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American Gangster: And Other Tales of New York

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In the 1970s, Frank Lucas was the king of the Harlem drug trade, bringing in over a million dollars a day. So many heroin addicts were buying from him on 116th Street that he claimed the Transit Authority changed the bus routes to avoid them. He lived a glamorous life, hobnobbing with athletes, musicians, and politicians, but Lucas was a ruthless gangster. He was notorious In the 1970s, Frank Lucas was the king of the Harlem drug trade, bringing in over a million dollars a day. So many heroin addicts were buying from him on 116th Street that he claimed the Transit Authority changed the bus routes to avoid them. He lived a glamorous life, hobnobbing with athletes, musicians, and politicians, but Lucas was a ruthless gangster. He was notorious for using the coffins of dead GIs to smuggle heroin into the United States and, before being sentenced to seventy years in prison, he played a major role in the near death of New York City. In American Gangster, Mark Jacobson's captivating account of the life of Frank Lucas (the basis for the forthcoming major motion picture) joins other tales of New York City from the past thirty years. The collection features a number of Jacobson's most famous essays, as well as previous unpublished work and recent articles on 9/11 conspiracy theorists, America's #1 escort, and Harlem's own Charles Rangel, the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. American Gangster is a vibrant, many-layered portrait of the most fascinating city in the world, by one of the most acclaimed journalists of our time.

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In the 1970s, Frank Lucas was the king of the Harlem drug trade, bringing in over a million dollars a day. So many heroin addicts were buying from him on 116th Street that he claimed the Transit Authority changed the bus routes to avoid them. He lived a glamorous life, hobnobbing with athletes, musicians, and politicians, but Lucas was a ruthless gangster. He was notorious In the 1970s, Frank Lucas was the king of the Harlem drug trade, bringing in over a million dollars a day. So many heroin addicts were buying from him on 116th Street that he claimed the Transit Authority changed the bus routes to avoid them. He lived a glamorous life, hobnobbing with athletes, musicians, and politicians, but Lucas was a ruthless gangster. He was notorious for using the coffins of dead GIs to smuggle heroin into the United States and, before being sentenced to seventy years in prison, he played a major role in the near death of New York City. In American Gangster, Mark Jacobson's captivating account of the life of Frank Lucas (the basis for the forthcoming major motion picture) joins other tales of New York City from the past thirty years. The collection features a number of Jacobson's most famous essays, as well as previous unpublished work and recent articles on 9/11 conspiracy theorists, America's #1 escort, and Harlem's own Charles Rangel, the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. American Gangster is a vibrant, many-layered portrait of the most fascinating city in the world, by one of the most acclaimed journalists of our time.

30 review for American Gangster: And Other Tales of New York

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I'm not going to rate this because it was well done, but I just hated the subject. I got about 25% in & just couldn't take it any more.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Realini

    American Gangster, written by Steven Zaillian and Mark Jacobson A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/ - "There are two sides to the American Dream" This is the tagline of the movie. And it is well found. For being the American Gangster is one of the sides. The dark one. There are many nominations for this film: - From Oscars to Golden Globes and on to BAFTAs. The cast speaks for itself in th American Gangster, written by Steven Zaillian and Mark Jacobson A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/ - "There are two sides to the American Dream" This is the tagline of the movie. And it is well found. For being the American Gangster is one of the sides. The dark one. There are many nominations for this film: - From Oscars to Golden Globes and on to BAFTAs. The cast speaks for itself in this lineup: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr. And the director is the famous Ridley Scott. The director of: - Alien, Blade Runner, The Martian and other excellent works. He was funny when he talked about The Martian and its inclusion in the comedy category at the Golden Globes. But he talked in a rather martial tone and seems to be a really grave man. The American Gangster is Frank Lucas. He is portrayed by Denzel Washington. Although we have similarities with other gangster movies, this one is different. In Godfather, Goodfellas and other renowned films, the Mafiosi were...Italian, as the name plainly suggests. Breaking Bad and others had a connection with Mexico. Which is alas, the source of many, probably most of the drugs on the North American market. But this is the nineties. And Frank Lucas is an intrepid, ingenious man. And he brings heroin to Manhattan from the...Far East. And not just that, but he bribes men in the Army to fly it to him. This kind of film needs a good opposition. Apart from the corrupt army officials, we have policemen that are just as bad as the drug dealers. Indeed, some of them are just taking the drugs confiscated by their colleagues and sell it back on the street. Detective Trupo, played very well by Josh Brolin is one of the leaders of mobsters disguised as policemen. Russell Crowe, a rather tempestuous actor, has the role of Richie Roberts. This detective is about the only honest , positive character around. Indeed, when he finds with his partner about one million dollars of mob money, he takes it to the station. They all regard him as a fool, a traitor and an enemy. - Why? - Well, how could he blow the chance to put one million or half that into his pocket!? That was the mentality. His dedication to the force did not help in his private life either. He has to go to trial for the custody of his child. He is divorced and appears to live for his passion: Getting the American Gangster and his acolytes into jail... - Would he manage that? - What do you think? A very good entertainment.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Graham P

