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The Gangs of Chicago: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld
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The Gangs of Chicago: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  355 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
This classic history of crime tells how Chicago's underworld earned—and kept—its reputation. Recounting the lives of such notorious denizens as the original Mickey Finn, the mass murderer H. H. Holmes, and the three Car Barn Bandits, Asbury reveals life as it was lived in the criminal districts of the Levee, Hell's Half-Acre, the Bad Lands, Little Cheyenne, Custom House Pl ...more
Paperback, 379 pages
Published September 25th 2002 by Thunder's Mouth Press (first published 1940)
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Mark Russell
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A highly engrossing, if apocryphal, account of the history of crime in Chicago dating from the early small town days when defendants were tried in a carpentry shop to Capone, the Valentine's Day Massacre and the heyday of Chicago's gangland era.

Among the many wonderful anecdotes in Gangs of Chicago are the story of a 400lb madam who eluded capture by the police simply by being too large to exit the doors of her brothel and a dedicated policeman who, because of his miniature size, forced arrestee
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it
When I picked this one up I was itching for an interesting book highlighting the mobster and gangland scene of Chicago. What I got was a comprehensive history of how the Chicago underworld progressed since Chicago made the transition from frontier town to a booming hub of the US. This means there was a huge portion of the book devoted to less interesting (IMO)facets of crime such as gambling, pickpocketing and brothels. Through the first 2/3 of this book, I appreciated seeing the factors and cir ...more
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Chicago appears to have been one large brothel for most of the late 1800s, with the occasional whorehouse and cat house thrown in (you remember the Simpsons episode?), and liberally peppered with bunko men, conmen, and strangely enough loads of Germans (there was a “lager riot” when the town council tried to stop their boozing and sausage eating antics by force of law, seems that it was OK to drink whisky and rum and eat steak though, like a good Amerykan). Anyway, it’s a riveting read by the gu ...more
Philip Athans
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding history of Chicago's bloody past. This is a must-read for anyone who's convinced himself that we live in violent, crime-ridden times and if we could only go back to "the good old days" we'd all be better off. Turns out the good old days were overrun with hookers, pimps, "professional rapists", white slavers, serial murderers, drug dealers and addicts, violent muggings, extortion ... The good old days? HA!
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at a used book sale. The original copyright is 1940. It was a wonderful read about the underworld of Chicago starting around 1850 up to the rise of Al Capone. There are some amusing drawings and great old photographs. I find it rather hard to believe the city survived all the murders, corruption, bombings, gunfights, prostitution . . . well, the list is endless. I strongly suggest this book to anybody interested in the history of crime.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-challenge
I like Chicago history, and I picked up this book because it had a section on HH Holmes (y'know, the creepy serial killer madman from Devil in the White City?) and he fascinates me and gives me creepy chills.

Anyway, the set up of the book is nice, you can flip around to different sections as you like, and thus I mostly read about the murders and prostitutes. Apparently I am not as pure of heart as I like to think.

Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fans of Chicago gangsters
It was definitely interesting, but the pacing was whacked. It would mention 3 or 4 generations of gangsters in one paragraph, then spend 40 pages on a certain person or group of people. It was hard to remember all of the information when it referenced it later in the book. Read only if you really love Chicago gangsters. Otherwise, save your time.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
Originally written in 1940, this reads a bit antiquated, but provides a good overview of organized crime and political corruption in 1830s to 1930s Chicago. This is a book for Chicago history enthusiasts, and (Sahara alert) reads a bit dry at times. Lots of names, dates, places.
Dane Matthew
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Informative but pretty dry. Was tough to finish when 70% of the book details top brothels and prostitution (not as exciting as it sounds). I was expecting more detail and coverage of the Mafia , Capone etc..
Joe Brunory
Oct 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A really thorough book covering many of the Chicago legends that I heard about growing up here but didn't know the facts of their evolution. I recommend the book as a must read for anyone interested in early Chicago history.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chicago-history
First published in 1940, this incredibly thorough book covers organized crime in Chicago from 1830 through Capone's reign and reveals that the relationship between politics and crime is nearly as old as the city itself.
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Very dated, but offers a pretty comprehensive look at Chicago gangs during the early days of the city. Some of the terms and words use are from the author's time - 1940's and due to the time of authorship, Asbury gives the reader some pretty salacious details - without being too racy.
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Extremely interesting.
Jun 21, 2011 rated it liked it
my mum picked this up for me in a charity shop. so far it's ok, it's had really mixed reviews but we shall see...
Mar 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Good if you like more historical books. Chicago was a pretty crazy place!
Sia Marion
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was really interesting. The title was a little on the teasy side compared to the actual content but there truly was a lot of good information inside. Worth the read.
Sandro-papa Saiu
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Oct 09, 2012
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