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A ROLLICKING NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S EMBATTLED TENURE AS POLICE COMMISSIONER OF CORRUPT, PLEASURE-LOVING NEW YORK CITY IN THE 1880s, AND HIS DOOMED MISSION TO WIPE OUT VICE In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with 40,000 prostitutes, glittering ca A ROLLICKING NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S EMBATTLED TENURE AS POLICE COMMISSIONER OF CORRUPT, PLEASURE-LOVING NEW YORK CITY IN THE 1880s, AND HIS DOOMED MISSION TO WIPE OUT VICE In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with 40,000 prostitutes, glittering casinos, and all-night dives packed onto the island’s two dozen square miles. Police captains took hefty bribes to see nothing while reformers writhed in frustration.      In Island of Vice, bestselling author Richard Zacks paints a vivid picture of the lewd underbelly of 1890s New York, and of Theodore Roosevelt, the cocksure crusading police commissioner who resolved to clean up the bustling metropolis, where the silk top hats of Wall Street bobbed past teenage prostitutes trawling Broadway.      Writing with great wit and zest, Zacks explores how Roosevelt went head-to-head with corrupt Tammany Hall, took midnight rambles with muckraker Jacob Riis, banned barroom drinking on Sundays, and tried to convince 2 million New Yorkers to enjoy wholesome family fun. In doing so, Teddy made a ruthless enemy of police captain “Big Bill” Devery, who grew up in the Irish slums and never tired of fighting “tin soldier” reformers. Roosevelt saw his mission as a battle of good versus evil; Devery saw prudery standing in the way of fun and profit.      When righteous Roosevelt’s vice crackdown started to succeed all too well, many of his own supporters began to turn on him. Cynical newspapermen mocked his quixotic quest, his own political party abandoned him, and Roosevelt discovered that New York loves its sin more than its salvation.      Zacks’s meticulous research and wonderful sense of narrative verve bring this disparate cast of both pious and bawdy New Yorkers to life. With cameos by Stephen Crane, J. P. Morgan, and Joseph Pulitzer, plus a horde of very angry cops, Island of Vice is an unforgettable portrait of turn-of-the-century New York in all its seedy glory, and a brilliant portrayal of the energetic, confident, and zealous Roosevelt, one of America’s most colorful public figures. From the Hardcover edition.


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A ROLLICKING NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S EMBATTLED TENURE AS POLICE COMMISSIONER OF CORRUPT, PLEASURE-LOVING NEW YORK CITY IN THE 1880s, AND HIS DOOMED MISSION TO WIPE OUT VICE In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with 40,000 prostitutes, glittering ca A ROLLICKING NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S EMBATTLED TENURE AS POLICE COMMISSIONER OF CORRUPT, PLEASURE-LOVING NEW YORK CITY IN THE 1880s, AND HIS DOOMED MISSION TO WIPE OUT VICE In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with 40,000 prostitutes, glittering casinos, and all-night dives packed onto the island’s two dozen square miles. Police captains took hefty bribes to see nothing while reformers writhed in frustration.      In Island of Vice, bestselling author Richard Zacks paints a vivid picture of the lewd underbelly of 1890s New York, and of Theodore Roosevelt, the cocksure crusading police commissioner who resolved to clean up the bustling metropolis, where the silk top hats of Wall Street bobbed past teenage prostitutes trawling Broadway.      Writing with great wit and zest, Zacks explores how Roosevelt went head-to-head with corrupt Tammany Hall, took midnight rambles with muckraker Jacob Riis, banned barroom drinking on Sundays, and tried to convince 2 million New Yorkers to enjoy wholesome family fun. In doing so, Teddy made a ruthless enemy of police captain “Big Bill” Devery, who grew up in the Irish slums and never tired of fighting “tin soldier” reformers. Roosevelt saw his mission as a battle of good versus evil; Devery saw prudery standing in the way of fun and profit.      When righteous Roosevelt’s vice crackdown started to succeed all too well, many of his own supporters began to turn on him. Cynical newspapermen mocked his quixotic quest, his own political party abandoned him, and Roosevelt discovered that New York loves its sin more than its salvation.      Zacks’s meticulous research and wonderful sense of narrative verve bring this disparate cast of both pious and bawdy New Yorkers to life. With cameos by Stephen Crane, J. P. Morgan, and Joseph Pulitzer, plus a horde of very angry cops, Island of Vice is an unforgettable portrait of turn-of-the-century New York in all its seedy glory, and a brilliant portrayal of the energetic, confident, and zealous Roosevelt, one of America’s most colorful public figures. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.5* of five The Publisher Says: When young Theodore Roosevelt was appointed police commissioner of New York City, he had the astounding gall to try to shut down the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. This is the story of how TR took on Manhattan vice . . . and vice won.  In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with forty thousand prostitutes, glittery casinos, and a Rating: 3.5* of five The Publisher Says: When young Theodore Roosevelt was appointed police commissioner of New York City, he had the astounding gall to try to shut down the brothels, gambling joints, and after-hours saloons. This is the story of how TR took on Manhattan vice . . . and vice won.  