Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York

Richard Zacks. Doubleday, $27.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-385-51972-4
Zacks (The Pirate Hunter) looks back to the 1890s, when two million New Yorkers faced crime in the concrete canyons. In addition to the Rev. Charles Parkhurst, who declared “a holy war on vice,” the cast includes such notables as Tammany police captain “Big Bill” Devery, crime reporter Jacob Riis, cartoonist Walt McDougall, Mayor William Strong, journalist Lincoln Steffens, and the city itself. As Zacks writes: “New York was a thousand cities masquerading as one. Its noise, vitality, desperation, opulence, hunger, all struck visitors.” With bars, casinos, and 30,000 prostitutes, New York was the country’s vice capital, and police corruption was rampant. Enter crusading and nattily attired police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, who admitted he “knew nothing of police management.” An uncompromising reformer, Roosevelt tackled the Tammany Hall political machine, though he confronted resistance in his efforts to close the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. Zacks probes this period of Roosevelt’s life with exhaustive details, drama, and intrigue. The 40 pages of bibliographic notes indicate the five years of research that went into this remarkable re-creation of fin-de-siècle New York. Writing with a prismatic, poetic slant, Zacks unveils a colorful portrait of a volcanic Roosevelt towering over the soul of the city. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/05/2011
Release date: 03/13/2012
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Open Ebook - 385 pages - 978-0-385-53402-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-87689-8
Paperback - 431 pages - 978-0-7679-2619-5
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61707-232-1
Compact Disc - 12 pages - 978-0-307-87686-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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