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When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down
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When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  252 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Bob Cooley was the Chicago Mafia's fixer of court cases. During the 1970s and ‘80s, Cooley bribed judges, juries, and cops to keep his Mob clients out of jail. Paid handsomely for his services, he lived fast and enjoyed the protection of the men he served. Yet, by the end of the ‘90s, without a pending conviction, he became the star witness in nine federal trials that took ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 10th 2004 by Carroll & Graf
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Huma Rashid
Oct 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
I'm a criminal defense attorney in Cook County, which is where this book is set, and it was recommended to me by another defense attorney as we sat in the courthouse at 26 & Cal, waiting for the judge to come out. I tried so hard to get into this book but 50 pages in, I could no longer handle this author's voice. If I wanted to watch a man stroke himself for a few hours (how long it would've taken me to actually finish this book), i would've just gone to PornHub. ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. I have only been to Chicago once and that was in the 80's. I wasn't sure if I would even like this story but it pulled me in and kept my attention. It was a great audiobook. ...more
Sean Murphy
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A surprising read, one I did not expect to be that good. Maybe not for everyone, but I really entered the life of this Bob Cooley. If you have no interest in Chicago, you may not like the book as much. I loved all of the connections to Chicago - the places, the people, the events. I learned a lot. There is so me language and very disturbing ethical behavior. You won't always know who to root for, and that is ok I think.

Mickey Mantle
Nov 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this book after reading it when it was first available. I still find it fascinating.
I was an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County for 30 years. I was always amazed at how certain private attorneys got these great reputations for being brilliant when I thought most were just a step above incompetence. The author has perfected blowing his own horn as some brilliant legal tactician (when not bribing Judges). People who saw him at the Criminal Court wearing that goofy hat of his pegged him
A fascinating look at corruption in the Chicago legal system in the 70's & 80's, as told by ex-Mob lawyer Robert Cooley. He was the key, wire-wearing witness in Operation Gambat, an FBI sting that ultimately sent several mobsters, politicians, cops, and judges to jail, in addition to causing some political and judicial reforms in Chicago. Cooley's motives for writing the book are pretty self-serving, but that's partly what makes the book so great--he is as "modest" as the subtitle of the book su ...more
Brenden Gallagher
Oct 20, 2020 rated it liked it
There are quite a lot of books like "When Corruption Was King" on the market. It seems that readers never tire of mafia stories told by the guys who either infiltrated or turned states witness. Cooley's book is a fine entrant into that subgenre for people who really like that sort of thing, never quite rises to the level of a must-read for those who aren't already in love with this sort of book.

Cooley's story is fairly unique, as he was a crooked lawyer who would fix cases for the mob, as oppos
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting story, and especially for me being from Chicago, but he took a long time to get to the informant part and the trials. I found the beginning a bit tedious to get through as he spent half the book just talking about his early life and then his flashy life and escapades with the Mob. Also, it would probably be a better read vs. listen like I did via Audible because there are a lot of names to keep straight. But I must say, the process of him getting the recordings and the trial portions ...more
Matthew Valentinas
Apr 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Starts out strong, and gets a little long at the end. But I really enjoyed how it showed a man who was a cop and lawyer worked his way into the world of corrupt Chicago politicians and judges and the mafia figures who corrupted them. A very detailed look at how corruption decays our society, but inspirational when a few good people decide to do the right thing. A great look at those who live between right and wrong.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am always fascinated by mob stories and thought this would be interesting. It was, to a point, but there were so many names being thrown about that it was very hard to keep track. I felt it could have been streamlined more to make it less confusing. I think a movie would actually be better than a book for this particular story. And I never say that.
Pierre Hulsebus
Mar 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic detail.
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finish
When Corruption Was King How I Help the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down, was a book I read by Robert Cooley. This nonfiction is about the evil that swallowed Chicago during the twenties to the nineties. But still to this day corruption plagues Chicago and every country in the world. Our main character Bobby Cooley a fantastic lawyer who fixed court cases for the Chicago mob. Later turns to the good side and took the mafia out. When Corruption Was King, was written to inform the re ...more
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Imagine my surprise when I read in the Chicago Tribune on December 13th that Governor Rob Blagojavich had just consulted with attorney Ed Genson. I had only finished this book about Chicago corruption (by government informer, Robert Cooley) about a week before this story broke.