In the 1890s, New York City was America’s financial, manufacturing, and entertainment capital, and also its preferred destination for sin, teeming with forty thousand prostitutes, glittery casinos, and all-night dives. Police cap­tains took hefty bribes to see nothing while reformers writhed in frustration.  In Island of Vice, Richard Zacks paints a vivid portrait of the lewd underbelly of 1890s New York, and of Theodore Roosevelt, the puritanical, cocksure police commissioner resolved to clean it up. Writing with great wit and zest, Zacks explores how young Roosevelt goes head to head with Tammany Hall, takes midnight rambles with muckraker Jacob Riis, and tries to convince two million New Yorkers to enjoy wholesome family fun. When Roosevelt’s crackdown succeeds too well, even his supporters turn on him, and TR discovers that New York loves its sin more than its salvation.  With cameos by Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, and a horde of very angry cops, Island of Vice is an unforgettable snap­shot of turn-of-the-century New York in all its seedy glory and a brilliant miniature of one of America’s most colorful presidents. My Review: I admire Theodore Roosevelt. I wish there was a TR on today's political landscape: A wealthy man with a sense of reforming zeal, whose ruling passion isn't to accumulate more for himself but to make sure that the path to accumulating more is open to all, and to be sure that the greediest are checked from confiscating the outrageous percentages of national income that they feel entitled to. Such a person isn't anywhere to be found today, or I am unaware of his or her existence. Be that as it may, this book is a terrific piece of social history using TR's tenure as New York's Police Commissioner (actually president of the board of commissioners, which is awkward to type and say repeatedly) when “New York” meant Manhattan. It still does, really, but no longer legally since 1898. Manhattan was the Sin Capital of America, gawd bless it, as it was until about the 1980s. Now it's LA, a place with no character to speak of, and Sin is now international big business, Sin.com, instead of Miss Nettie's Hen and Chicks on Second Street. Fighting to instill “morals” them as don't want to be moralized is, then as now, pointless. Making things more difficult for providers of sex, booze, and gambling drives the prices up and chokes off exactly none of the supply. No power on the planet, or above it, will choke off demand, and isn't it time to admit that? People are not gonna stop sinnin' and ain't nothin' gonna make 'em. So shut up about the stuff you don't like, quit passing expensive prohibitory laws that make no difference anyway, and tax the drug, sex, and gambling industries. Guaran-damn-tee you there will never again in history be a government spending deficit. Roosevelt's tenure as Police Commissioner was marked by political failures galore, because then as now, where there's men there's prostitutes, booze, and gambling. Those interests are powerful politically, and then as now they bought up politicians like eggs...by the dozens. New York State is really two states: The sin-loving City and the appleknockin' church-goin' upstate that likes to pass laws to twit the City. But the Albany pols were and are owned by the corporate interests, and the profits of the City's various sins pay for the rest of the state's infrastructure, so the reforms and prohibitions are either toothless or weak-kneed. Why kill the goose? We need them golden eggs. So TR, a man of strong convictions and of astounding self-confidence, went up against the various political machines in New York City and State with an eye to stopping...yes, halting!...the illicit, forbidden, openly practiced vices that his Dutch Reformed Protestant sin-seein' soul recoiled from. HA! This was after TR's career as a minor Navy bureaucrat, and a would-be bestselling writer, had failed to take him to the heights he aspired to. The Navy, in that day and time, was a backwater posting as the United States wasn't in danger of fighting a war (that would change in a few years) and the world wasn't much in the habit of considering us as A Power. New York, his hometown, needed TR's energy and passion; it was assumed he'd follow the mold once he got there. HA! So Zacks has an oodle of material to work with, from the TR story and the role that his tenure as Police Commissioner played in it, to the history of vice (always entertaining!), to the gigantic pressures of the Gilded Age on the frayed fabric of society that led to the Progressive movement's eventual successes under—ahem!