that was common place less than 100 years ago. You think urban crime is bad, or politicians are dirty? Read this book and see how much worse our history was.

The big weakness in this...more
Brendan Detzner
I read this hoping for some insight into the Chicago mob's current incarnation, and was disappointed- this is basically the story of Joe Accardo's forty-some years of control over the group, with a big fat healthy prelude to fill in how the organization got started in the first place, which means things pretty much stop once we get to the 80's. Russo's thesis, which he bangs like a drum repeatedly over the course of the book, is that the Outfit wasn't really any dirtier than the above-ground pol...more
Steven
This well researched book details the history of the Chicago mob from early 1900 through the sixties. This is one of the best organized crime books written, and its revelations concerning the involvement and interplay of our politicians/government, and legit business with organized crime is stunning. Some of it, I saw for myself when I worked in government. The authors point that far more death and illness have been caused by business abuse than by gangsters is well taken. I think at times both...more
Steve

I read this to prime myself to move back Chicago just as the Family Secrets trial went down. It's heavily researched with more than a few "No freaking way" revelations scattered about - such as the mob nearly taking a hit out on Desi Arnez, how Joe Kennedy got the Outfit to fix the election for his son, and little Frank Sinatra almost talking himself to an early grave.

It made me look at my town and country in a new light. It looses a star for its ill-advised "but really, how bad is organized cr...more
Ian Foster
How can someone make a book about the mafia boring? This one did. I read every word for about 150 pages and then found myself skipping whole paragraphs, then whole pages, then whole chapters - just because it was so boring and poorly written. The book just didn't flow and was badly in need of a stronger editor.

On the plus side, it was obviously thoroughly researched. I found the lengthy discussion (every discussion in the book was lengthy) of Joe Kennedy's mafia ties very interesting. I don't t...more
Matt
This is a better than decent read. I would have this between 3.5 and 4 stars. If you are looking for a thorough read detailing the period after Al Capone, and the decades following his reign, this is a good source.

The book is a little on the long side but it is well written if you really want all this detail.
Significant focus on the business end of the organization, and in particular Murray Humphries.

I recommend this read for any organized crime buffs and would like the understanding of Chicag...more
John
A very insightful book on forces that shaped America during the last century. I read it on a friend's recommendation and initially was not that interested in organized crime, so it was a slow start. But as Russo opened the curtains on how much influence the Mob had on this country I became intrigued. The Chicago underworld style is still in evidence today. An important book that fills in gaps of what is generally taught as US history.
Psipsipsi
I have given up reading this book half way through. I found its content fascinating and the narrative style of writing very entertaining. But the book is encyclopedic in its detail and is more than I can and wish to absorb. If I were researching a topic or had more than my curious interest in the theme then I would highly recommend it. Also if you like reading crime stories (which I don't) then read this and get some facts - they really are stranger than the fiction .
Adam
Jan 14, 2014 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: mafia
An amazing look at the influence of the Chicago organized crime outfit. They fixed the milk delivery and put Truman in the white house to hear these tales.
Sarah Draheim
Very detail-oriented, which - after reading a string of easy peasy fluff pieces - was a bit of an adjustment. But it was OH SO NECESSARY! By presenting such a detailed history, Russo builds what Al Capone never could - a cure for syphilis (I JOKE)...brilliant book, and as a Chicago native, I recommend it to everyone who calls the Second City home.

TOTALLY GOING ON THE CHICAGO GANGSTER TOUR, TOO.