    30 years of New York City journalism separated into sections, "Uptown", "Downtown", "All Around Town," culling the best of Mark Jacobson's work for the Village Voice and New York Magazine. The earlier stuff is essential reading for those wanting to envision what the city was like in the 1970s. "Sleaze Out of East Fourteenth Street" captures the legendary dirty vibe of transients, vagabonds, and hustlers living day to day. "Ghost Shadows on the Chinatown Streets" details Chinatown and the ever-ch 30 years of New York City journalism separated into sections, "Uptown", "Downtown", "All Around Town," culling the best of Mark Jacobson's work for the Village Voice and New York Magazine. The earlier stuff is essential reading for those wanting to envision what the city was like in the 1970s. "Sleaze Out of East Fourteenth Street" captures the legendary dirty vibe of transients, vagabonds, and hustlers living day to day. "Ghost Shadows on the Chinatown Streets" details Chinatown and the ever-changing power struggles for kingpin status. "Night Shifting for the Hip Fleet" is a gritty expose on the taxi drivers running the graveyard shift and how existentially wrought the job is. This is bleak and wonderful shit. Later works show more detailed character exposition (the piece of Wynton Marsalis reads like a 22 page blow-job, flattery on overdrive), but the entry that nails it, with heart and precision, is "Mom Sell's The House." It is one of the finest pieces about the old neighborhood long gone, and the people with it, most importantly, family. A sentimental, brave nugget, and it's worth the ticket and then some. No surprise that Richard Price wrote the intro to this collection. Jacobson and Price share these streets and know them well.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    I looked the movie with Denzel Washington, so I thought i would read the book. Well it is just one of many short articles about things or people in New York. Each story was very different, but well written and enjoyable. However, I was expecting more on the American Gangster point, so that was a bit of a let down. Still an enjoyable read though.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    A collection of short stories about people living their lives in New York City.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    Jacobson specialized in "slice of life" features for New York periodicals. His stories have won numerous awards and spawned a number of other texts, including the television show Taxi and the feature film based on the title article mentioned above. Jacobson brings an eye for detail and description to his interactions with the characters populating the city, informing his writing with crisp histories and choice quotes. It's a good read. A few extra thoughts: * "American Gangster" - Jacobson does Jacobson specialized in "slice of life" features for New York periodicals. His stories have won numerous awards and spawned a number of other texts, including the television show Taxi and the feature film based on the title article mentioned above. Jacobson brings an eye for detail and description to his interactions with the characters populating the city, informing his writing with crisp histories and choice quotes. It's a good read. A few extra thoughts: * "American Gangster" - Jacobson does a great job with the title story, balancing the line between describing the man, Frank Lucas, who went from a rural Virginia (?) upbringing to a lavish New York drug kingpin's lifestyle. Lucas comes off as a very likeable man who also happens to be extremely vicious. Most telling is the scene in which Lucas tries to get Jacobson to sign over all the rights to the American Gangster story--it's intense and Jacobson doesn't pull punches in describing the fear he felt. * My favorite piece is Jacobson's long dissection of 9/11 Truthers, which he does with a wary but even-handed eye, giving voice to the doubts they harbor without giving way to the general craziness many of the conspiracy theorists end up displaying. It's a narrow balance to weave, but he does it with aplomb. * He also has a number of pieces that focus on the old New York, that try to capture the seedy, down-in-the-dumps glory of the city in its 1970s worst. It's the New York I saw on television as a kid watching Night Court; it's a grim place that Jacobson describes with both nostalgia and frank acknowledgment of its flaws. Among the best of these are the one about the cigar shop and the one documenting the seediest street corner in New York. Hillgartner does a great job, giving some of the characters distinctive accents to highlight their ethnicity (in a polyglot city like New York, where accents are as much a part of the landscape as the smells) without descending into cartoonish parody.