—the Roosevelt Administration to come. Corporate greed and wrongdoing were checked. Abuses of trust and fraud and graft were described and laws against them were passed and regulatory bodies to enforce those laws were created. Under the watchful eye of a failed wealthy Republican Police Commissioner, whose inability to clean up his own hometown hardened something in him, and made him better able to face down US Steel, Standard Oil, AT&T, et alii. This is the story, then, that Zacks has to work with, and he does a workmanlike job of drawing its strands together. His writing isn't extraordinary in either direction, his research skills are excellent, his eye and ear for what phrase or anecdote to pull from the immense torrent of printed sources at his disposal is very well-tuned. But something is missing, a certain passion or connection to the story. Something juuuuust fails to take flight. Candice Millard, she of River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic, blurbs this book by praising the story to the skies, and calling the book “rousing.” Ah...yes...the story is the star. In Millard's books aforementioned, there's no doubt whatever that she is telling a terrific story, but there's also no doubt that she's writing a wonderful book. Zacks, with the best will in the world and a strong interest in the subject, is only telling a terrific story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Theodore Roosevelt was a New York City police commissioner? Given all the attention his later exploits have gotten, I guess it isn’t surprising that his rather Quixotic efforts to reform the NYPD and clean up the city are largely forgotten. But reading this book shows how his tenure on the police Board of Commissioners set the stage for much of his later career, boosting his national profile and teaching him political lessons (often the hard way). Roosevelt is portrayed here as a strong-willed r Theodore Roosevelt was a New York City police commissioner? Given all the attention his later exploits have gotten, I guess it isn’t surprising that his rather Quixotic efforts to reform the NYPD and clean up the city are largely forgotten. But reading this book shows how his tenure on the police Board of Commissioners set the stage for much of his later career, boosting his national profile and teaching him political lessons (often the hard way). Roosevelt is portrayed here as a strong-willed reformer, who sees the issues in black-and-white, unwilling to compromise and impatient with those that are. It is unclear how accurate that view of him is, but the references to his letters and speeches certainly suggests that there is some measure of truth there. This is a very readable book that not only sheds some light on the early days of Roosevelt’s career, but also takes the reader along to the streets of New York in the 1890s. We learn about the widespread corruption in the city politics, and about the disparity between the rich and the poor. We can also see the strong influences immigration had on this city and its diversity and subcultures. While this book largely focuses on the futile efforts of Roosevelt, at times it veers off onto asides that help flesh out the history of various institutions or people that were important in the city at that time. All of which makes this book both entertaining and informative, not only to those interested in Teddy Roosevelt, but also for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of New York City and how it evolved.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Char

    This audio book was okay. I found my mind wandering a lot and I'm not sure why. The narrative came across pretty well and there were a lot of neat facts about saloons and dancing girls- not to mention Tammany Hall politics, policemen taking bribes and committing crimes-all that kind of stuff. It was interesting in hearing about how T.R. (as he is often referred to in the book) took his midnight ramblings and found himself unfamiliar with the city in which he was born. But whenever the story came This audio book was okay. I found my mind wandering a lot and I'm not sure why. The narrative came across pretty well and there were a lot of neat facts about saloons and dancing girls- not to mention Tammany Hall politics, policemen taking bribes and committing crimes-all that kind of stuff. It was interesting in hearing about how T.R. (as he is often referred to in the book) took his midnight ramblings and found himself unfamiliar with the city in which he was born. But whenever the story came around to the political issues and infighting, I became bored. Unfortunately, there were a lot of political issues and lots of infighting. I'm glad I listened to this audio book, because I did learn a bit more about T.R. and NYC in 1895 or so, but at the same time, I'm glad it's over and I can move on to something else.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    A fascinating read of Teddy Roosevelt's time as police commissioner in NYC. In this case, he had bitten off more than he could chew. The books reads very well and is not dry at all. The author's description of NYC in the late 1800's is shocking. It is incredible to hear of the things that went on and all that Teddy was up against. A fascinating read of Teddy Roosevelt's time as police commissioner in NYC. In this case, he had bitten off more than he could chew. The books reads very well and is not dry at all. The author's description of NYC in the late 1800's is shocking. It is incredible to hear of the things that went on and all that Teddy was up against.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    Fun look at Roosevelt's fight with corruption and vice. It made him few friends--particularly with the working-class immigrants who he denied the right to a cold drink on a hot Sunday--their only day off. Roosevelt felt, rightly or wrongly, that laws could not be selectively enforced. Laws could be changed but until they were, they should be enforced. So he fought to close saloons and bars on Sundays in enforcement of blue laws. He got his coveted appointment to the Navy at least in part because Fun look at Roosevelt's fight with corruption and vice. It made him few friends--particularly with the working-class immigrants who he denied the right to a cold drink on a hot Sunday--their only day off. Roosevelt felt, rightly or wrongly, that laws could not be selectively enforced. Laws could be changed but until they were, they should be enforced. So he fought to close saloons and bars on Sundays in enforcement of blue laws. He got his coveted appointment to the Navy at least in part because they wanted him out of NY politics! His own party blamed him for putting the Tammany Hall politicians back in office. But NYers wanted their fun and if graft was part of the deal, well then so be it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ash

