Rogues' Gallery: Book summary and reviews of Rogues' Gallery by John Oller

Rogues' Gallery

The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York

by John Oller

Rogues' Gallery by John Oller X
Rogues' Gallery by John Oller
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Sep 21, 2021
    528 pages
    Genre: True Crime

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Book Summary

From the beginnings of big-city police work to the rise of the Mafia, Rogues' Gallery is a colorful and captivating history of crime and punishment in the bustling streets of Old New York.

Rogues' Gallery is a sweeping, epic tale of two revolutions, one feeding off the other, that played out on the streets of New York City during an era known as the Gilded Age. For centuries, New York had been a haven of crime. A thief or murderer not caught in the act nearly always got away. But in the early 1870s, an Irish cop by the name of Thomas Byrnes developed new ways to catch criminals. Mug shots and daily lineups helped witnesses point out culprits; the famed rogues' gallery allowed police to track repeat offenders; and the third-degree interrogation method induced recalcitrant crooks to confess. Byrnes worked cases methodically, interviewing witnesses, analyzing crime scenes, and developing theories that helped close the books on previously unsolvable crimes.

Yet as policing became ever more specialized and efficient, crime itself began to change. Robberies became bolder and more elaborate, murders grew more ruthless and macabre, and the street gangs of old transformed into hierarchal criminal enterprises, giving birth to organized crime, including the Mafia. As the decades unfolded, corrupt cops and clever criminals at times blurred together, giving way to waves of police reform at the hands of men like Theodore Roosevelt.

This is a tale of unforgettable characters: Marm Mandelbaum, a matronly German-immigrant woman who paid off cops and politicians to protect her empire of fencing stolen goods; "Clubber" Williams, a sadistic policeman who wielded a twenty-six-inch club against suspects, whether they were guilty or not; Danny Driscoll, the murderous leader of the Irish Whyos Gang and perhaps the first crime boss of New York; Big Tim Sullivan, the corrupt Tammany Hall politician who shielded the Whyos from the law; the suave Italian Paul Kelly and the thuggish Jewish gang leader Monk Eastman, whose rival crews engaged in brawls and gunfights all over the Lower East Side; and Joe Petrosino, a Sicilian-born detective who brilliantly pursued early Mafioso and Black Hand extortionists until a fateful trip back to his native Italy.

Set against the backdrop of New York's Gilded Age, with its extremes of plutocratic wealth, tenement poverty, and rising social unrest, Rogues' Gallery is a fascinating story of the origins of modern policing and organized crime in an eventful era with echoes for our own time.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A]n epic and engrossing look at the history of New York City crime and law enforcement from the early 1870s to about 1910...True crime fans will relish what is likely to be the definitive account of this seminal period for lawbreakers and law enforcers alike." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"For crime buffs, Oller delivers ample murder and mayhem as well as organizational notes for students of criminology...Overlong but with some fine moments of cops-and-robbers and cops-and-politicos action throughout." - Kirkus Reviews

"For fans of true crime stories, Oller has assembled an abundance of colorful characters." - Booklist

"[W]ell written…Perfect for New York City history buffs or true crime readers." - Library Journal

"Rogues' Gallery is a remarkable and impressive achievement. John Oller's deep dive into a rich variety of primary sources has produced a riveting and compelling narrative. Important but forgotten events and characters like the Manhattan Savings Bank robbery, Marm Mandelbaum, Shang Draper, and Arthur Carey have long needed their own historian, and John Oller rises to the occasion. I wish I had written Rogues' Gallery." - Timothy Gilfoyle, professor of history, Loyola University Chicago and author of A Pickpocket's Tale and City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex

"Interesting reading and meticulous research. Will be appreciated by readers of crime and law enforcement history." - Thomas Hunt, author of DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime

"An excellent and much-needed revision to accounts of New York's late nineteenth-century crime scene." - Jerry Kuntz, author of The Writing Master: The Story of the Gentleman-Thief and Forger, James B. Crosse

This information about Rogues' Gallery shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

John Oller

John Oller is a retired Wall Street attorney, and author of critically acclaimed biographies of figures such as Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, Hollywood actress Jean Arthur, and Civil War socialite Kate Chase Sprague. He lives on New York's Upper West Side.

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