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Interesting, but it is likely not what people expect. The part about Frank Lucas, is only about a third of the book, the rest are devoted to essays the author wrote for various NYC magazines/newspapers. The section on Frank Lucas is not a typical "true crime" written as long journalistic piece with lots of dates, places. Jacobson does give a background for what happened, but he is also attempting to convey more about Lucas' personality, overall it reads more like a feature piece. The other piece Interesting, but it is likely not what people expect. The part about Frank Lucas, is only about a third of the book, the rest are devoted to essays the author wrote for various NYC magazines/newspapers. The section on Frank Lucas is not a typical "true crime" written as long journalistic piece with lots of dates, places. Jacobson does give a background for what happened, but he is also attempting to convey more about Lucas' personality, overall it reads more like a feature piece. The other pieces range from great to not great. The author does have an ability/language to really give a feel for NYC street life, especially in the 1970s during, after the 60's/riots but before the yuppie 80's/Rent Era in Alphabet City/crack wars and way before Disney came to Times Square. The best stories are those that convey this time and/or the "other side" of the city, from the description fo 14th St. and 3rd Ave. before the Village became full of condos and pushed rents higher in this area bordering the Lower East Side; a stand-up club in Sheep's Head Bay; the rise and fall of a high end pimp; the last Irish Cowboy bank robber. Other stories are a little weaker, the piece about 9/11 comes across as far left conispiracy screed, interviews with a firefighter and a widow keep from coming across as completely offensive, but it is also annoying because it is much more about national politics and not so much about NYC itself. The piece about Winton Marsalis is great, if you enjoy jazz and are aware of the civil war within jazz between the "classicists" like Marsalis and the more modern, but if you do not know and do not care, it is kind of dull and again really does not convey much about NYC. The piece about his family home and being a Yankee hater are good and give a sense of not only growing up in NYC but the generations have that come before. Overall good, though be warned that Jacobson at times does suffer from the aging baby boomer disease--trying to convince us he is still hip while at the same time complaining how thing use to be.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    American Gangster: And Other Tales of New York is a collection of essays and articles by Mark Jacobson, and the inspiration for the movie with Denzel Washington. Initially, I was really enjoying tales detailing the lives of gangsters, accounts of trendy hangouts and crazy New Yorkers... who doesn't like hearing stories about crazy people? Overall, I enjoyed the stories... right up to the point where Jacobson begins discussing September 11 and the (unbelievable) theory that not only was the U.S. American Gangster: And Other Tales of New York is a collection of essays and articles by Mark Jacobson, and the inspiration for the movie with Denzel Washington. Initially, I was really enjoying tales detailing the lives of gangsters, accounts of trendy hangouts and crazy New Yorkers... who doesn't like hearing stories about crazy people? Overall, I enjoyed the stories... right up to the point where Jacobson begins discussing September 11 and the (unbelievable) theory that not only was the U.S. government aware of the attacks at the World Trade Center, but they were actually the masterminds behind the attacks. At that point, Jacobson totally lost me. Who in their right mind would believe the government masterminded the worst terrorist attack of the 21st century? I had never heard this claim before... ever. Granted, I don't live in the land of the crazies, but I don't think even politicians would sink that low. I was aghast and horrified and generally disgusted. Thanks to that story, I was unable to enjoy any of the other stories (even the one about the whore house) or Jacobson's masterful use of the written word.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

