Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Admittedly, I picked this book up because of the tv show, since I was curious to find out just how much of it was based on actual fact. After reading it, I can say that the producers have generally stuck to the spirit, if not the letter, of the historical record, and although they've taken a fair bit of dramatic license with the material, it's not because Atlantic City's history lacks drama. From its early days, when it was planned as an upper-crust health resort (something that went by the boards pretty quickly after speculators realized they could make more money catering to the desires -- legal and otherwise -- of day-tripping blue-collar workers from Philadelphia and New York) to its boom years (roughly from the Gilded Age until the Second World War) as America's Vice Capital to its near death during the 60s to its recent resurgence since the legalization of gambling there in the late 70s, it's not a place that has ever lacked for colorful characters, certainly not as Nelson Johnson tells it (special bonus: Johnson really, really, REALLY doesn't think much of Donald Trump), and while the show's decision to concentrate on the years of Nucky Johnson's (fictionalized as Nucky Thompson in the series) reign as Atlantic City's political and criminal boss in the Roaring 20s makes for some great drama, this book proves that there are plenty more stories here to tell.
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