Bugsy Siegel

The Dark Side of the American Dream

Michael Shnayerson

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The story of the notorious Jewish gangster who ascended from impoverished beginnings to the glittering Las Vegas strip

 "[A] brisk-reading chronicle of Siegel’s life and crimes."—Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

"Fast-paced and absorbing. . . . With a keen eye for the amusing, and humanizing detail, [Shnayerson] enlivens the traditional rise-and-fall narrative."—Jenna Weissman Joselit, New York Times Book Review

In a brief life that led to a violent end, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (1906–1947) rose from desperate poverty to ill-gotten riches, from an early-twentieth-century family of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side to a kingdom of his own making in Las Vegas. In this captivating portrait, author Michael Shnayerson sets out not to absolve Bugsy Siegel but rather to understand him in all his complexity. Through the 1920s, 1930s, and most of the 1940s, Bugsy Siegel and his longtime partner in crime Meyer Lansky engaged in innumerable acts of violence. As World War II came to an end, Siegel saw the potential for a huge, elegant casino resort in the sands of Las Vegas. Jewish gangsters built nearly all of the Vegas casinos that followed. Then, one by one, they disappeared. Siegel’s story laces through a larger, generational story of eastern European Jewish immigrants in the early- to mid-twentieth century.

Michael Shnayerson became a contributing editor at Vanity Fair in 1986 and is the author of eight books on a range of nonfiction subjects, including Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art.

“An amazing job. I learned a lot. A great book about real gangsters when gangsters were real.”—Nicholas Pileggi, author of Wiseguy

“Insightful, well-written, and carefully researched, this is the best and most complete biography of the notorious gangster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel in print.”—Robert Rockaway, author of But He Was Good to His Mother: The Lives and Crimes of Jewish Gangsters

“A wonderful exploration of the dark side of the American dream via Bugsy Siegel, the personification of the dark side and the dream. Just as stylish as Bugsy himself. A fabulous book.”—Rich Cohen, author of Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams

"A highly readable, fast-moving contribution to the annals of 20th-century organized crime."—Kirkus Reviews

"Fast-paced and absorbing. . . . With a keen eye for the amusing, and humanizing detail, [Shnayerson] enlivens the traditional rise-and-fall narrative."—Jenna Weissman Joselit, New York Times Book Review

"This is a biography of a man whose life in fact reads like fiction, even like myth. . . . A readable, even riveting account."—Richard Horwich, East Hampton Star

 "[A] brisk-reading chronicle of Siegel’s life and crimes."—Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

“A pacey and thoughtful biography...part of Yale University Press's excellent Jewish Lives series”—The Economist

"A short and gripping panorama of life in 1920s-1940s America, that defining epoch of struggle and stardom, hardship and grandeur, fortune and bankruptcy. . . . Shnayerson helps demystify the mythology around Siegel while not making the story any less sublime. . . . In fact, Shnayerson’s biography of Bugsy makes him even more compelling and fascinating."—Paul Krause, Merrion West
ISBN: 9780300226195
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
248 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 1/4
1 b/w illus.
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