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Handsome Johnny: Book summary and reviews of Handsome Johnny by Lee Server

Handsome Johnny

The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin

by Lee Server

Handsome Johnny by Lee Server X
Handsome Johnny by Lee Server
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2018
    544 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

A rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century's darkest secrets: an untold story of golden age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal and international intrigue.

A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli's career flourished for an extraordinary fifty years, from the bloody years of bootlegging in the Roaring Twenties - the last protégé of Al Capone - to the modern era of organized crime as a dominant corporate power. The Mob's "Man in Hollywood," Johnny Rosselli introduced big-time crime to the movie industry, corrupting unions and robbing moguls in the biggest extortion plot in history. A man of great allure and glamour, Rosselli befriended many of the biggest names in the movie capital - including studio boss Harry Cohn, helping him to fund Columbia Pictures - and seduced some of its greatest female stars, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. In a remarkable turn of events, Johnny himself would become a Hollywood filmmaker - producing two of the best film noirs of the 1940s.

Following years in federal prison, Rosselli began a new venture, overseeing the birth and heyday of Las Vegas. Working for new Chicago boss Sam Giancana, he became the gambling mecca's behind-the-scenes boss, running the town from his suites and poolside tables at the Tropicana and Desert Inn, enjoying the Rat Pack nightlife with pals Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In the 1960s, in the most unexpected chapter in an extraordinary life, Rosselli became the central figure in a bizarre plot involving the Kennedy White House, the CIA, and an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. Based upon years of research, written with compelling style and vivid detail, Handsome Johnny is the great telling of an amazing tale.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Filled with crackerjack writing and Damon Runyonesque characters, this entertaining page-turner is a rich look at one of organized crime's most intriguing characters." - Publishers Weekly

"Paced like a fine piece of fiction, this is a handsomely written chronicle of an interesting mob character." - Kirkus

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Melisende

Handsome Johnny
Having read Martin Short's "Crime Inc" many times, I could not for the life of me remember coming across Johnny Rosselli's name in any context. In fact, I picked up the book again to ensure that I hadn't missed it - I hadn't - he's not listed or mentioned.

So who was this shadowy figure? From Server's well-researched and vivid biography, Rosselli is hardly camera shy, being involved in some of the biggest Mob activities from the 1920s to the 1960s. Server does well to tease out the little that is known about Rosselli's life, particularly his early life in Boston, which he himself endeavoured to keep secret - changing his name to ensure that it was. He moved in notable crime circles with the likes of Capone, Siegel, Lansky, Luciano, Giancana; produced two Hollywood films; was a mover and shaker in the early Las Vegas casino era of the 1940s & 1950s, where he hob-nobbed with the likes of Hollywood's Rat Pack, aspiring politicians and dodgy union bosses.

Yet nearly everything about Rosselli was cloaked in mystery; that is, until the FBI had him in their crossfire, and his wheeling and dealing was revealed, via a snitch. This investigation by the FBI opened up old wounds and long kept secrets, and eventually involved the CIA. Even in death, another mystery; why was Rosselli killed (or rubbed out) and by who - the Mob, the FBI, the CIA? Theories still abound.

Quite frankly, you can't make this stuff up - even if it does read like fiction. Rosselli lived through some of the most fascinating events and decades in history: the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Second World War, McCathyism, JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Server research stands him in good stead in bringing to the fore a man who had his finger in many pies - and yet, Rosselli still somehow manages to remains an enigma. If the Mob history is your genre, then add this to the shelves of your library.

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Author Information

Lee Server

Lee Server is the author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed biographies Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care and Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing. Robert Mitchum was named a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, "the film biography of the year" by the Sunday Times (U.K.) and one of the "60 Greatest Film Books." Ava Gardner was a New York Times Notable Book, and a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today bestseller. He lives in Palm Springs, California.

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