Book Review – Mob Fest ’29: The True Story of the Birth of Organized Crime


Mob Fest ’29: The True Story of the Birth of Organized Crime was written by veteran mob writer Bill Tonelli, and while I don’t think this is a great book, it certainly is an excellent book that deserves your attention. Tonelli has written on organized crime for the New York Times, Slate, and Philadelphia Magazine, as well as several comprehensive books on the subject, certainly an impressive resume and none of which is wet behind the ears when it comes to the mob. . .

I would have given this book 4 ½ stars if that were possible, but since it is not on Amazon’s list of options, I gave it a full five stars.

It’s infuriating and I really don’t understand the caustic one-star reviews that appear on the review page for this book. Saying that Mob Fest ’29 is misspelled may be an opinion, but also revenge. Look up the term sock puppeteers and you will understand what I am talking about. In my opinion, and I have been a published writer for almost 40 years, this is a well written book; maybe a little rude on some points, but certainly well-written enough that Tonelli keeps the reader reading, and that’s the result any good writer strives for anyway.

In these one-star reviews, readers complain that Tonelli is citing other books to make a point. Well that’s exactly what writers do. They research books related to the topic they are writing about and attribute the quotes, rather than writing them as if they were their own original words.

Tonelli, a true professional, did extensive research for this book, even interviewing top-notch crime writers like Jimmy Breslin and Mike Dash. Regarding the legendary (imaginary?) Massive Atlantic City mob summit of 1929, Tonelli takes in the facts as he sees them. He then comes to a conclusion, which I will not reveal for obvious reasons. I happen to not totally agree with Tonelli’s conclusion, but I understand his reasoning and he may be right about certain events or non-events that, according to popular tradition, have always been presented as a gospel when they may have been total nonsense.

For example, there is a question about the validity of the famous photo of Chicago mobster Al Capone bouncing off the Atlantic City boardwalk with Atlantic City mob boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson and three other mob dignitaries (this picture is on the cover of Mob Fest ’29). Capone is on the far left and Johnson is on the far right.
Was the image a bogus publication in Heart’s New York Evening Journal to discredit Johnson? According to Johnson, it was.

Tonelli noted in Mob Fest ’29, which was originally published on Chance of a Lifetime by Grace D’Amato, “I never walked with Capone. I told people that the photographer for the New York Evening Journal overlaid two photographs. A summer suit. while Capone and his cronies wore winter clothes. “

The supposed reason Hearst would do such a dirty deed on Johnson was that Johnson was playing with Hearst’s girlfriend and Hearst hit Johnson where it hurt him the most: on his reputation.

As Tonelli puts it in Mob Fest ’29, “Hearst was the newspaper mogul who instigated the Spanish-American War to increase readership. After that, faking a photograph didn’t seem like an ethical exaggeration.”

Despite worrying criticism from one star, mob fans should still enjoy Mob Fest ’29.

I know I did.

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