    I kept on seeing this book in my bookstore every time I pass the New U.S. History section. I was always intrigued by the cover but I was always afraid that'll be boring. Sometimes, historical non fiction is told in such a dry manner. I really picked up this book because there is a book club starting in March and Island of Vice was their first choice. Island of Vice is the tale of 1890's New York. Boy, is it full of corruption, debauchary, and mayhem! Under Democratically run Tammany Hall, prostit I kept on seeing this book in my bookstore every time I pass the New U.S. History section. I was always intrigued by the cover but I was always afraid that'll be boring. Sometimes, historical non fiction is told in such a dry manner. I really picked up this book because there is a book club starting in March and Island of Vice was their first choice. Island of Vice is the tale of 1890's New York. Boy, is it full of corruption, debauchary, and mayhem! Under Democratically run Tammany Hall, prostitution and vice are running rampant. High ranking police officers are taking bribes and payoffs. The citizens of New York are drinking their hearts away. Who can save New York from drowning and whoring into sin-soaked oblivion? Republican Theodore Roosevelt, that's who! Yes, Theodore Roosevelt is hired to clean up New York and that is exactly what he does: he cleans house in the police department which hinders the growth of prostitution. New Yorkers are absolutely loving Teddy! He then turns on the extreme alcohol use by prohibiting saloons, bars, and such from selling alcohol on Sundays. New Yorkers are not loving that so much and use every loophole, nook, and cranny to get out of it. Soon, they are literally crying for the good ol' days chock full of corruption as long as they have their precious alcohol in Sundays! Amidst all of this is in-fighting between the police board, isolation, loneliness, and politics. If you can't play the game, you can never become president. I am very surprised how much I loved this novel. Richard Zacks did such an incredible job painting a rich picture of 1890's New York. He had a ton of information but it was exciting and so interesting. It made me realized I knew nothing about 1890's New York and I knew even less with about Theodore Roosevelt. He was such an intriguing character that it is a shame that all that is known about him, at least to me, was that he became President after President McKinley was assassinated. Island of Vice is a must read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    Zacks examines the brief but important tenure of Theodore Roosevelt as President of the New York City Police Commission. A belief in “law and order” focused his efforts not on common street criminals but on institutionalized corruption among “New York's finest.” The policies he advocated straddled the strait-laced moral values of Reverend Charles Parkhurst (the key instigator of the reform movement that supplanted Tammany Hall in the 1895 mayoral election), and a zealous dedication to the princi Zacks examines the brief but important tenure of Theodore Roosevelt as President of the New York City Police Commission. A belief in “law and order” focused his efforts not on common street criminals but on institutionalized corruption among “New York's finest.” The policies he advocated straddled the strait-laced moral values of Reverend Charles Parkhurst (the key instigator of the reform movement that supplanted Tammany Hall in the 1895 mayoral election), and a zealous dedication to the principles of civic duty. “Progressive” was not yet part of the political lexicon. The absence of that tag permits Zacks to explore the nuances and contradictions of Roosevelt's actions. Roosevelt had read Jacob Riis' book HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES, published in 1890. As commissioner he sought out Riis to guide him through the streets on night-time vigils to view, first hand, the misconduct of the police force. On the other hand, he believed the majority of the city's vagrants were lazy, and pushed for the closure of police basements used to shelter vagrants at night. The New York City of 1895 was a restless juggernaut. Gargantuan appetites — for money, power, growth, ambition and survival — clashed under the cover of more palatable rhetoric. Saloons, gambling parlors and brothels flourished thanks to sizable payments to the captains of local precincts via lower level bagmen. It followed, then, that the worst precincts were also the most lucrative. Money also greased the wheels of assignments and promotions. This corruption reached deep into society. Brothel recruiters scoured the streets to exploit impoverished or homeless young girls. A circuit from petty