Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago

Max Allan Collins and Brad A. Schwartz. Morrow, $27.99 (704p) ISBN 978-0-06-244194-2
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.)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2018
Release date: 08/01/2018
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