Tag Archives: Atlantic City

Lunchtime with Nucky Johnson

For the past year I’ve been all over the place talking up my book American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine, but I’ve never done a book talk anywhere near Nucky’s old power base, Atlantic City. I’ve been to Jersey City and Hudson County many times to talk about Frank Hague, but up to now Atlantic County and Atlantic City — nada, Nucky or no Nucky

I’ll remedy that Friday, Nov. 14, when I set up shop on Atlantic Avenue at 12:30 p.m. to give the lunchtime crowd a taste of old Atlantic City and the colorful career of Nucky Johnson, the city’s best-known political boss. It’ll be in the NJ350 Pop-up Store that will appear at 1125 Atlantic Avenue, a short walk from the Boardwalk.

There will be a good-sized stack of American Dictators for sale, and I’ll be hawking some of my other titles as well. Prominent among them will be my new title, Let the Devil Speak: Articles, Essays, and Incitements. History and a visit to the Jersey shore all at once. How can you resist?  

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Get yer pre-orders here

Here’s a nice way to start the summer: American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine is now available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell’s Books.  

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Mark your calendars!

My upcoming nonfiction book American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine is on page 3 of the Fall-Winter 2013 catalog for Rutgers University Press. Mark your calendar for the official October publication date. After all, there are only eight shopping months left before Christmas!

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The Year of the Hat Trick

Sukarno had The Year of Living Dangerously. Ireland had The Year of the French. And now I will have The Year of the Hat Trick.

The reason for the name will become clear as the year progresses. Right now, in the every-journey-begins-with-one-small-step category, I’m running around the Internet, banging pots and pans together to announce that my upcoming nonfiction book, American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine, has both a website and a spanking new Facebook page.

More to come.

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Casino Royale with cheese

So I just get finished going back over some research into Atlantic City during its golden Nucky Johnson era, and I overhear a conversation in which an old lady talks about getting hit with a mobility scooter while she was waiting on line at the new Revel casino.

Peaches and cream, baby.

I want to write a James Bond script in which 007 tries to play bacarat at an Atlantic City casino and gets run down by an old lady on a Medicare moped. After that parkour chase at the start of Casino Royale, they need to take their stunt work in a new direction. Rosa Klebb on a mobility scooter — that would just rock.

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Everything’s ducky with Nucky

If you’re in the area of Union Township next week, come by the Union Public Library to hear me hold forth on the career of Atlantic City political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. I’ll probably also work in some stuff on Frank Hague, the man who just barely beats out Nucky for the title of America’s greatest political boss, and I’ll be selling copies of my book The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway.

The talk is set for Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m.

The library is at 1980 Morris Avenue in Union. For more info, you can call the reference desk at (908) 851-5450, ext. 5452.

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Nucky and me

Apropos my remarks on Boardwalk Empire, somebody sent me a link to a piece that’s a couple of months old, but still speaks for a lot of naysayers:

As long as nobody’s talking, there is a restless, melancholic beauty that can make you feel like you’re watching something of substance.

But therein lies the rub: the writing so far is kind of crap, and casting Steve Buscemi as the main character Nucky Johnson will either go down as one of the most interesting risks in television history or one of the most bizarre decisions since Charleton Heston played that Mexican guy in Touch of Evil. To the first point, I love movies that minimize cussing in period pieces and take advantage of all the weird things people said at any given time. I’m sure people dropped f-bombs in the 20s, but I also bet they didn’t drop as many; why would you when you could say, “I caught that hotsy-totsy dumb dora utterly splifficated in her flivver after they gimme the bum’s rush for breakin’ out the giggle water in the juke joint. Dollars to doughnuts, she ain’t no Mrs. Grundy!” Writers need to research their periods as meticulously as any of the other artists on the set, and the amount of profanity in BE is just plain lazy, particularly given the richness of the period lexicon. It would all be more forgivable if there were some fresheness to the story, but, man, this shit looks familiar. (Couldn’t they have at least tried to make the nighttime chase in the woods a little different from the better one in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies? It’s only been a year!) It’s hard to give a rat’s ass about anything that takes place onscreen, except when MacDonald and Graham show up, which is when you wish extra hard that they had better material.

Better material? Better material? Atlantic City was the southern pole of the New York area rum line, with schooners and freighters anchored just outside U.S. territorial waters selling crates of booze as fast as the contact boats could load them. Nucky was half gangster, half booster, strutting along the Boardwalk with a fresh-cut carnation in his lapel, dispensing favors and cash, cutting deals with Warren Harding one day and negotiating gangster disputes the next. Guy hosted a mobster convention in 1929 that drew Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Thompson-toting thugs from as far off as Detroit and New Orleans. If you can’t make a great film out of material like that, you need to find another line of work.

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