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Island of vice : Theodore Roosevelt's doomed quest to clean up sin-loving New Yo
Zacks, Richard
Adult Nonfiction HV6795.N5 Z33 2012

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Zacks (The Pirate Hunter) looks back to the 1890s, when two million New Yorkers faced crime in the concrete canyons. In addition to the Rev. Charles Parkhurst, who declared "a holy war on vice," the cast includes such notables as Tammany police captain "Big Bill" Devery, crime reporter Jacob Riis, cartoonist Walt McDougall, Mayor William Strong, journalist Lincoln Steffens, and the city itself. As Zacks writes: "New York was a thousand cities masquerading as one. Its noise, vitality, desperation, opulence, hunger, all struck visitors." With bars, casinos, and 30,000 prostitutes, New York was the country's vice capital, and police corruption was rampant. Enter crusading and nattily attired police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, who admitted he "knew nothing of police management." An uncompromising reformer, Roosevelt tackled the Tammany Hall political machine, though he confronted resistance in his efforts to close the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. Zacks probes this period of Roosevelt's life with exhaustive details, drama, and intrigue. The 40 pages of bibliographic notes indicate the five years of research that went into this remarkable re-creation of fin-de-siecle New York. Writing with a prismatic, poetic slant, Zacks unveils a colorful portrait of a volcanic Roosevelt towering over the soul of the city. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed an almost storied political rise, with one of the more intriguing chapters being his time as one of four New York City police commissioners. He was appointed in 1895 with a mandate to clean up the city, "the vice capital of the United States." Zacks (The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd) shows the widespread municipal corruption that affected the entire police force, enabling prostitution, gambling, and lax enforcement of Sunday no-drinking laws. He has mined archival riches that offer remarkably graphic eye-witness accounts of undercover visits made by Roosevelt and other reformers to saloons, brothels, and other such establishments. TR was largely successful in reforming the police and reducing vice crimes. While Zacks feels these were largely Pyrrhic victories, he suggests that the real legacy of these efforts was that Roosevelt became a stronger politician and a more effective orator. This valuable addition to the TR canon sheds further light on the future President as alternatively arrogant and obstinate, if not downright absolutist, in the execution of his office, qualities that would continue to dog him in later years. VERDICT Highly recommended to a wide range of readers, especially those interested in presidential history or late 19th-century America's social issues.-Richard S. Drezen, Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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