thievery to pawnshops to local saloons became a familiar city by-way. Then, as now, the NYC Police Commission encountered a wall of silence. Patrolmen not only were expected to walk a solitary 8 hour beat, but to spend shifts at the stationhouse on “reserve” status. “The policemen of a given precinct became especially close-knit, like an army plattoon on a mission in a foreign country. They saw much more of their brother officers than they did of their wives — 110 hours versus 58 hours per week less commute time.” (p.104) From the beginning, Roosevelt pushed for a system of hiring and promotion through civil service examinations. Opponents decried the supplanting of “common sense” by “book knowledge.” The third pillar of his housecleaning plan was more difficult to implement. The Commission could hire and promote, but the police chief was empowered to discipline (or not discipline) alleged wrong-doers. There were two other options: criminal prosecutions (time-consuming, expensive and unpredictable) and applying pressure and incentives for retiring. The biggest impediment, however, were the blue laws. In a city the size, diversity and growth rate of New York they were impossible to enforce. In his preface, Zacks succinctly states: “New York was a thousand cities masquerading as one.” (p.2) Sales of alcohol on Sundays was banned, except in restaurants, hotels and private clubs. Sundays also happened to be the only day off for the working man. Packaged goods were neither common nor inexpensive then, and there was no refrigeration. For the considerable German population, family Sunday afternoons at the biergarten were a fixture. Meanwhile, the affluent had no problem obtaining legal alcohol at their private clubs. The evasions after the police crackdown were ingenious. Patrons ordered “cold tea” (code for whiskey). Ersatz hotels sprang up. Saloons suddenly morphed into restaurants serving inedible sandwiches with unlimited servings of alcohol. Pharmacies dispensed “medicinal” alcohol. Some flocked to Coney Island where the NYC police had no jurisdiction. If jobs in the liquor industry suffered, jobs in carpentry must have spiked: makeshift causeways and secret passages from adjoining buildings were constructed to disguise the flow of Sunday patrons. If the law was so unpopular, why was it on the books? Politics. The state legislature was controlled by church-going upstate rural voters. Roosevelt rightly counseled angry voters to demand a change in the law; the controlling Republican Party, however, had no intention of upsetting their rural constituency. It was an interesting political tug-of-war. Zacks is an entertaining writer who has researched his subject thoroughly. His own writing is aided by the many colorful quips from journalists of the period. For example, Jacob Riis characterized Mayor Strong, a political novice, as a man who suffered from “ 'the intermittent delusion that he was a shrewd politician.'” (p.75) I was curious about this period after reading THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr, in which Roosevelt appears as a character. Zacks' lively book was the perfect complement to Carr's novel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Doubleday Books

    Zacks (The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805, 2005, etc.) returns with a sharply focused look at Theodore Roosevelt’s brief tenure as a New York City police commissioner. The author begins and ends with allusions to the naked goddess Diana perched atop Madison Square Garden—his symbol for the sensual interests of New Yorkers that Roosevelt was intent on controlling, if not diminishing to the vanishing point. Zacks sketches the anti-vice career of cr Zacks (The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805, 2005, etc.) returns with a sharply focused look at Theodore Roosevelt’s brief tenure as a New York City police commissioner. The author begins and ends with allusions to the naked goddess Diana perched atop Madison Square Garden—his symbol for the sensual interests of New Yorkers that Roosevelt was intent on controlling, if not diminishing to the vanishing point. Zacks sketches the anti-vice career of crusading preacher Charles H. Parkhurst, whose efforts Roosevelt supported and broadened. The incredibly energetic Roosevelt worked long daylight hours and then, often, patrolled the streets at night, checking up on cops to see who was sleeping, drinking, whoring and otherwise neglecting his duty. Frequently accompanying and guiding Roosevelt was journalist Jacob Riis, whose pioneering photo-journalistic How the Other Half Lives highlighted the economic extremities endured by many in the city. As Zacks points out, Roosevelt had initial popular and journalistic support for his efforts at vice control, but when he began devoting many police resources (and lots of political capital) to enforcing blue laws, both the press and the public began to turn against him. Because many workers had only Sundays off, the dry-on-Sunday policy made many working men and women very unhappy. As the political sands shifted beneath him, Roosevelt redoubled his efforts, alienating more voters, and began seeking ways out of his increasingly stressful and polarizing position. Relief came when newly elected President McKinley appointed him the assistant secretary of the Navy. The author takes us inside fin-de-siècle brothels and bars, Tammany Hall and courtrooms, contentious commissioners’ meetings and cops’ barracks. A nuanced, comprehensive portrait of unique man and the surrounding period, culture and political system. - Kirkus Reviews

