The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America
Gus Russo

Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA

Pub Date:  Spring 2002 and Spring 2003

Format:   Hardcover and Trade Paperback

Foreign sales:  UK

Brief Description
The first definitive history of the Chicago Outfit, one of the most powerful mafia organizations to ever run America.
(see below for Full Description)

#1 in Chicago
* One of the 20 Best Books of the Year
(the Detroit Free Press)
* To be a major mini-series

"Absolutely captivating! For a 'Wiseguy' like me it was like going back to the neighborhood for an education. I couldn't put it down."
--Henry Hill, the inspiration for the film "Goodfellas" and the best-selling book "Wiseguys."

"This is the most in-depth, dispassionate study of organized crime and big business to date. Russo located most of the skeletons in this masterful probe."
--Jack Clarke, Special Investigator for Chicago Mayors Kennelly through Daley, and Illinois Governors Stevenson through Kerner

"Russo's amazing book gets to the heart of the Chicago Outfit. This is an authoritative and engrossing work about the Windy City's colorful mob and the 'legit' partners who helped make them the toughest and most successful crew in the country."
--Nicholas Pileggi, best-selling author of Wiseguys and Casino.


(US edition)

(UK edition)

"The Outfit is an outstanding work of investigative reporting about a crucial juncture in American parapolitics. The index alone is worth the price of admission. Congratulations, then, to Gus Russo for digging so deep and writing so well about a very mysterious place in time, and the murderous characters who gave it so much glamor.
--Jim Hougan, Former Washington Editor for Harper's, and award-winning investigative author of Spooks: the Haunting of America - the Private Use of Secret Agents, and, Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA.

"This thick volume is a valuable addition to accounts of organized crime in America. Russo, an investigative reporter, pries open the history of the Mob in Chicago, led by Tony Accardo (known as Joe Batters) and his lieutenants Murray Humphreys (known variously as Curly and the Camel), Paul Ricca (the Waiter), and Johnny Rosselli. Showing a corporate mind-set designed to preserve the legacy of more famous gangsters like Al Capone and Frank Nitti, the foursome reigned over Chicago crime for decades. The tales of corruption and violence have a familiar scent--a political payoff here, a midnight hit there--but Russo manages his plots and subplots admirably, and he isn't shy about letting readers know when's he's deploying previously inaccessible files. The influence of the Kennedy family alone, especially Joe Kennedy's alliance with the Mob (which helped elect his son president), is given more detailed treatment than in any previous work."
--The New Yorker

"[The Outfit] goes beyond the surface in exploring the growth of organized crime in Chicago...[Gus Russo] has provided the in-depth coverage that reporters working during the heyday of the mob would have liked to have done....he details the relationships of gangsters with greedy businessmen, politicians and police...Russo's book is a saga of more than 500 pages of good journalism that is an informative, tireless read. It is for followers of mob lore or the beginner who wants to jump with both feet into a subject that has often been only superficially reported...his careful research may provide the reader with some new ideas or insights about the Outfit...He does not excuse the criminals but portrays the two groups--underworld and upperworld--as sharing culpability."
--Chicago Tribune

"For students of the gangster life, the chief satisfaction of Gus Russo's enormous chronicle, "The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America," will be the lavish attention paid to the Chicago mobsters who came after the heyday of Al Capone. Russo demonstrates that Capone's successors, though less storied than that 1920s icon, were equally colorful and eccentric and that their dealings in a post-Prohibition world
were vastly more labyrinthine and sophisticated. ...Russo convincingly demonstrates that the road to perdition lasted at least until the 1960s...In contrast to recent books about crime, which emphasize the warped sensibilities of the criminals themselves, The Outfit is a throwback to an earlier era of crime writing, the hairy-chested, comprehensive, now-it-can-be-told indictments compiled by writers like Hank Messick, Virgil Peterson and Ovid Demaris... I have never read a better, or more exhaustive, account of how these men built their empires and how they lost them....the moral passion behind the author's account of that controversial [1960] election is impressive...The Outfit's" exhaustive reporting and comprehensive analysis of Chicago's criminal culture make the book one of the essential works on the subject of organized crime. Virtually every tale told about the Outfit can be found here. Criminologists will consult it for decades, and general readers who follow Russo to the end will think twice the next time they buy a movie ticket or cast a ballot."
--Los Angeles Times (Sunday)

"In this impressive work, investigative journalist Russo (Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK) combines hundreds of his own interviews and newly revealed government files with the latest exposes (e.g., Sally Denton and Roger Morris's The Money and the Power, on Las Vegas) to present an in-depth history of the Chicago mob from the 1920s through the 1960s. Russo shows how, during that period, "The Outfit," as it called itself, helped elect several presidents, created Las Vegas, and bankrolled Hollywood. The book is studded with revelations, such as the true story of "The Untouchables," Bing Crosby's debt to the mob, and Al Capone's surprise conviction for tax evasion. The author has no sympathy for those in political power, decrying corruption in the Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. In an afterword he reveals his strong opinions on the topic, stating that white-collar criminals ("the upperworld") have been ignored at the expense of those in the "underworld" because of prejudice against Italians and the poor in general. Whether or not the reader agrees, Russo has written the most detailed book on the subject to date. Recommended for general collections."
--Library Journal, April 5, 2002

