May 2010

What you don’t know about Al Capone

By Jonathan Eig
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I’m a Chicago guy. Been one all my life. So I thought I knew everything there is to know about the “Chicago Way.” You know, using hustle and muscle to get power and money. But along comes this other Chicago guy, Jonathan Eig, to teach me some new things. His book, Get Capone, is about the guy who made the “Chicago Way” famous. Al “Scarface” Capone, that is—the most notorious Chicago gangster of all time.

Most people know Capone from the blockbuster movie The Untouchables. I love that movie. But it only paints a broad picture of Capone, and the guy credited for jailing him: Eliot Ness. It turns out that the government’s plot to get Capone ran much deeper than Ness and his small band of agents. Everyone from President Herbert Hoover to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover conspired to get Capone for years. They finally got him for income tax evasion. But it took a lot more work than Ness simply stumbling upon the mobster’s accounting ledgers, as portrayed in the movie.

That’s what I like about Eig’s book. There’s a lot of detail. Which impressed me, as a Chicago guy who thought he knew everything. Like when I walk by Holy Name Cathedral in the city’s Gold Coast. I always knew the bullet holes in the façade were from a gangland shooting. But now I know from Get Capone that the shots were fired by some of Capone’s hit men from a building across the street, killing several rival mobsters. I also learned that Scarface spent as much time in Cicero, Illinois, and Miami, Florida, as he did in Chicago. Meanwhile, he had a wife and kid who lived quietly in a bungalow on Chicago’s South Side. See, Capone got around. Which explains how he caught a social disease that eventually killed him. I learned all this from the book.

Get Capone is great because it adds to the legend while dispelling some of the myths. From one Chicago guy to another: Good job, Jonathan Eig.

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Get Capone

Get Capone

By Jonathan Eig
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781416580591

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