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lee MacCrea

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was written much like a novel, in story-like fashion that kept me inured in the proceedings of Teddy's "Midnight Ramblings" around late 19th century New York, and the tribulations with co-Commish Parker. Zacks has clearly researched the subject very well, as he pulls out minor details that help to further set the stage. Two flaws I did find with the book were minor compared to its better qualities. One is the exclusion of a map of 19th century Manhattan. Throug I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was written much like a novel, in story-like fashion that kept me inured in the proceedings of Teddy's "Midnight Ramblings" around late 19th century New York, and the tribulations with co-Commish Parker. Zacks has clearly researched the subject very well, as he pulls out minor details that help to further set the stage. Two flaws I did find with the book were minor compared to its better qualities. One is the exclusion of a map of 19th century Manhattan. Throughout the first half of the book Zacks speaks of different police precincts, streets, avenues, etc. The majority of these citations were lost on me as I am not a resident of the city. I think it would have helped a great deal to have a map to track TR and Riis' late night hunts for derelicts on both sides of the law. The second flaw that I found was a bit more significant to the overall quality of the book. Zacks focused much more on the court trials against Parker (and somewhat indirectly, TR) and political conventions in the second half of the book. This is understandable to a point, as it is necessary to elaborate on why Roosevelt largely failed with his mission to clean up the city. However, I found it considerably more dry than the first half of the book, making it a little slow to finish. The author may have done better to stay tied with action on the streets a bit more with the last few hundred pages. I felt he strayed away from "Roosevelt's Quest," but again, it was important material too. That being said, I would suggest this book to anyone looking for a good read on TR's life before his major political career really took off. The details about his relationships, with Lodge, Riis, and his family members are really well portrayed and say alot about the man he would later become.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I guess I was hoping that Richard Zacks's Island of Vice, a portrait of NYC in the 1890s (which at that time meant Manhattan) and, more specifically, the 16 months or so when Theodore Roosevelt was the town's Police Commissioner (or, at least, one of the city's four police commissioners... I never knew he shared power in that position), would be like Luc Sante's Low Life--which is awesome about the poor, and the "criminal class" from 1840 to 1919--but from the perspective of the (crooked) cops, I guess I was hoping that Richard Zacks's Island of Vice, a portrait of NYC in the 1890s (which at that time meant Manhattan) and, more specifically, the 16 months or so when Theodore Roosevelt was the town's Police Commissioner (or, at least, one of the city's four police commissioners... I never knew he shared power in that position), would be like Luc Sante's Low Life--which is awesome about the poor, and the "criminal class" from 1840 to 1919--but from the perspective of the (crooked) cops, the do-gooders, the prigs. In other words, the sociological big picture, with lots of juicy, telling anecdotes. What was life like for the copper on the beat? What were the mechanics of Tammany corruption? What were prisons like? Who were these (rich) people who were so shocked and appalled (Roosevelt very much included) by, for instance, a woman appearing on stage, behind a curtain, in silhouette, in a body stocking? Was it just a matter of control? Fear? Or was there a real emotional, spiritual repugnance? And though there is some of that in Island of Vice, way too much of this book is given over to the endless bureaucratic bickering among the four commissioners, as well as long, detailed replayings of repetitive trials that don't amount to much. Also, in addition to lacking an instinctive sense of pacing and drama, Zacks doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor, either. Roosevelt, so lively, fascinating, and absurd in other books (McCullough's Mornings on Horseback comes to mind), is a one-note whiner here. And he's on just about every page. For New York City history completists only.