Sunday, February 3, 2008

Show and Tell

Over the course of doing research for the book, I've come upon a few rare gems of which I thought I'd share. Locating rare books in the digital age has been a much less tiresome affair but perhaps slightly less rewarding as the hunt always makes the reward a little sweeter. Thanks mostly in part to the deep well of resource called, a virtual treasure trove of titles (and comparable pricing!), I've managed to track these down over the last couple of years.
The first of the two oldest titles I managed to locate is Sacrificed: The Story Of Police Lieut. Charles Becker, by Attorney Henry, H Klein. (1927 Klein/ Isaac Goldman Inc.), a rare find as it was published by a small company. Klein was the first to publicly denounce Becker's guilt in the murder of Herman Rosenthal as the result of his own investigations in the case and his review of all the court transcripts. Klein inevitably points the finger at accomplice Bald Jack Rose and questions the political motives of District Attorney turned Governor, Charles Whitman. He pens the corrupt Charles Becker as a victim of yet even more corruption, and 'sacrificed' at the end of it all to satisfy a public need for justice.

In The Reign Of Rothstein by Donald Henderson Clarke, was published only a year after Arnold Rothstein’s death in 1929. Clarke was journalist who rubbed elbows with many of Broadway’s gamblers and conmen, holding an utter fascination for them yet never holds them under a glorifying light. It was the first book on Rothstein’s life and his underworld legacy and is a good read considering how close to the time of Rothstein’s death it was published.

Gang Rule In New York: The Story Of A Lawless Era
by Craig Thompson and Allen Raymond (Dial Press 1940). The publishers may have timed its release due the closing of the 1930s, the city’s most high profile decade of lawlessness, and the beginning of the new decade which finally saw Lepke Buchalter behind bars and the sweeping up of Murder Inc., marking the eventual decline of a high level of Jewish hoodlums. The book is divided into four parts and is an excellent, and rare source of research material, becoming a sort of informal sequel to Herbert Asbury’s Gangs Of New York.

Sins Of New York
(Boni & Gaer Inc 1947) was edited by Milton Crane and gathers some of the betters essays and articles of the time, including Meyer Berger’s intriguing Murder, Inc. article, first published in Life magazine.
     Finally comes Murder Inc. by E.E. Rice, published in 1949 by Zebra Picture Books. This is really more a exploitative magazine digest than hardened journalism, but is a great and fascinating resource for rarely published photos which timelines the Herman Rosenthal case all the way to the murder of Bugsy Siegel and is also peppered with short pieces on Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Dutch Schultz, Thomas Dewey and Mickey Cohen among many others. This is a pretty hard item to locate and involved some serious bidding on Ebay.

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