STARRED REVIEW
May 19, 2015

Chicago hustle

By Dean Jobb
Review by
Poet Carl Sandburg described Chicago as “course and strong and cunning.” Novelist Nelson Algren characterized Chicago as a “city on the make.”Author Dean Jobb cements Chicago’s gritty reputation in Empire of Deception.
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Poet Carl Sandburg described Chicago as “course and strong and cunning.” Novelist Nelson Algren characterized Chicago as a “city on the make.”

Author Dean Jobb cements Chicago’s gritty reputation in Empire of Deception. Not since Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City  has an author so eloquently captured the shadowy character of the city. Jobb tells the true story of Leo Koretz, a silver-tongued attorney from the Roaring ’20s who swindled Chicagoans, Bernie Madoff-style, through a get-rich-quick investment scheme. In an era when Al Capone made his money through liquor, gambling and violent retribution, Koretz made his fortune in more subtle ways: carefully cultivating Chicago’s rich and famous.

After wining and dining his wealthy clientele, he sold them shares in a phony venture to extract timber and oil in the jungles of Panama. In reality, Koretz was running a Ponzi scheme: using the money from new investors to pay off earlier investors.

Once discovered, Koretz disappeared, only to be caught a year later by a man of equal ambition: Robert Crowe, a Chicago prosecutor hell-bent on law and order and making a name for himself. Jobb does a masterful turn chronicling the parallel career arcs of Koretz and Crowe.

Empire of Deception does a remarkable job of capturing the essence of Chicago in the 1920s, a town filled with hustlers and hucksters, lawless gangsters and corrupt politicians. At once informative and entertaining, the fast-moving narrative tells an age-old story about our capacity to be conned.

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Empire of Deception

Empire of Deception

By Dean Jobb
Algonquin
ISBN 9781616201753

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