cover image Gangsterland: A Tour Through the Dark Heart of Jazz Age New York City

Gangsterland: A Tour Through the Dark Heart of Jazz Age New York City

David Pietrusza. Diversion, $19.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-635-76989-0

Historian Pietrusza (Roosevelt Sweeps Nation) tours 1920s New York City’s tawdriest neighborhoods in this comprehensive survey of the stomping grounds of mobsters, bootleggers, and murderers-for-hire. At the center of the story is gambler and mob kingpin Arnold Rothstein, best known for helping to fix Major League Baseball’s 1919 World Series, who had a hand in a wide range of rackets throughout the city. Other characters include Tammany Hall operatives such as “Big” Tim Sullivan, featherweight boxing champion Abe Attell, and Fanny Brice, the “Funny Girl” of the Ziegfeld Follies. Pietrusza catalogs and maps out 189 sites of infamy in Manhattan, including Rothstein’s gambling house on West 46th Street, madam-to-the-stars Polly Adler’s brothel on West 54th Street, and the Park Crescent Hotel on West 87th Street, the site of a 1929 drug bust that netted more than $1 million in cocaine and opium. This encyclopedic account, broken up into bite-size sections, amounts to a roll call of Jazz Age New York’s rich and infamous, couched within a tour of the underworld hot spots where they lived and died. (“Few of the characters we meet here end well. Fewer deserve to,” Pietrusza writes.) N.Y.C. history buffs should take note. Photos. (Nov.)