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The Real Capone

Drawing on recently discovered government documents, wiretap transcripts, and Al Capone’s handwritten personal letters, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Eig tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the nation’s most infamous criminal in rich new detail.

From the moment he arrived in Chicago in 1920, Capone found himself in a world with limitless opportunity. Within a few years, Capone controlled an illegal bootlegging business with annual revenue rivaling that of some of the nation’s largest corporations. Along the way, he corrupted the Chicago police force and local courts while becoming one of the world’s first international celebrities. Legend credits Eliot Ness and his “Untouchables” with apprehending Capone, but Eig shows that this wasn’t so. In Get Capone, the man known as “Scarface” emerges as a complex man, doomed as much by his ego as by his vicious criminality. This is the real Al Capone.

“Riveting. . . . Eig's book is full of fascinating details about the Windy City, as well as the rest of America in the 1920s.”

Dallas Morning News

Why Capone?

In many ways, this book is the outlier for me. All my other books are about heroes, about people of courage who changed the world, usually for the better. So, why Capone?

Well, I live in Chicago, for one thing. Everybody in Chicago has a story about Capone. My grandfather was his barber. My great uncle drove and sold him hooch. Capone remains, arguably, the most notorious criminal in American history, which is really saying something. But who was he? How did he become a gangster, much less a celebrity gangster? And why was the federal government able to convict him of nothing more serious than tax evasion? I was curious.

When I began exploring Capone's story, I realized the federal government possessed very records from its Capone investigation. I managed to get new records from the IRS, but where were the records from the U.S. Attorney who led the investigation? It turned out they were in Nebraska. In a college professor's office. In liquor boxes. Thousands of pages. Wiretaps. Government memos. The first draft of the prosecutor's closing arguments. You name it. When I got hold of those papers, and when I read them, I was shocked. And knew I had to write this book.

Capone was no hero. But he's not the cartoon bad guy we make him out to be, and the government's case against him was deeply flawed.

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