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Read The Outfit: The Role Of Chicago's Underworld In The Shaping Of Modern America (2003)

The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (2003)

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3.93 of 5 Votes: 2
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1582342792 (ISBN13: 9781582342795)

The Outfit: The Role Of Chicago's Underworld In The Shaping Of Modern America (2003) - Plot & Excerpts

I finally understand the difference between the Italian mafia and gangs after reading this book. There are obviously many similarities: crime, organization, code of conduct, simulated family, but the essential difference is that the mafia’s chosen crimes are white collar (racketeering, alcohol during prohibition, gambling, entertainment industry, POLITICS), whereas street gang crimes involve mostly drugs, petty thievery, and territorial violence. Actually, the mafia is vehemently against drugs (but not alcohol?), and won’t let members use drugs, let alone sell drugs…This was a fantastic book; I learned so much. It reads a little like a textbook, but it was so fascinating that I would have been interested in reading about 1,000 more pages on the same topics. It chronicles the beginning of the Chicago Outfit from Al Capone to present day, including the major players and the major crimes and dramas. Although the Outfit really encompassed the descendants of Al Capone, there was a nice intro/preface on Al Capone, who is a stunning character. Known as the real Robinhood, he famously said “nobody’s on the legit”…I love that dichotomy of a seemingly seedy character that cares more about underprivileged than the societal saints, and what a quote to describe politics/business/moneymakers/Chicago – no one is on the legit! However, Al met an absolutely frightening demise: at age 33, diagnosed with central nervous system syphilis, gonorrhea, and perforated septum due to chronic cocaine abuse, shanked in prison, and institutionalized due to dementia/delirium. The “afterword” was just wonderful – it gave total perspective to white collar crime and Gus Russo hits on the roots of crime, which he suggests have nothing to do with members of the mafia that is merely made of immigrants just tryin to get by in a corrupt world. I LOVE the government contradiction he recognizes in the over-publicized mafia/white collar crime v. only arresting petty criminals (i.e. gangbangers): “Since its inception, the U.S. has routinely attacked crime from the bottom up, when, in fact, it is the free ride given the upper class that has inspired generation after generation of new arrivals.” For instance, the political reach of the mafia - infiltrating elections of Richard J. Daley (Chicago mayor), Harry Truman, JFK…Politics seem to be how mafia characters forayed into mainstream, such that today, the mafia still exists, but they blend in with powerful people such that they have BECOME businessmen and the lines between underworld v. society are not as stark! The mafia members ARE CEOs, etc.There’s a wealth of material that I need to investigate further into (i.e. Al Capone, Mafiosi women, political reach of mafia, Chicago underworld). Also, Frank Sinatra…what the heck? He is a weasel and he strong-armed himself into fame. He was also a rumored user of Marilyn Monroe, one of the most tragic figures of the time (whose body CONTINUES to be abused via the large statute of her on Chicago magnificent mile where people can look up her skirt), which makes my stomach hurt.

Very interesting book that has it's most value when talking about the organization of Chicago-land and how the criminal's were able to gain so much control and act with impunity in that city. Also very eye-opening about criminal (read: terrorist) activity that would cause modern America to shudder to a paranoid stop, that was common place less than 100 years ago. You think urban crime is bad, or politicians are dirty? Read this book and see how much worse our history was.The big weakness in this book is documenting the national moves of the criminal gang. Their activity in Las Vegas, with the Kennedy's, and in Hollywood is much less interesting and more widely known, which makes these chapters much less easily readable.The biggest problem with the book is the epilogue, which is absolute self indulgent garbage. Without that, I would have said this was a great book. Some editor was scared by the Pulitzer on Russo's mantle.

What do You think about The Outfit: The Role Of Chicago's Underworld In The Shaping Of Modern America (2003)?

I read this hoping for some insight into the Chicago mob's current incarnation, and was disappointed- this is basically the story of Joe Accardo's forty-some years of control over the group, with a big fat healthy prelude to fill in how the organization got started in the first place, which means things pretty much stop once we get to the 80's. Russo's thesis, which he bangs like a drum repeatedly over the course of the book, is that the Outfit wasn't really any dirtier than the above-ground political and business worlds, and he's got anecdotes by the pound to make his point. He doesn't really do nuance when it comes to the ethics of what these guys got up to and who they got in bed with to do so. But for a broad look at all the players and who did what during the shockingly long height of the Chicago mob's power, you can't do much better than this.
—Brendan Detzner

An alternative history of America in the 20th Century. The book focuses on the heirs to Al Capone's criminal empire after he was sent to prison. Most of the shots were called by Joe Accardo, Curly Humphreys, Paul Ricca, Johnny Rosselli and Jake Guzik. The most fascinating one of the bunch, to me, was Curly Humphreys, the brains of the Outfit, so to speak. Along the way we're shown how the Outfit got footholds into the entertainment industry (Music and Movies), Gambling, Las Vegas, the service industry and politics. You end up having a grudging respect for the way these guys saw opportunities and pounced on them. But the real kicker to the book is Russo's final analysis of Organized Crime, or the Underworld, compared to the crimes that have mostly gone unpunished by the so-called legit Upperworld; being politicians, bankers, family dynasties, industrial corporations and religion. Yes, the gangs participated in murder and mayhem. But they had great teachers. And if you think things are any better now, just consider the bank bailouts, for one example, and who benefited the most from it. Likely, it's no one you and I will be hanging out with this weekend...
—Kurt Reichenbaugh

How can someone make a book about the mafia boring? This one did. I read every word for about 150 pages and then found myself skipping whole paragraphs, then whole pages, then whole chapters - just because it was so boring and poorly written. The book just didn't flow and was badly in need of a stronger editor. On the plus side, it was obviously thoroughly researched. I found the lengthy discussion (every discussion in the book was lengthy) of Joe Kennedy's mafia ties very interesting. I don't think there can be any doubt at all that JFK won the 1960 election in large part thanks to the Chicago Mafia.
—Ian Foster

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