Scarface and the untouchable Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the battle for Chicago

Max Allan Collins

Book - 2018

"A THRILLING MAGNUM OPUS ON AMERICA'S GREAT CRIME EPIC. A Mystery Writers of America "Grand Master"--author of the gangster classic Road to Perdition, long-time Dick Tracy writer, and multiple Shamus Award winner--teams with an acclaimed rising young historian, in this riveting, myth-shattering dual portrait of Al Capone, America's most notorious gangster, and Eliot Ness, the legendary Prohibition agent whose extraordinary investigative work crippled his organization. Written with novelistic pacing and underpinned by groundbreaking research, Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz's Scarface and the Untouchable delivers--at last--the definitive account of the "Battle for Chicago," the iconic struggle b...etween the mythic yet real combatants who have captivated the world for 90 years"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 364.106/Collins Checked In
New York : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2018]
Main Author
Max Allan Collins (author)
Other Authors
A. Brad (Austin Bradley) Schwartz (author)
First Edition
Item Description
Includes bibliographical references (pages [661]-674) and index.
Physical Description
xix, 699 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
  • Introduction: Untouchable Truth
  • Map: Organized Crime in 1920s Chicago
  • Rogues' Gallery
  • Prologue: St. Valentine's Day
  • Part 1. Prairie Avenue Boys
  • 1. 1895-11920
  • 2. 1850-1923
  • 3. 1920-1925
  • 4. 1925-1926
  • 5. 1925-1926
  • 6. 1926-1927
  • 7. 1927
  • 8. Spring-Summer 1928
  • 9. Winter 1927-Summer 1928
  • 10. August 1928-January-1929
  • Part 2. Citizen Capone
  • 11. January-March 1929
  • 12. February-October 1929
  • 13. May-October 1929
  • 14. December 1929-March 1930
  • 15. December 1929-April 1930
  • 16. March-June 1930
  • 17. June-August 1930
  • 18. June-October 1930
  • 19. November-December 1930
  • Part 3. On The Spot
  • 20. December 1930-February 1931
  • 21. December 1930-February 1931
  • 22. February-May 1931
  • 23. Spring-Summer 1931
  • 24. June-July 1931
  • 25. Summer 1931
  • 26. October 1931
  • 27. October 1931
  • 28. Octobr 1931-January 1932
  • 29. February-May 1932
  • 30. 1932-1934
  • Epilogue: The Great American City
  • Acknowledgements: A Tip of the Fedora
  • Note on Sources
  • Abbreviatons
  • Source Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Rogues' Gallery Credits
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Prolific genre novelist Collins teams up with historian Schwartz (author of the splendid Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, 2015) for this nonfiction portrait of legendary crime boss Al Capone and celebrated Prohibition Bureau agent Ness, who single-mindedly pursued Capone. We've seen this story, or variations of it, before, perhaps most notably in the 1987 film The Untouchables the historical inanities of which Collins can't abide but we've never seen it presented in quite this way. The authors' intent is to take two men who have been mythologized over decades, strip away the fictions that have been piled on them, and leave us with a clearer sense of the true Ness and Capone. And they succeed admirably. Collins brings all his skills as a novelist to the story, painting in bold strokes a picture of Prohibition-era Chicago, a city almost entirely under the control of Capone's criminal organization. His writing is about as far from a history text as you can imagine (the bullets shredded flesh, snapped bone, mutilated viscera, and spurted hot blood onto the cold concrete floor). Careful research combined with vivid pulp style.--David Pitt Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Mystery writer Collins (The Bloody Spur) and historian Schwartz (Broadcast Hysteria) dutifully trace the lives of Al Capone (1899-1947) and his lawman nemesis, Eliot Ness (1903-1957), in Prohibition-era Chicago. Drawing on a trove of sources, including Ness's scrapbooks, the authors look at the parallel arcs of these men in the 1920s and 1930s as Capone gained notoriety and status as Chicago's greatest public enemy while Ness climbed the ranks of law enforcement to head a squad devoted to bringing Capone to justice. The general contours of this real-life drama are familiar, including the irony that Capone was eventually convicted of tax evasion, rather than the hundreds of murders he orchestrated; the authors add depth to their depiction of both men with colorful details such as the fact that, prior to becoming adversaries, Capone and Ness both lived on South Prairie Street for a period in 1923. Collins and Schwartz present a balanced view of the role of Ness in capturing Capone, which accounts such as Jonathan Eig's Get Capone (2010) and Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's documentary Prohibition (2011) have largely dismissed. The result is an informed and valuable addition to the numerous books about Capone and Ness. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Kirkus Book Review

A gritty dual biography reveals the underworld of crime and corruption in 1920s and '30s America.In 1923, Al Capone (1899-1947) and Eliot Ness (1903-1957) became neighbors on a residential street in Chicago. As award-winning mystery writer Collins (Executive Order, 2017, etc.) and historian Schwartz (Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, 2015, etc.) reveal, their careers soon vastly diverged. While Ness was a college student, Capone was involved in one of the city's major industries: crime. Within a few years, they would become fierce antagonists, Capone a notorious mobster, Ness a law enforcement agent focused on ferreting out bootleggers, especially Capone. By 1932, Capone had intensified into Ness' "obsession, consuming much of his time and energy." His team of agents, known as the Untouchables, became as famous in crime-fighting as Capone was in perpetrating crime. Like an urban hero, Capone was the first mobster depicted on a Time magazine cover. "He is, in his own phrase, a business man' who wears clean linen, rides in a Lincoln car, leaves acts of violence to his underlings," the magazine reported. Chicago tour buses pointed out his "old haunts." Law enforcement dubbed him "Public Enemy Number One," an epithet that became his "enduring nickname," rather than "Scarface," which he hated. Scrappy and debonair, he had risen to the status of myth, "a symbol of government ineptitude and incompetence" and "the breakdown of the rule of law." When he was finally tried for tax evasion, the courtroom attracted more than 30 journalists, including Damon Runyon. Jurors' deliberations, the authors assert, "boiled down to a question Chicagoansand so many Americanshad wrestled with through Capone's rise to infamous fortune: Was this man, this bootlegger, pimp, and killer, really all that bad?" The authors recount how Capone (the model for gangsters played by Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney) and Ness (model for Dick Tracy) took firm hold in popular culture.A fast-paced tale related with novelistic drama. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.