Sunday, June 21, 2009

Five best books about criminals

Elliott Gorn, who teaches history and American Civilization at Brown ­University, is the author of Dillinger’s Wild Ride: The Year That Made America’s Public Enemy ­Number One. For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about criminals.

One book on the list:
Pickpocket’s Tale
by Timothy Gilfoyle
Norton, 2006

Years ago, historian Timothy Gilfoyle found in the archives the crudely written, 99-page memoir of a minor New York crime figure, George Appo. With “A Pickpocket’s Tale,” Gilfoyle builds a story of the urban demimonde around Appo’s own words. Half Irish and half Chinese, his mother dead and his father in prison, Appo grew up in the notorious Five Points section of Lower Manhattan, where he learned the art of the scam and went on to become a “con artist, a trickster extraordinaire.” Appo’s story is an amazing one, set in brothels and opium dens, night courts and prisons. Gilfoyle skillfully depicts this underworld of poverty and brutality, pluck and luck, against the backdrop of opulent Gilded Age New York.
Read about another book on the list.

See Theodore Dalrymple's list of favorite books on the criminal mind.

--Marshal Zeringue