"Investigative reporter Russo (Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK) offers an impressive in-depth history of Chicago's elusive crime syndicate. Unlike their trigger-happy East Coast counterparts, Chicago's gangsters stressed businesslike discretion following the chaotic Capone era, and they had a wide-ranging impact on American culture, entertainment and politics that has never been fully documented. Russo has new sources, ranging from entertainer Steve Allen's "crime files" to the widow of the book's most memorable figure, the Outfit's financial manager, "Curly" Humphreys. Others, like Paul "The Waiter" Ricca, will be known to Mob aficionados, but even they will note Russo's novel thesis, that the lucrative scams carried out during the group's 40-year heyday involved members of the respected "upperworld." These ventures ranged from the well known, such as the gambling operations that fueled Chicago's civic corruption, to the surprising (Mob-linked dairies were the first to use "sell by" dates). The Outfit started off-track betting and Top 40 charts and, in its declining years, the Outfit's "fixer," Sidney Korshak, vetted the cast of The Godfather. According to Russo, their "respectable" partners who publicly abhorred the gangster element included Joe Kennedy, MCA president Jules Stein, Bing Crosby, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, and innumerable public servants. Russo humanizes the shadowy gangsters without denying their violent proclivities. He also examines them in the context of traditional immigrant ambitions. Russo's illuminating history the book to beat in examining this mid-century criminal empire."
--Publisher's Weekly, April 1, 2002

"Each of its 560 pages is enormously detailed. But Russo is so engagingly in command of his material that - for me, anyway - it all holds together as an almost seamless web. In the events it describes, it is inclusive, insightful and revealing....A huge quantity of documented sources are drawn upon - transcripts of congressional hearings, grand jury records, trials, depositions, as well as hundreds of wiretaps, both legal and illegal. Russo interviewed large numbers of participants, including widows of major mobsters. There are excellent footnotes and bibliographical references. From the outset, Russo writes briskly, with a clean, colloquial vocabulary, never flashy."
--Sun Book Editor
(Michael Pakenham--Pakenham covered the Outfit for the Chicago Tribune during the 1950's and 1960's)

"Gus Russo has penned the definitive work on the history of organized crime in Chicago. Majestic in its scope (511 pages of text) its an ambitious and groundbreaking book that will forever change our understanding of the most successful, powerful and wealthiest Mob family in American history. While seasoned researchers, and probably only seasoned researchers, will recognize some of the work included in the book (It isn't possible to pen the history of the Chicago Mob without covering those well worn tales) they will be equally impressed by the fresh material included in the work which sheds an accurate and verifiable light on the Chicago Mobs so-called Golden era. Researchers and writers will also be particularly impressed (and thankful) for the works impressive 24 page index, which was obviously prepared as part of the book and not, as so often the case, as an afterthought by an editor who doesn't have a grasp on the genre. The same holds true for ten pages of sources. While Russo obviously writes with an eye towards the experts in the field, the book is an enjoyable, well paced and well written yarn for anyone with even a passing interest in the Underworld. Thankfully, he has not been afflicted by the recent trend in crime writing to punish the reader by insisting on providing endless, dry and pointless facts that do nothing to forward the story. This history is long overdue. Its accuracy and hundreds of hours of research, saves and elevates the incredible history of the Chicago Mob from the loon works perpetrated by that master of fiction Judy Campbell and other secondary oddballs who stood on the fringe of the Mob, have no understanding of the broader picture and yet have managed to place themselves squarely in the middle as experts. As a result of Russo's research, the reader is given far more than the standard one-dimensional-man depiction of the legendary leaders of the Chicago Mob. Thankfully Russo centers much of that attention and the story, on Murray Humpreys, the most complex, fascinating and intelligent Hood to swagger through gangland. Virtually all of the material provided on Humpreys is new, provided to the writer by the Outlaws second wife. The work also includes insightful and fresh facts on super boss Tony Accardo and without underlining it, accurately places street boss Sam Giancana in his proper place as little more than a common, albeit ambitious, thug. The Outfit is a must-have for the organized crime reader and an essential to any researcher.

"Riveting....a serious historical work....[Russo] has woven this material into a plausible historical argument about the underworld being merely a reflection of Americaís upperworld, which is rife with racketeering down to the tassels on a Wall Street brokerís loafers."
-- Sunday Times (London)

"The prime virtue of The Outfit in general is the excellence of its documentation ... It is as a guide to the Mob and its ways that Russo should be judged, and ... he makes an absorbing guide."
--Sunday Telegraph (London)

Full Description
         It is a common misperception that all the true-life organized crime stories have been written. Yet perhaps the most compelling gangster tale is one that has been, until now, too well-hidden. This is the story of the Outfit: the secretive organized crime cartel that began its reign in prohibition-era Chicago before becoming the real puppet master of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C.
         The Outfit recounts the adventures and exploits of its bosses, Tony 'Joe Batters' Accardo (the real Godfather), Murray 'The Camel' or 'Curly' Humphreys (one of the greatest political fixers and union organizers this country has ever known), Paul 'The Waiter' Ricca, and Johnny Rosselli (the liaison between the shadowy world and the outside world). Their invisibility was their strength, and what kept their leader from ever spending a single night in jail. The Outfit bosses were the epitome of style and grace, moving effortlessly among national political figures and Hollywood studio heads-until their world started to crumble in the 1970s.
With extensive research including recently released FBI files, the Chicago Crime files of entertainer Steve Allen, first-ever access to the voluminous working papers of the Kefauver Committee, original interviews with the members of the Fourth Estate who pursued the Outfit for forty years, and exclusive access to the journals of Humphrey's widow, veteran journalist Gus Russo uncovers sixty years of corruption and influence, and examines the shadow history of the United States.

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