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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  670 ratings  ·  57 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
Paperback, 552 pages
Published April 2nd 2003 by Bloomsbury (first published 2002)
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Kurt Reichenbaugh
May 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Good god I relish Joe Kennedy! What gangster hubris! Let's piss off the Wasp elite, the Chicago mob, and the Texas oil barons, just because why not - and see what happens. Bullets in your sons. You tangled with the wrong folks.
Michael Finocchiaro
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating history of the mob in Chicago by Gus Russo. It covers the pre-Capone, Capone and post-Capone eras. I learned so much about the city of Chicago (the term underworld comes literally from the fact that Chicago was built vertically with the bourgeoisie on the upper half and the riffraff of society in the "underworld"). It is a terrifying look at the rise of organized crime and the battles that determined the fate of the Irish mob - effectively crushed and eliminated by the ...more
Clair Belmonte
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Content: awesome. Delivery: meh.
It came as no surprise that Gus Russo is an investigative journalist for PBS - this reads just like a PBS special. Holding your hand the whole way through, Russo gently guides you from Capone's bootlegging to Nixon's election and never misses a step. Regularly reintroducing you to characters you may have forgotten (but probably didn't), Russo explains each of the gang's money schemes - you know, booze, the "new booze," the "new booze two," and so on. For all the
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a revelation to me. I feel that I just woke up after reading this. How naïve to not consider the ramifications of the dark side making so much happen in our American history. The Volstead act brought these men together, but it was just the beginning. The underworld meshes with the upper world seamlessly. Together they elect presidents, governors, corrupt judges, bribe police and politicians and generally make things happen their way. The author puts it very well, "Without doubt, the ...more
Ian Foster
Aug 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent book, well researched. Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs where many of the latter day mafioso lived, I was surprised at only two things: 1) The emphasis the author placed on Curley Humphries, and 2) the depth of the corruption of the politicians going back to Capone days and continuing on to modern day.

Everyone in Chicago knows the big names: Accardo, Giancana, Aiuppa, but I had never even heard of Curley Humphries, yet this author almost makes it sound like he ran the show. The
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
It seems the author needs to do a little more research. He keeps confusing unions with trade associations lumping them together. Calling the trade associations run by the bosses "unions"
when ever he wants to point out corruption. He can find many cases of crime in both but only wants to spoil the name of one and put blame on one group for the others crimes. It makes me wonder if he has a hidden agenda or was just to lazy to lay out the complex relationships and interplay. Surely in a book over
An extremely in depth book on the Chicago mob with the beginning at Jim Colosimo to Al Capone and then the majority dealing with the heirs of Capone; Murray Humphrey, Paul Ricca and Anthony Accardo. It basically takes you chronologically thru the Chicago mob from the 20s up to the death of Accardo, though the mid 70s to the end comes kind of quick. The political payoffs, Vegas, Cuba and the other items are very interesting though at points the book drags a bit. ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
VERY detailed. Interesting and insightful review of Chicago gangland.

However, VERY long and I lost interest after about 70%.

May revisit this at a lter date.
Wendi Enright
Mar 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: parents-library
A rare book that I passed on reading. Keeping it, because it's from my Dad's library. I've read enough mob stories.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
The information is interesting if the writing is not.
Brittany Kubes
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 mafias 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
Pat Camalliere
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it
The best part of this book was that it encompassed a wide range of material but stayed primarily about the Chicago Outfit. Many books of this type take a broader view that winds up distorting the readers impressions of what happened in Chicago. However, I was disturbed by the organization of the material, and had trouble following when events happened. As presented the material spanned time periods and jumped between then, often with poor transitions that required me to backtrack constantly to ...more
"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 ...more
Christian Blume
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enter the world of post Capone organized crime in Chicago, which extended its influence throughout the country. Russo begins with a detailed synopsis of early Chicago and discusses Chicago gangsters during prohibition. But the book mainly centers on organized crime after prohibition ended and how the Outfit survived. You will be impressed by the sophistication in which the Outfit ran its empire and the minds of those in-charge.

Russo does an excellent job at mapping the many connections the
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting, with a lot of tie-ins to popular culture. Like Havana Nocturne, you see what happens when one organization, be it an organized crime racket or political party, holds such power over a geographic area. As someone who already gets angry and nauseous when hearing about widespread government/political corruption and cronyism, and seeing it firsthand, this book really pissed me off at times. The funny thing is, as corrupt and nepotistic as some local governments are today, they're ...more
Brendan Detzner
Apr 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very informative book that primarily focused on the four leaders of the Chicago Outfit, ie Capone's gang after he was imprisoned for tax evasions. I had no idea just how much influence the Outfit had on America, not just organized crime. The Outfit practically created the Las Vegas that exists today and tremendously assisted in the movie industry during the post-"golden age" of cinema. Curly Humphries is, quite possibly, more responsible for the election of JFK as President than any other ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 Kline
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it

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
Nov 02, 2011 marked it as on-hiatus
Shelves: nonfiction, crime, chicago
Gotta put this back on hold for a while. There is a thing early on where the author says Chicago is called the Windy City because it's windy, which isn't true, and anyone writing a history of Chicago should know better. Anyone writing a mob-related history of Chicago should also get the name of the Green Mill right. That one is probably a typo, but the first one... how can I trust anything else the book says if it screws up such basic stuff? So I just cannot relax and enjoy this book right now. ...more
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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 .
Sarah Draheim
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.


Dennis Osborne
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating insight into the underworld from the time of Al Capone and focusing mainly on the heirs to his empire and in particular the brains behind The Outfit-Curly Humpreys. The book is very well researched with fascinating insights into Hollywood, Las Vegas, politics, and the election of JFK. Virtually every gangster that has been written about ,is included in the book. I found it hard to put down and would highly recommend it
Feb 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the great introductions to the underworld

Sure, there may be better books on organized crime, or books with tighter sourcing or less speculation. But you won't find a better place to start your reading Han The Outfit. If you tried to claim it was fiction, no one would ever believe it.
Michael Anson
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
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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! The

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41 likes · 10 comments
“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
“McDonald, who was known to hate policemen, was once approached by two cops for a two-dollar donation. “We’re burying a policeman,” one of them said, to which Mike responded, “Here’s ten dollars. Bury five of them.” 0 likes
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