In Cooley's book, a mafia hitman named Sammy Anarino was ordered by his crew boss to retain Genson. In addition, Cooley claimed that Genson reported directly to mob boss, Marco D'Amico, that he thought Frank Renella had tu
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK. So this is obviously just one side of the story and you get the impression has an agenda. Yet, I enjoyed the read. I don't doubt most of this is true, just as I don't doubt the author omitted plenty which would really put him in a bad light. Even if a quarter of this was true he had some balls. ...more
Robert Cooley was once a hotshot Chicago attorney who specialized in fixing court cases for the Outfit (as the Mob is called in Chicago). Reading "When Corruption Was King..." will give one a pretty good idea of the type of guy Cooley is. He gambled, fought, ran with the key players in Chicago's notoriously corrupt 1st Ward (along with a various assortment of dangerous characters) and loved every minute of it until he'd had enough. Then he went to government and offered to help bring it all down ...more
Stephen Rynkiewicz
Bob Cooley protests too much when he's called a corrupt lawyer. Didn't he follow in the family footsteps and become a cop? Might have stayed there too if it was all as safe as the bookmaking on the side. Yes, he was mobbed up, but so were the politicians and the judges. And sure, he fixed cases, but he'd give the judge a reason to toss the case. See? Helpful guy.

The government mole in Operation Gambat gets no respect. Hey, he quit gambling to please the feds! Didn't he skip the witness protecti
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: meh
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I knew this man personally. I knew half of the corrupt mobsters in this book. I saw them almost every weekend at my grandparents Sicilian restaurant in Old Town (North Ave and Wells). I literally grew up around them. The restaurant is Mama DeLuca's and Cooley even mentions the meetings that used to take place there in this book.
Bob always treated me wonderfully, even as a pesky little kid running around the restaurant. I remember him slipping me twenty dollar bills (and that was a lot in the 70
Mar 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was an extremely insightful look into the world of the real mobsters in Chicago. Cooley might be full of himself, but it doesn't matter. I think it kind of adds to the book. His story-telling abilities are great, and I found this book to be a great page-turner. I think I actually read it twice. The book is also interesting for its neat history of Chicago. I remember how surprised I was to see one of the most corrupt people in the book in the news no too long ago! Seeing Ed Genson in th ...more
William Thomas
Jun 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
honestly, i thought that this book would be an amazing undercover investigation and narrative of every seedy goings-on in chicago between 1970 and 1990. however, it was one of the most insipid and boring books i have ever read, without any kind of narrative drive, but instead, very dry. i also disliked how the author, the snitch, made himself out to be a man of duty and honor and conscience throughout while he was scheming within the mafia and collaborating with them. your righteousness means no ...more
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was an important read for me. I read about Greylord earlier this year so this rounded out my understanding of organized crime and governmental corruption in Chicago a bit. It's so clear the corruption is still going on and it's pretty heartbreaking. I love that city but it will eventually destroy itself.

The writing was fine and kept me interested enough to finish the book quickly and the content was pretty mind blowing. I definitely recommend this book if you're interested in non-fict
Abby Nixon
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Chicago, My Kind of a Town. Some of the events I heard and the book just took you to the place and mindset of not only the mob corrupted city but coming from the mouth of one of the corrupted who promised to protect and serve only to go higher into the corruption with greater abilities to corrupt through the judicial system as a Chicago cop.
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an awesome book. It's a true story and the author is a great storyteller. It's entertaining and made more enjoyable by the fact that it is real. I'm waiting for it to become a movie one day. ...more
Mar 09, 2009 rated it liked it
first book i read with my book club since i got to chicago and i thought it was a great introduction into chicago and its history.. Not the best writer but very informative. Along with Devil in the White City and Sister Carrie I'm really growing my chicago based novels! ...more
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
A shocking trip into the bowels of corruption. Devastating cautionary tale about the toll money, power and evil can have on American Democracy. Riveting. I read it in one day. Could not put it down. Thank God it was a rainy day.
Jul 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Read this book in about two days, it's awesome and has everything to do with the court cases today in Chicago. I just found out that they are making a movie from this book too! ...more
Nov 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
As an attorney who practices in the same courts as the author did, I am shocked and made naive by this book.

This attorney gives an insider's prospective to pre-Greylord Chicago.
Bethany Mueller
Apr 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Guy's who like mob movies. Um, what guy doesn't???
I couldn't finish this one. I just felt the main character was such a tool. ...more
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Really good book that shows how corrupt Chicago is and how the mob still runs the show.
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
The title should actually be: I am Bob Cooley and I am Awesome!. Cooley sucks big time, but reading about the First Ward is always interesting.
May 06, 2009 rated it liked it
I thought this book was really good. I had some problems following every once in a while because I have never been a lawyer, but I got through those parts fast. It kept my attention.
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