Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)
From its inception, Atlantic City has always been a town dedicated to the fast buck, and this wide-reaching history offers a riveting account of its past 100 years, from the city's heyday as a Prohibition-era mecca of lawlessness to its rebirth as a legitimate casino resort in the modern era.
A colorful cast of characters, led by Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, populates this stranger-than-fiction account of corrupt politics and the toxic power structure that grew out of guile, finesse, and extortion. Atlantic City's shadowy past through its rise, fall, and rebirth is given new light in this revealing, and often appalling, study of legislative abuse and organized crime.
This audiobook, narrated by Joe Mantegna, is the true story that inspired the upcoming HBO series of the same name. It includes a foreword written and narrated by Terence Winter.
The choice of opening music for this recording of Nelson Johnson’s Boardwalk Empire is telling: though the book charts the rise and fall of Atlantic City from its beginnings as a shyster health resort in the late 19th century through the Donald Trump years to the beginning of the new millennium, the Jazz-age ragtime announces the real crux of this sprawling epic the age of prohibition, gambling, and mob protection. These transgressive themes are woven throughout the city's history as well as (the author tacitly implies) the recent history of the United States. Johnson shows how Atlantic City was one of the cradles of the American mafia as it served as an entry point to those wanting to get around prohibition (including a young Al Capone), and played host to a cast of Damon Runyon-esque characters.
Overseeing it all was the archetypal character of Enoch "Nucky" Johnson: half politician, half underworld boss, his career "personifies the greed, corruption, and high times that were of Atlantic City in its days of glory". His ties with the Republican Party and invites to the White House are a case study in official corruption, and his personality is nailed down here to memorable effect: he was "a master at holding the hand of a widow and whispering gently what a fine man her husband was".
Many will be drawn to this book on the basis of the Scorsese-produced HBO series, though they should be forewarned that Boardwalk Empire can be exhaustive in its cataloging of each step of the myriad legal processes that variously built up and tore down the antiheroes of Atlantic City; the author was professionally involved for several decades in the city's politics, and it shows on more than one occasion. But luckily for the listener, Joe Mantegna's voice immediately and effortlessly invests each word with sly insinuation and more than a hint of malevolence. He's particularly good at hinting at the self-serving and dishonest motivations behind acts of public munificence, as his voice becomes a knowing wink, a secret handshake turned into sound. His narration makes an offer you can't refuse, and at its considerable best the result is along the lines of Citizen Kane as narrated by The Simpsons’ Fat Tony (another Mantegna performance). DafyddPhillips
"Joe Mantegna's steady, unaffected reading of Johnson's history of Atlantic City is a model of good audiobook narration. Mantegna seems the perfect choice for this title, a solid professional whose voice is tuned to both the drama of individual moments and the rising and falling arcs of the narrative as a whole." (AudioFile)
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