SOCIAL SCIENCES

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Oct. 2016. 416p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780385537155. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385537162. CRIME
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OrangeReviewStarNational Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) has written a definitive biography of "Public Enemy #1" Al Capone (1899–1947). Based on extensive research and interviews with as many Capone descendants as could be tracked down, the author attempts to tease out fact from legend. Interestingly, many times she concludes that the several versions of events published and passed down through the years all contain some portion of the truth. For example, one persistent myth attributes a quote to Capone about how he should have taken up the milk business, not the beer business, because milk is legal and always in demand. Bair couldn't verify this statement but documents in several places how Capone presented himself as a wholesome family man to the press, referring lovingly to his family. This book came about because Capone's relatives have recently started talking and writing memoirs. Capone is such a mythical figure that he was named one of the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time" by the Smithsonian in 2014 and has been compared to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.
VERDICT Bair has written perhaps the last word on Capone. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/3/16.]

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