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    Teddy Roosevelt as a historical figure connotes a certain tough masculinity. The Rough Riders, the hunting, the cowboy image, "speak softly and carry a big stick" - he's sort of an early prototype of Ron Swanson, right? Well, what if I were to tell you, that in addition to his Ron Swanson qualities, he was also the full-on Leslie Knope busybody of his day? That the Washington Post described him as "Never quiet, always in motion, perpetually bristling with plans, suggestions, interference, expostu Teddy Roosevelt as a historical figure connotes a certain tough masculinity. The Rough Riders, the hunting, the cowboy image, "speak softly and carry a big stick" - he's sort of an early prototype of Ron Swanson, right? Well, what if I were to tell you, that in addition to his Ron Swanson qualities, he was also the full-on Leslie Knope busybody of his day? That the Washington Post described him as "Never quiet, always in motion, perpetually bristling with plans, suggestions, interference, expostulation, he was the incarnation of bounce, the apotheosis of inquisition." He was also (according to this book, which I'll get to in a minute) "...an outspoken crusader for a vast array of causes that would decades later be bannered under the umbrella of progressive reform." This book is about Roosevelt's crusade to clean up sinful New York City in the 1890s when he was a police commissioner. It paints a colorful, realistic picture of life in the tenements and neighborhoods of the time, with details about prostitution, drinking, and rampant police corruption. Roosevelt embarks on a quest to stop police payoffs and bribery, and, oh yeah, to rigorously enforce every single law on the books, including those that have been widely ignored by everyone for years. No longer will New Yorkers be able to drink on Sundays, for the law says that they can't. Honestly, I didn't finish this book, due to its becoming overwhelming in detail. I enjoyed the half that I did read, though.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    "Island of Vice" is an obvious attempt to show a negative side of Theodore Roosevelt. When the legendary man is separated from the White House, accomplishments in conservation, status as a cowboy, the Panama Canal, and fame as a war hero, a different personality emerges. We see a young TR who was often prudish, impossible to work with, a near loner, and a highly disliked personality in his home city of New York. The author, Richard Zacks, loves to dwell on the remarkably seedy aspects of history. "Island of Vice" is an obvious attempt to show a negative side of Theodore Roosevelt. When the legendary man is separated from the White House, accomplishments in conservation, status as a cowboy, the Panama Canal, and fame as a war hero, a different personality emerges. We see a young TR who was often prudish, impossible to work with, a near loner, and a highly disliked personality in his home city of New York. The author, Richard Zacks, loves to dwell on the remarkably seedy aspects of history. His descriptions of the dark "sin-loving" side of New York City, run by an impossibly corrupt police force and city government, are shocking. As denoted by the book's subtitle, TR's failure to reform this environment, despite some minor accomplishments, is surprising for the Hero of San Juan Hill and fourth face on Mount Rushmore that we think we know. Unfortunately, Island of Vice is weighed down by countless retellings of second-rate court cases and marginal criminal histories. Too much time is given to describing the less exciting parts of late-19th century metropolitan misconduct. What is needed is an expansion upon the personal stories of a few of the critical characters surrounding the future President during his leadership of the city’s police department.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeni Enjaian

    I was not impressed with this book. This book talks a big, (dirty), game but doesn't live up to it for several reasons. One, the author makes frequent rabbit trails. While the narrative is roughly chronological, the author frequently slows the pace of the narrative to examine every tiny detail about a particular trial or incident. Two, the author frequently gives unnecessary and frankly, uncomfortable examples for the different "vices" Theodore Roosevelt tried unsuccessfully to eradicate from Ne I was not impressed with this book. This book talks a big, (dirty), game but doesn't live up to it for several reasons. One, the author makes frequent rabbit trails. While the narrative is roughly chronological, the author frequently slows the pace of the narrative to examine every tiny detail about a particular trial or incident. Two, the author frequently gives unnecessary and frankly, uncomfortable examples for the different "vices" Theodore Roosevelt tried unsuccessfully to eradicate from New York City. These examples added nothing to the narrative except a heightened shock factor. Three, the narrator made odd "voice" choices. It's unusual for the narrator of a nonfiction book to change his voice depending on which historical character may be speaking aka quoted. These choices made the book feel even more amateur. I do not recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Serratelli

    Teddy Roosevelt gave 'em Hell and took no prisoners. He saw his job as enforcing the law, and that is exactly what he did. Teddy Roosevelt gave 'em Hell and took no prisoners. He saw his job as enforcing the law, and that is exactly what he did.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Converse

