Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago during Prohibition (Hardcover)

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Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago during Prohibition By John J. Binder Cover Image


Although much has been written about Al Capone, there has not been--until now--a complete history of organized crime in Chicago during Prohibition. This exhaustively researched book covers the entire period from 1920 to 1933. Author John J. Binder, a recognized authority on the history of organized crime in Chicago, discusses all the important bootlegging gangs in the city and the suburbs and also examines the other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor and business racketeering, and narcotics.

A major focus is how the Capone gang -- one of twelve major bootlegging mobs in Chicago at the start of Prohibition--gained a virtual monopoly over organized crime in northern Illinois and beyond. Binder also describes the fight by federal and local authorities, as well as citizens' groups, against organized crime. In the process, he refutes numerous myths and misconceptions related to the Capone gang, other criminal groups, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and gangland killings.

What emerges is a big picture of how Chicago's underworld evolved during this period. This broad perspective goes well beyond Capone and specific acts of violence and brings to light what was happening elsewhere in Chicagoland and after Capone went to jail.

Based on 25 years of research and using many previously unexplored sources, this fascinating account of a bloody and colorful era in Chicago history will become the definitive work on the subject.

About the Author

John J. Binder, Ph.D., is the author of two previous books on organized crime and has appeared in interviews on and served as an expert consultant for documentaries on the mob shown on the A & E and AMC cable networks and on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. He has also given numerous interviews on the subject for newspapers, magazines, and radio and television news programs. He lectures frequently on organized crime in Chicago. He is associate professor emeritus of finance in the College of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Praise For…

Honorable Mention! Chicago Writer’s Association 2017 Book Awards 

“At last, for the first time, we have a fully noted, comprehensive, clear and concise examination of the genesis of organized crime in Chicago and the entire Prohibition gang war era. For the historian, researcher, or simple true crime buff, John J. Binder has done all a great service.”
—Mars Eghigian Jr., author of After Capone: The Life and World of Chicago Mob Boss Frank “the Enforcer” Nitti

Al Capone’s Beer Wars is an amazing tour de force, a comprehensively researched and completely sourced history of Prohibition in Chicago. John J. Binder and his relentless dedication to gang scholarship are remarkable Chicago treasures, bar none. If you want an accurate account of this period, run, don’t walk, to buy this spectacular book.”
—William J. Martin, coauthor of Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked the Nation

“This is a truly comprehensive history of crime in Chicago during Prohibition that will appeal to true-crime readerships and that will make an excellent addition to library collections for its coverage of an era. Extensive sources are a welcome feature for historians and the curious alike.”
Foreword Reviews

“Prohibition was one of the most flamboyant periods of American history, and Binder brings it to vivid life through meticulous research, sound insights, and solid arguments. His book is sure to be an authoritative resource for many years to come.”
—Deirdre Bair, author of Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

“A masterful and definitive picture of a time that has never before been so authentically documented. A compelling read and, I think, a work of art.... All the astonishing bits of information that Binder has gathered over years of exhaustive research create a vivid picture of a unique time in Chicago’s colorful history that is nothing less than remarkable. Bravo!” 

—Diane Capone, granddaughter of Al Capone

Al Capone’s Beer Wars does a masterful job of exploring the origins of organized crime in Chicago. John J. Binder sheds new light on the subject by exploring Chicago’s frontier history leading up to the formation of the various gangs throughout the city, which paved the way for the future of Chicago’s organized crime. His meticulous research draws out a rogues’ gallery of crooks, corrupt politicians, and policemen, all of whom contributed to the ascension of Al Capone and the creation of the Chicago Outfit. Backed by a thorough analysis of the facts, this volume is a must for anyone interested in the subject. It’s also essential reading for those familiar with the subject as this examination of the gang wars clarifies many misunderstood or misinterpreted events. Coupled with a stellar collection of rare photographs, this work is a tremendous accomplishment, which advances the study of Chicago’s organized crime history.” 

—Matthew J. Luzi, author of The Boys in Chicago Heights: The Forgotten Crew of the Chicago Outfit

“So much has been written about Al Capone and Chicago’s Prohibition-era gangsters one might suspect that there is nothing left to say. But John J. Binder’s fine new book actually achieves what so many earlier works have not. It provides context for understanding the history of vice, gambling, and corruption in Chicago before Prohibition that fostered the explosive growth of bootlegging after 1920. It is grounded in facts rather than conjecture, and it explores the complex relationships that fueled the Beer Wars in Chicago with clarity and focus. A truly valuable publication. My copy is sure to be dog-eared in short order.”
John Russick, vice president for interpretation and education at the Chicago History Museum

“The origins of the Chicago Outfit have been shrouded in myth and misconception. Using a wealth of empirical research, Binder separates fact from fiction to tell the story of the rise of the Torrio-Capone gang.”
—C. Alexander Hortis, author of The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York
Product Details
ISBN: 9781633882850
ISBN-10: 1633882853
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication Date: June 6th, 2017
Pages: 414
Language: English