Jonathan Eig | Austin-Irving branch library | Literary Events | Chicago Reader

Jonathan Eig Member Picks Free Recommended

When: Wed., Oct. 13, 6:30 p.m. 2010

Eig (Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig) presents Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster. Jonathan Eig, who's previously chronicled the lives of Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, turns to the gangster who capitalized on "Chicago's seemingly limitless tolerance for corruption." Al Capone's rise from whorehouse bouncer to bootlegging kingpin is detailed in a fast-paced, vivid account that achieves the entertainment value of the many crime flicks he inspired while paying fanatical attention to historical accuracy—something those films, as Eig points out, generally lack. Eig's descriptions can be exhilaratingly pulpy: of the infamous Saint Valentine's Day massacre he writes, "Bodies fell like bowling pins, every which way. Blood dark as motor oil surged across the cold concrete floor and slid thickly down a drain." The violence never lets up, but Eig also gives us the intimate Capone, who fancied silk underwear, collected elephant figurines, and as an Alcatraz inmate suffering from syphilis-induced dementia wrote love songs on the mandola. And in the triangulation—bloody anecdotes about the other gangsters of the day, sketches of the prominent politicos who abetted Capone's rise and fall—is a portrait of Prohibition. —Sam Adams

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