Law & Crime
Hendley, Nate B. American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. 2009. 304p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-313-35451-9. $85; Online: ABC-CLIO eBook Collection REF
In a highly accessible style, perfect for general audiences—especially those with an interest in the real stories behind iconic gangster films such as Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, and Gangs of New York—Hendley (Bonnie and Clyde) provides a historical overview of organized crime and criminals in America. Alphabetically organized, the 45 entries range from one to 20 pages in length. Discussions of groups like the Bloods or the Dead Rabbits will be familiar to readers, while other entries, like an examination of the Purple Gang or the Black Hand, are more obscure.
The majority of entries examine exploits of infamous individuals like Meyer Lansky, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, Dutch Schultz, or Stanley “Tookie” Williams. Criminal organizations are well represented here, including the Hells Angels, the Crips, and the Dalton Gang. Hendley also touches on the criminal activities of these groups and individuals with detailed entries on prostitution, the drug trade, and the numbers racket, among others. Each entry closes with cross-references and a list of titles for further reading. Individual entries for contemporary gangs, like the Vice Lord Nation or the Asian Boyz, rather than the brief notes that appear under larger headings would have been useful.
BOTTOM LINE Numerous reference works on organized crime exist: Encyclopedia of Gangs, edited by Louis Kontos, for example. But only Hendley’s can boast such depth and breadth of analysis in a slim, current volume, solely focused on the American gangster experience. Recommended for public libraries.—Daniel Sifton, Vancouver Island Univ. Lib., Nanaimo, B.C.
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