Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - Eminent Gangsters: Immigrants and the Birth of Organized Crime in America

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review - Eminent Gangsters: Immigrants and the Birth of Organized Crime in America

About the Book
Pop culture mainstays like The Sopranos and The Godfather have offered a stylized theatrical face of the Italian Mafia and organized crime in the United States. The story behind these infamous mobsters, however, has been largely overlooked. James Fentress explores the birth of organized crime in America in his new book, Eminent Gangsters. Focusing mainly on immigrants in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, Fentress offers the reader an exciting narrative with rich historical background from an unorthodox angle.

At its simplest, Eminent Gangsters is a book about immigration and organized crime at the turn of the century. It explores the world of the Five Families of the New York Mafia, the Capone outfit in Chicago, and the various Jewish and Irish groups aligned themselves with them. It also looks at the immigrant experience in America as a whole. Fentreee explores why immigrants seem to dominate organized crime in the U.S. and attributes it to the country's habit of criminalizing certain activities, thereby creating huge and lucrative markets for new immigrants to exploit.

"America's message to the immigrants seemed to be. 'You must start off in the underworld, and move up from there'," says Fentress. "It was a wish to go beyond the usual cliches and understand the bleak assumption that inspired me in this book."

More than just a history book, Eminent Gangsters presents themes that offer pertinent lessons for modern society. Apart from ever-present problem of crime in America, parallels between Prohibition in the 1920's and the current drug policy today are stark. It solicits the question of whether the strict drug policy in the U.S. is only enabling the illegal dealings of the underworld, just as the Prohibition Era did a century ago.

My Take on the Book
James Fentress does a great job at explaining even the small details of the world that was the early 1900's. My family came from Sicily and there are stories of Mafia in our past, but no evidence of it. This book goes into the reality that was the mafia in the early 1900's and it is a true reality and not what we have seen in the movies.

The book itself portrays the Mafia in a different way than I have seen in the past. The book portrays the beginning of the Mafia and those involved as immigrants that were working to make a better life for themselves and for their families. The most prominent of these Mafia members were shown as good businessmen who figured out what they could do (through illegal means) to make their lives that much better.

The book itself was written in a way that draws the reader in and provides so much information that can even make your mind spin a bit. The book provides the reader with a great narrative view of organized crime and being a history buff, I found this book to be a wonderful addition to the historical literature that currently exists.

If you have an interest in history, the Mafia or the early 1900's, this book is a must have. You will be amazed at what you learn!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.
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