In this exhaustively researched book, Patrick Downey writes of the robber gangs that were common in New York City in the 1920's through the 1940's. The time was ripe for such gangs. Police work did not have the investigative or forensic tools now available. More importantly, since electronic fund transfers were not available, businesses and banks tended to have large amounts of cash on hand.
Each case is presented with the gang leader, his nicknames, biography, crimes attributed to him, and members of his gang. The captures, trials and often the deaths of each individual is detailed. Death sentences were much more common then than now, and an astounding number ended their days in the electric chair. There were several interesting facts I discovered. One was the number of escapes from prison that occurred, and the frequency of these. I hadn't realised how often criminals were able to escape through various plots and schemes. One fact that was striking was a man who was electrocuted with a wieght of 220 pounds. At the time, he was the heaviest person to be electrocuted, but these days a man weighing 220 pounds is not uncommon. Another striking fact was how young these men tended to be. Most were in their early twenties. Finally, I found it interesting how many criminals really did stick to the credo of not informing on their associates. While many did, there were just as many who refused to help police even when it would result in lighter sentences.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. I had not heard of many of these individuals, and it was interesting to read their stories. There was an extensive illustration section in the middle of the book, allowing the reader to visualize the individuals being discussed. This book is recommended for readers of nonfiction and especially true crime.