Michael Anson
Interesting concept that Al Capone wouldn't have become the popular, mythic gangster which people vicariously cheer on without Prohibition. Very dense, however, and I found myself skimming the details. A fair read, but then again, I rarely read nonfiction. A great work of nonfiction, however, is "In the Garden of Beasts," about the American ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler.
Brian Frye
Good introduction to the Chicago mob. Russo writes colloquially, but quite well. The book is undersourced, intended for a lay audience. It does need some line editing, as it includes some obvious errors ("marshal law" when he means "martial law") and can get repetitive.
Carly
This is definitely not an easy read, but I very much enjoyed it. It is chock full of information and very well researched. Even the epilogue had some great information, particularly regarding whitecollar crime. This couild book could be eye-opening for a lot of people.
Laurie Jarrett
loved this book read it about 4 years ago and loved it !!!
Takipsilim
Gangland America, from the Chicago front. With a cast of characters like the spotlight-seeking Al Capone, the flamboyant and doomed Bugsy Siegel, and the brainy but ruthless Murray Humphreys, the glory days of the Gangster era was as fascinating as it was repellent.
Kristen
Great history of Chicago's crime families post Al Capone. The writer does kind of go on some tangents with the expansion of the Outfits reach outside of Chicago, so there's lots of information about Las Vegas, Hollywood and national politics. Tons of typos!
Deb
Well researched, absorbing history of Chicago's "Outfit" ,from bootlegging gangs to national consortium, whose power and influence permeated the highest echelon, socially and politically. Well written and enlightening, a fascinating read....
Kirstin Pires
I wanted to like this book--I loved the interviews I heard with the author--but I just couldn't summon the enthusiasm to finish it within four weeks.

I marked it as finished, because I am finished with it, but I didn't read it.
Rick McGrath
I enjoyed it. Lots-o-books available about Capone, & prohibition era. This picks up the story where these leave off and brings it up to more current times. People, institutions and event in the news in my own life time.
Petra Tole
Intriguing account of the mob and how it infiltrated everything from business to politics. Very thorough, so it got tedious at points, but interesting if you can make it through.
Nick
I only made it 100 pages in before I lost interest. The book is well written, but so much time was spent on the political history of the Capone mob that I just got bored.
Nick
This has to be the best book out there on the evolution of Chicago organized crime from Big Jim Colosimo to the Outfit under Accardo and Giancana.
Luci
I loved this book. I learned a ton about Chicago history and about the role the mafia played in shaping the politics of our nation.
Carter
Interesting, but poorly written. And there doesn't seem to be much in this book that you couldn't find in a better place.
Ammon
Nov 26, 2010 Ammon added it
A book with an index in case I need help to get through the hard middle bits of a story about the mob.
Krista
There are some really interesting stories in this book, but they get lost in the minutiae.
Matt Phillip
Absolutely outstanding and stunning how the mob controlled the country from Chicago. A page turner!
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Gus Russo is a veteran investigative reporter, musician, and author. His first book, Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK (Bancroft, 1998), was praised by the New York Times as “compelling, exhaustively researched and even handed.” Kirkus Reviews called Sword, “Probably the last book on the Kennedy assassination you will need to read....Gripping and convincing!” T...more
More about Gus Russo...
Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder Where Were You?: America Remembers the JFK Assassination Live By The Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death ofJFK Boomer Days

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“It would be easy to mistake Daley's tolerance of the Outfit for simple corruption. However, the more accurate assessment appears to be that Daley understood better than most that the sooner the hoods were promoted up the social ladder, the sooner they would disappear into the landscape much the same way as the Founding Fathers who institutionalized the enslavement from the African subcontinent, or the westward explorers who orchestrated the demise of more than six million Native Americans, or the aging robber barons who defrauded untold millions of their life savings. Why, Daley must have wondered, should Chicago's greedy frontiersmen be treated any different from their predecessors? Mayor Daley seemed to know innately what Kefauver had failed to grasp, and what Professor David Bell of Columbia University had labeled 'the progress of ethnic succession': The violence associated with the process was, at least in the case of organized crime, overwhelmingly intramural, and when it spilled over, it seemed to dissipate once the gang obtained what it believed was its rightful share of the American Dream. As Daley once responded to a question about his indulgence of the Outfit, 'Well, it's there, and you know you can't get rid of it, so you have to live with it.” 2 likes
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