On Al Capone and you-know-who: What’s the appeal?

Capone following his arrest on a vagrancy charge in 1930.

Capone following his arrest on a vagrancy charge in 1930.

Yesterday, Bryan Burrough reviewed a new book about Al Capone in The Wall Street Journal.

The writer, himself an author of a popular book on criminals of that era, confessed he was somewhat at a loss to explain why Capone remains such a favorite subject of readers: “I’ve read my share of books devoted to his life and legend, and I must admit, his appeal eludes me.”

The best bit of the review was this paragraph:

The portrait that invariably emerges is of a rank outsider, a Brooklynite making his way as a “businessman” in Chicago, a grandiose bloviator handed much of his empire in his 20s by his mentor, the retiring Johnny Torrio. When Capone encounters difficulties, he whines about his persecution by the press and a legal system “rigged” against him. Half the country thinks him a monster; others view him as the common man’s champion. Wait: This is beginning to sound familiar. I guess this isn’t the first time I’ve underestimated the appeal of such a man….

Yeah, I know the feeling.

No doubt there are a lot of voters out there — a lot more than most people had supposed — who would be interested in reading about such a man…

Capone's FBI rap sheet -- which seems oddly blank.

Capone’s FBI rap sheet — which seems oddly blank.

2 thoughts on “On Al Capone and you-know-who: What’s the appeal?

  1. Dave

    This isn’t particularly apropos of this, but thought I’d post it to get it out there. Trump’s election has produced a pretty marked change in the emphasis of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. They’ve declared December 12th (the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) a day of prayer and solidarity with families of immigrants:

    There’s a chance, particularly with Francis’s appointments of new Bishops in the coming years, that the Catholic Church in the U.S. will become one of the main sources of resistance to much of the Trump agenda. Examples of this from Francis’s recent appointments include Bishop McElroy in San Diego, who states “For us, as the Catholic community of the United States, it is unthinkable that we will stand by while more than ten percent of our flock is ripped from our midst and deported”:

    and now-Cardinal Joe Tobin, who a day before the election said that when deciding who to vote for, Catholics should ask themselves re: the candidates “Are they calling us together or are they separating us?”


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