Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series by David Pietrusza
Unabridged, 13 hr. 47 min.
Blackstone Audio Inc.
Grover Gardner (Narrator)
May 27, 2004
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library
History remembers Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, an underworld genius. The real-life model for The Great Gatsby's Meyer Wolfsheim and Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls, Rothstein was much more—and less—than a fixer of baseball games. He was everything that made 1920s Manhattan roar. Featuring Jazz Age Broadway with its thugs, speakeasies, showgirls, political movers and shakers, and stars of the Golden Age of Sports, this is a biography of the man who dominated an age. Arnold Rothstein was a loan shark, pool shark, bookmaker, thief, fence of stolen property, political fixer, Wall Street swindler, labor racketeer, rumrunner, and mastermind of the modern drug trade. Among his monikers were "The Big Bankroll," "The Brain," and "The Man Uptown." This vivid account of Rothstein's life is also the story of con artists, crooked cops, politicians, gang lords, newsmen, speakeasy owners, gamblers and the like. Finally unraveling the mystery of Rothstein's November 1928 murder in a Times Square hotel room, David Pietrusza has cemented The Big Bankroll's place among the most influential and fascinating legendary American criminals.
I have always been fascinated with the notorious gangsters of the early 1900’s America – it probably stems from my criminal justice degree background. I also have always loved reading about the period of the 1920s and 30s – all the glitz and glamor. This book has both of those qualities and was absolutely packed with random tidbits and facts.
Rothstein is one of the most fascinating characters of this period – he had his hands in every piece of the pie from gambling, to rum running, fixing sports events, and much more. All of these aspects are covered in detail in individual chapters of this book. We get into the mind of Rothstein and understand how he saw the world. He lived the high life of 1920’s New York and we are privy to all of that. And just because of Rothstein died in 1928 does not mean his story ends there – Pietrusza takes us on a wild ride of the investigation into his murder.
There is an extensive epilogue which follows the life stories of every character, even the minor ones. I appreciated this information for the major characters that were very instrumental in Rothstein’s life; however the passing characters I could have done without their eventual life stories. I began to lose interest as the epilogue ran on. I spent more time wondering who the people were that he had talked about. Additionally, throughout the book when we would encounter new and important figures, the author would frequently take a tangent to tell us the story of this other characters – which sometimes took me away from my interest in Rothstein. However, it was helpful at times to flesh out the world that Rothstein moved in. So it was a love-hate relationship for me.
Overall I learned a great deal about this man, and while I can’t admire him for obvious reasons, I’m blown away by his mind and how he was able to accomplish all of these things without ever being caught for any of it. It also has given me the inspiration to read more on other notorious gangsters.
The narration and audio presentation of this book was well done but relatively standard. There isn’t really anything that I can complain about for it, but was not totally memorable either.
Author David Pietrusza also has written 1920: The Year of Six Presidents, 1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies, 1948: Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America and Silent Cal’s Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont’s Calvin Coolidge. You can visit the author’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out listening to this excerpt of the book?
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