The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld (Vintage)
First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life ofnineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history.
Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets. A rogues gallery of prostitutes, pimps, poisoners, pickpockets, murderers, and thieves, The Gangs of New York is a dramatic and entertaining glimpse at a city's dark past.
Fascinating anecdotal history (NOT movie novelization)
By Joel L. Gandelman - January 30, 2003
The Gangs of New York is a fascinating chunk of controversial history (some question its accuracy), an interesting period piece written nearly 90 years ago-- but fans of the highly-touted film should BEWARE if they're expecting for something closely related to the Martin Scorese flick. Even so, no matter what anyone (including yours truly) says...and awful lot of people of all ages READ this book -- and love it. I was recently on a flight and sat next to a guy in his early 20s who sat there fascinated, reading it during the entire 3 hour flight. Gangs of New York is NOT your typical book on which a movie is based. If it's bought by someone who loves the film somebody is going to be in for a monster surprise (or disappointment). Don't expect a plot, don't expect compelling writing, don't expect a large section on which the book is based and to easily find those sections. But do expect to be fascinated. WHAT THIS IS: This is a book about: early brutal gang warfare, during... read more
The Bible of Gangland Americana
By Stephen Norton - February 20, 2000
For the American Gangster and for those interested in their colorful rise in the halls of American folklore, this book can be considered nothing less than a classic to be ranked with Moby Dick and Last of the Mohicans. The title is simple, yet apt, but the content hits the reader with the force of a lead pipe. From the teeming streets of the 19th Century Lower East Side to the ivory towers of Tammany Hall in the early 20th Century, the 'Gangs of New York' leads you on a walk through Hell filled with violence, despair and the reality of the early immigrants life in squalor, where the only way of life was the street. This is an easy-to-read and thoroughly enjoyable history book written in the colorful, "oral" style of writing found with authors such as Harold Lamb. The characters are memorable, and their names will stay with you forever. Personalities such as Hell-cat Maggie, Baboon Connelly, Googy Corcoran, Paul Kelly, Monk Eastman, and Owney Madden... read more
History as dime novel
By bensmomma "bensmomma" - December 18, 2002
Herbert Asbury's "Gangs of New York" was an expose first published in 1927. Its style shows its age: reading this book is like listening to an old 1920's newspaper reporter from the far end of the bar after he's had too many drinks: lots of exotic tall tales of life in the gritty city; countless names and places rise and disappear never to be heard again. The overall effect is entertaining but completely unbelievable, as though Paul Bunyon had moved to the Lower East Side of 19th-century Manhattan.One illustration will suffice: the early gangster "Mighty Mose" is describe as 'at least 8 feet tall' wearing boots studded with inch-long spikes.On one occasion Asbury has Mose pulling an oak tree out of the ground by its roots to 'smite' some of a rival gang, the Dead Rabbits. On another the author claims Mose swam underwater from Manhattan to Staten Island without coming up for air. It comes off as the kind of book a boy would have hidden in a corncrib to read... read more