If you’re free the evening of Monday, May 17, I’ll be at the Union Free Public Library to talk about “New Jersey’s Notorious Political Bosses,” specifically the ones I consider the most interesting: Frank Hague of Jersey City, and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson of Atlantic City.
If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you know that Hague is a major figure in my book The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway. He is not simply one of the most powerful political bosses of the twentieth-century, he is also one of most influential and least understood figures in New Jersey and national politics. One of these days I’ll be able to interest a publisher in a full-length Hague biography, but until then I’m happy to say — nay, boast — that The Last Three Miles brought new information on Hague into the light.
Johnson is in many ways equally interesting: Hague’s contemporary, and his mirror image. Hague was a Democrat, willing to tolerate bootleggers as long as they paid their way, personally abstemious, and cunning enough to fight off a number of state-level corruption investigations. Johnson was a Republican, committed to running Atlantic City as a wide-open town catering to every vice, a friend to gangsters of every stripe (he even hosted a convention attended by the likes of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano), and he was finally brought down by a federal investigation.
The talk will be at 7 p.m. I’ve appeared at the Union library before, and they know how to do it right. Did I mention that admission is free? Come by and say hello.