    It's a collection of articles that were published in the Village Voice and New York magazine from the 1970s onwards. The articles are about interesting people and places in New York and written by New Yorker Mark Jacobson. His collection is divided into three parts: Uptown, Downtown, and All Around the Town. One of the articles is called The American Gangster, a.k.a. The Haint of Harlen the Frank Lucas Story which is going to be released as a movie staring Denzel Washington and Russel Crow in ea It's a collection of articles that were published in the Village Voice and New York magazine from the 1970s onwards. The articles are about interesting people and places in New York and written by New Yorker Mark Jacobson. His collection is divided into three parts: Uptown, Downtown, and All Around the Town. One of the articles is called The American Gangster, a.k.a. The Haint of Harlen the Frank Lucas Story which is going to be released as a movie staring Denzel Washington and Russel Crow in early January 2008. The writer interviewed Frank Lucas in 2000 which was many years after Lucas' heyday as the drug kingpin in New York. Lucas was famous for smuggling heroin in the coffins of soldiers from Vietnam to the US during the war. The articles are very well written and entertaining. Some of the more interesting article titles are "From the Annals of Pre-gentrification: Sleaze-out on East Fourteenth Street" (Village Voice in 1977) and "Ghost Shadoes on the Chinatown Streets" (Village Voice 1977). There is also a article on the conspiracy theories on 9/11 which was amusing. If you want to know about the real New York and some of the weird and dodgy characters there, then this book is for you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    I read this book with the expectation of gang related stories. I thought it would give me a clear understanding of Frank Lucas' life, but it only gave me the first 35 pages. Some of the stories throughout the book were interesting, including the american gangseter story, but others were humdrum. Although Jacobson gave great facts for the New York stories. Jacobson expresses his journalistic expertise by breaking the book into three parts, which are Uptown, Downtowm, and All Around the Town. the I read this book with the expectation of gang related stories. I thought it would give me a clear understanding of Frank Lucas' life, but it only gave me the first 35 pages. Some of the stories throughout the book were interesting, including the american gangseter story, but others were humdrum. Although Jacobson gave great facts for the New York stories. Jacobson expresses his journalistic expertise by breaking the book into three parts, which are Uptown, Downtowm, and All Around the Town. the stories were well-written, and had some interesting characters like the sleaze from 14th street, but i believe you have to live and love New York to really appreciate and feel entertained after reading this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jolene

