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The Outfit : The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America
The thrilling never-before told story of the great Chicago crime family called The Outfit
Perhaps the most compelling gangster tale is one that has been, until now, surprisingly well hidden. This is the story of the Outfit: the secret organised crime cartel that began its reign in prohibition era Chicago before becoming the puppet master of Hollywood, Las Vegas and Washington DC. Moving with purpose and panache, the Outfit blended effortlessly with underworld corporate heads, Hollywood moguls, and national political icons. It was only after a fifty-year run that their world started to crumble in the 1970s.
With extensive research including recently released FBI files, original interviews with Outfit associates and members of the Fourth Estate (who pursued the Outfit for over forty years) and first ever access to the journals of Humphreys' long-in-hiding widow, veteran investigative journalist Gus Russo uncovers sixty years of corruption and influence.
Investigative reporter Russo (Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK) offers an impressive in-depth history of Chicago's elusive crime syndicate. Unlike their trigger-happy East Coast counterparts, Chicago's gangsters stressed businesslike discretion following the chaotic Capone era, and they had a wide-ranging impact on American culture, entertainment and politics that has never been fully documented. Russo has new sources, ranging from entertainer Steve Allen's "crime files" to the widow of the book's most memorable figure, the Outfit's financial manager, "Curly" Humphreys. Others, like Paul "The Waiter" Ricca, will be known to Mob aficionados, but even they will note Russo's novel thesis, that the lucrative scams carried out during the group's 40-year heyday involved members of the respected "upperworld." These ventures ranged from the well known, such as the gambling operations that fueled Chicago's civic corruption, to the surprising (Mob-linked dairies were the first to use "sell by" dates). The Outfit started off-track betting and Top 40 charts and, in its declining years, the Outfit's "fixer," Sidney Korshak, vetted the cast of The Godfather. According to Russo, their "respectable" partners who publicly abhorred the gangster element included Joe Kennedy, MCA president Jules Stein, Bing Crosby, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, and innumerable public servants. Russo humanizes the shadowy gangsters without denying their violent proclivities. He also examines them in the context of traditional immigrant ambitions. Russo's illuminating history may disorient some readers; still, this is the book to beat in examining this midcentury criminal empire. B&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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April 01, 2003
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