Jonathan Eig Discusses Get Capone on the Daily Show

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Acclaimed journalist and best-selling author Jonathan Eig blows the lid off the Al Capone story. Based on never-before-seen government documents and newly discovered letters written by Al Capone himself, GET CAPONE presents America’s greatest gangster as you’ve never seen him before.

The author, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, brings his uncompromising standards for research and his superb knack for storytelling to one of the most thrilling stories in American history. This eye-opening biography reveals that Capone was the target of one of the most intense criminal investigations in American history — with orders coming directly from the White House. And, despite his many misdeeds, Capone may have been the victim of a rigged trial.

GET CAPONE also offers a bold new theory to explain the Valentine's Day Massacre — and sheds new light on Capone's connection to the crime.


Bootlegger. Thug. Gangster. Businessman. Publicity hound.

Al Capone was all these things and more. In a brief span of less than a decade, this young son of immigrants became the nation’s most infamous criminal. Before the federal government to prison for income tax evasion, he built a massive fortune, a sophisticated criminal enterprise, and a reputation that extends even today as America’s greatest gangster.

Alphonse Capone was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn. He dropped out of school to help support his family and went to work as a dishwasher in a saloon, where he got into a fight one day and acquired the scars on the side of his face that would earn him his nickname, Scarface.”

Understanding Capone requires understanding Prohibition and the Jazz Age. When a constitutional amendment banned the sale of alcohol in 1920 and when ordinary Americans routinely flouted that law, men like Capone who were willing to take the risk of supplying the continuing demand got rich quick. Capone began as a bouncer in a bar on Chicago’s South Side, but he and his boss, Johnny Torrio, worked quickly and violently to corner a big chunk of the illegal booze business. When a barrage of bullets compelled Torrio to retire, Capone, at age 26, became the head of the Chicago Outfit. Capone got no richer than some of the other big-city bootleggers of his era, but he was unusually brash. While other gangsters hid their activities, Capone bragged about them, saying he was only providing a public service to the people of Chicago. He dressed like a banker—only with more pizzazz—to remind the public that he saw himself first and foremost as a businessman. In his view, he was living the American Dream—only it happened to be a version of the American Dream in which Thompson submachine guns played a prominent role.

To keep his business strong, Capone often found it necessary to eliminate competition. This often involved the spilling of blood. It also involved extensive bribery, and Capone paid liberally to make sure Chicago police and prosecutors looked the other way. He thrived for the better part of a decade, becoming not only rich but also famous, and so confident in his ways that he gave interviews to gossip magazines and foreign correspondents visiting his office in Chicago. It was his taste for celebrity more than his taste for blood that made him America’s best known bootlegger.

But his luck ran out in 1929, when Herbert Hoover was elected president of the United States and vowed to clean up the nation’s corrupt criminal justice system. Capone became a target of the federal government after seven men died in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Capone in all probability had nothing to do with the crime, but he became a scapegoat. Eventually, he was sentenced to eleven years in prison for income-tax evasion. He served much of his time at Alcatraz. After his release, he retired to Palm Island in Miami, but tertiary syphilis was destroying his brain and he spent most of his time in a childlike daze. He died in 1947 of cardiac arrest at age 48.

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