    When all is said and done - I gave this book 3 stars, cause i really did enjoy it. After reading about half the book, I throughly ready the cover - A "Novelization" of the movie and I wanted to HATE it... but couldn't. I enjoy reading books turned into movies for add'l perspective and to get a better understanding of the authors intentions and the term Novelization almost made me put the book down and rent the movie (gasp!)... I'm glad I read it before seeing the Movie as it did help define the When all is said and done - I gave this book 3 stars, cause i really did enjoy it. After reading about half the book, I throughly ready the cover - A "Novelization" of the movie and I wanted to HATE it... but couldn't. I enjoy reading books turned into movies for add'l perspective and to get a better understanding of the authors intentions and the term Novelization almost made me put the book down and rent the movie (gasp!)... I'm glad I read it before seeing the Movie as it did help define the characters and relations to Frank Lucas. If you have seen the Movie... I suggest don't bother reading it - you've seen it all. But if not, the book is an enjoyable and easy read....

  12. 5 out of 5

    Debra Cleaver

    i don't know if it's homesickness, or nostalgia for a new york i never got to experience (fuck you, guiliani, for "cleaning up" my beloved city), but i'm tearing through this book. mark jacobson is a queens native, life-long new-yorker, and an old-school journalist of the jimmy breslin style. most of the articles in this book were written in the 70s, and chronicle the seedier side of new york. can you imagine 14th and 3rd being a seedy corner? jesus, you'd be lucky to rent a studio for 3 grand t i don't know if it's homesickness, or nostalgia for a new york i never got to experience (fuck you, guiliani, for "cleaning up" my beloved city), but i'm tearing through this book. mark jacobson is a queens native, life-long new-yorker, and an old-school journalist of the jimmy breslin style. most of the articles in this book were written in the 70s, and chronicle the seedier side of new york. can you imagine 14th and 3rd being a seedy corner? jesus, you'd be lucky to rent a studio for 3 grand there now. anyway, you new york types should pick this book up stat.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    I think a bunch of the lower scores this book has received is due to disappointment that it's not a complete write-up of the movie. Which is silly, as Jacobson's writing is much better. Inside you'll find a collection of feature pieces that each convey a true slice of NYC. The tone is one which doesn't seem to surface much any more - a Runyonesque picture of winners and losers with the jaundiced eye of a true New Yorker. If you bemoan the cleaned-up Times Square and are looking for stiffs that m I think a bunch of the lower scores this book has received is due to disappointment that it's not a complete write-up of the movie. Which is silly, as Jacobson's writing is much better. Inside you'll find a collection of feature pieces that each convey a true slice of NYC. The tone is one which doesn't seem to surface much any more - a Runyonesque picture of winners and losers with the jaundiced eye of a true New Yorker. If you bemoan the cleaned-up Times Square and are looking for stiffs that may have walked out of a '70s Tom Waits album, this is your book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This collection of magazine articles was, not surprisingly, diverse. Only 4 of them held my interest, including the title story, which was used for the basis of the recent movie. The article supporting the theory that Dick Cheney was responsible for the 9/11 attacks was disturbing, insulting, and plain disgusting. I lost momentum after reading that piece. I would not search for any other books by this author.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I hate when books are marketed with movies, but loved the NY grittiness throughout this. Shorty after I'd read the 3rd/14th story, I stumbled through some sort of junkie commerce outside of the well known and well reviled neighborhood crackhouse. I couldn't understand any of the conversation and yelling, because I don't speak junkie, but I could appreciate the futility of it. I'd only read a few of Jacobsons articles before, and enjoyed this. Good plane reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jamila

    Badass collection of short pieces all about NYC. Reading the book makes you feel open and adventurous. It makes you want to turn to the person next to you on the train and strike up a conversation, cause maybe, just maybe you'll find yourself talking with somebody dark, weird, creepy, or just plain genius like the folks you meet in the collection.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    I thought most of the book would be the American Gangster story, but it was only one small part of it. The rest of the book was other short stories about New York that the author had written for the Village Voice, New York Observer, etc. over the years. Some were interesting, some didn't hold my interest at all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Georgene

    The first article in this compilation was used as the basis of "American Gangster", starring Denzel Washington. The rest, while not as famous, are also very good. Jacobson has been a journalist for years in New York City and apparently worked for the Village Voice for many of those years. All the stories in this volume are worth reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    These stories (most published in The Voice) were highly entertaining pieces on New York. Of course my favourite was the one about Frank Lucas, having seen American Gangster not so long ago. There was only two pieces I did not read all the way through, mostly because the subject did not interest me at all (politics and sports.)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dignan107

    Not very enjoyable at all. Another 'film better than book' scenario, (similar to Mothman Prophecies I've recently endured) whereas normally vice-versa is the norm. Just a series of stories of people that live in the same city. These people could be from any western world city. A blatant New York cash-in. Shame

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    There are some interesting tales in this book, but I found that they were pretty disconnected and not all were very good. But, I ground through it. The topic is one that could have been much more robust, even if a movie was made about it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    It had some amazing stories and some ok ones. If you love New York then you will probably love it. It really gives you an idea of what it is like, especially the seedy side of NYC

  23. 5 out of 5

    MelancholyDragon

    I dunno. This was okay. It had some good stories from back in the day and then it had some stories that were just blah blah blah. Mediocre book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Interesting in places, but I found it overall a collection of somewhat mediocre magazine articles.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Probably one of the most poorly written books that I have ever read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark Jordan

    A decent book for the coffee table or to read in 15min intervals as its a collection of short stories.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brody

    Interesting perspective from a columnist. Guy has a lot of good stories, and some are exceptionally well written... Some are really long winded.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chamie

    I would give this a 3 1/2 stars which would upgrade to a 4 on goodreads. I especially liked the Frank Lucas and 911 stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    There are 19 true articles about gangs/organisations/groups in New York. An interesting perspective on life there 20/30 years ago. Some I liked others were a bit tedious!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    It was a fast moving book. I thought it was a really good story, and I breezed through it. I really want to see this movie.

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