“Mob Fest ‘29” is the premiere audiobook release for Bill Tonelli available on Audible. It is a rather short book at just short of one and a half hours (1:24min to be exact) and covers details on a specific event in time where well-known mobsters met in Atlantic City to discuss their criminal activities. The book is well narrated by Kevin Gallagher; who I have reviewed three of his other performances. Let me say up front, I’m not an expert in early American crime nor is it one of my favorite genres. However, I found many parts of the book quite interesting and informative that it was worth my listen time. For me, the book opened more questions than it solved, but I will say that it piqued my interest in both these men along with the people who covered them and the police force of the day. If you are one who likes quick novella non-fiction mobster books, you may want to have a listen to this one.
When you have a group of criminals wanting to control prostitution, gambling, money laundering, and other non-legal endeavors, how do you do it? You call a meeting with the others and assign different roles and responsibilities; of course. In other words, you get organized. While listening to this book, I found it interesting that it took organization for what we call organized crime to be as successful as it was. Without meeting and agreeing on a level of organization, these crime bosses would never have achieved the success they had. Yet, as this book shows, crime does not pay as most, if not all, of these men either ended up in prison or dead. Not very good odds for what was perceived as a money making “business” venture. Not only are we given a view into these individuals and their crimes, but we are also shown that it was only successful because of some crooked authorities. There are also very different accounts because of poor or misguided journalism of the day. The author quotes other sources stating that nearly 75+ percent of the material we have relating to the early mob is either false or incorrectly stated. One good reason for this, the author states, is that people printing such salacious news would not face labial or slander changes from the criminal underground. It is similar to drug dealers who get robbed, they will often not report this activity to the authorities for fear of their illegal activity being uncovered.
I liked that the author covered some of the background on these mobster thugs and showed based on others research that most were of low IQ and often had quite bad spelling. We learn that much of the foundation of the US mob back in the 20s was due to the laws around alcohol prohibition. These men saw an opportunity to service the community by providing this forbidden beverage and saw a profit in it. Instead of fighting one another for various territories, the different groups decided it was best to form an alliance and divvy up parts of the US and assign them to the many members. This was all done at what is now the infamous Atlantic City Conference meeting. It was like with pirates, these men also had a code which each abided too, yet as we all know, you cannot trust a thief.
The book along with the research felt to me to be more like a school paper that was narrated to feel like a book. There were no real chapters or outline as the book was very short. It was simply broken down into two sections long with an included preface and epilogue section. The writing style seemed a bit less professional at times due to a few crass words that felt out of place in a researched piece. Words such a “crap” or “whoring” instead of replacing these with more professional words made me question some of the author’s word choice. These words were not a part of quoted material, so could have easily been subsisted for more acceptable words. The book felt a bit unfinished. I did not feel it had a stated premise nor did it fully address the many questions it raised or even more those that come after listening to the book.
The book’s narration was well done and professionally produced by Kevin Gallagher. He has a pleasant voice to listen to and even in this non-fiction piece he added a few elements of character accents when material was being quoted. The audio lacked any noticeable negative artifacts and I thought it was well paced for listening too. As stated earlier, I have enjoyed a few of his other works and they all have this high-quality production.
For parents and younger readers, this book is a piece non-fiction, however it does trace and quote a few portions where profanity is used. The author does not add any himself but be aware that it is included in the book’s narration. The book also discusses at a high level some topics which may not be appropriate for younger readers such as alcohol, criminal activity, and prostitution. I would recommend this book be read only by more mature audiences.
In summary, although the narration was top quality, I felt the piece lacked too many quantities to be considered a complete work on the subject. I can only assume volumes of information have been released on the subject matter (the author states from interviewing others that most is incorrect), yet there were few conclusions to the author’s covering of such a ground-breaking meeting. I felt that I was left with too many unanswered questions to recommend this book to anyone that is not someone versed in the subject matter. Like a said earlier, this subject matter is not one of my core competencies, so it might come down to requiring a pre-understanding of the items covered to fully comprehend and enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.