    In 1895, Theodore Roosevelt became one of 4 police commissioners for the City of New York, at that a municipality restricted to Manhattan and part of the Bronx. This appointment was the result of a reverend Pankhurst denouncing (in one the toniest churches in the city) the deep involvement of the local government, starting with the police, in taking payoffs to look the other way regarding prostitution, gambling, and drinking. After Pankhurst's initial sermon, he was sued (!) by the city for slan In 1895, Theodore Roosevelt became one of 4 police commissioners for the City of New York, at that a municipality restricted to Manhattan and part of the Bronx. This appointment was the result of a reverend Pankhurst denouncing (in one the toniest churches in the city) the deep involvement of the local government, starting with the police, in taking payoffs to look the other way regarding prostitution, gambling, and drinking. After Pankhurst's initial sermon, he was sued (!) by the city for slander, as he had not personally witnessed what he complained of. After that he hired a private detective to show himself and a parishioner around illustrative examples of vice, focusing mainly on prostitution. The upshot of this was that the Democratic Party and in particular the Tammany Hall machine lost the mayoral election to a reform candidate, who appointed Roosevelt, Grant (son of General Grant), a Mr. Parker and a Mr. Andrews. Although Roosevelt was the President of the board, this was basically a titular distinction as most important decisions required unanimity and the board was composed of two Republicans and two Democrats. Despite this unpromising arrangement, for many months the board stuck together. They did remove a number of the more flagrantly corrupt officers, and instigate other reforms such as requiring marksmanship practice. The precinct captains seem to be the officers in the best position to collect bribes, but the payoffs went throughout the hierarchy. Roosevelt, initially popular, became rapidly unpopular as a result of his fairly successful attempt to close the saloons on Sunday in accordance with the law. Many people who seem to have liked the idea of a non-corrupt police force seemed to prefer alcohol to honesty if that was the choice. Roosevelt's claim that he was enforcing the laws impartially did not go over well with the thirsty, and in any case, given the numerous statutes even then, it was admistratively impossible to apply equal effort to the enforcement of every statute. The state legislature undid, apparently unintentionally, Roosevelt's partial success by modifying the law so as to make serving drinks in saloons more difficult, while allowing any hotel with at least 10 hotel rooms to serve alcohol at any time, provided it was served with a meal. This law rapidly caused many a former saloon to remodel so as to have 10 hotel rooms, no matter how small, and serve alcohol with the smallest possible meal (often uneaten by the customer). The more useable of the newly constructed rooms made prostitution even harder to restrain, as actual bordellos were no longer strictly needed. By this time the police board had mostly fallen out with one another, apparently initially over minor personnel matters. On important matters it was generally Roosevelt and Andrews versus Grant and Parker. Roosevelt was happy to leave New York for the position of assistant secretary of the Navy in the new McKinley administration in 1896. When Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn were amalgamated with New York City in 1898, one of the officers that Roosevelt and the board had striven to remove from the police force became chief. I found the book instructive and often amusing, sometimes disgusting (the stale beer saloons were what got me), though I suspect the author is underplaying the actual problems (such as slavery) associated with prostitution.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    I loved it - once again an author set out to report the facts - this time it was to provide a glimpse into the sordid side of New York City at the end of the 19th century and the workings of the NY Police Commission. One of the four commissioners between 1895 and 1898 was none other than Teddy Roosevelt. This man was going to enforce every law that was on the books - it was a battle of good vs evil. The sub-title to the book says it all: "Theodore Roosevelt's doomed quest to clean up sin-loving Ne I loved it - once again an author set out to report the facts - this time it was to provide a glimpse into the sordid side of New York City at the end of the 19th century and the workings of the NY Police Commission. One of the four commissioners between 1895 and 1898 was none other than Teddy Roosevelt. This man was going to enforce every law that was on the books - it was a battle of good vs evil. The sub-title to the book says it all: "Theodore Roosevelt's doomed quest to clean up sin-loving New York." TR comes across as a man who means well but is stubborn and bull-headed and compromise is not in his dictionary. Disclaimer: My knowledge of TR came from grade school and high school history classes. My two field of historical studies in college - ancient Greek and Roman history and the American Civil War - seemed to leave out any references to this crusading reformer. So I came to this book with little or no 'real' knowledge of TR. In this book he seems absolutely human with all of the virtues and vices of the regular man for his times. I was staggered by the numbers of prostitutes in NYC at the end of the 19th century. There were 40,000 prostitutes working the streets, charging from 50-cents to $10 a session. Three vast red light districts operated discreetly but openly as long as they made sure to pay off the police. Peddlers sold pornographic post cards, and dealers trafficked in raunchy Edison wax cylinders of audio smut. And in steps Teddy who's going to clean this all up. He tried - he made some head way - but in the end after he left the Commission in 1898 it was business as usual. I would have had a blast reading those old newspaper accounts.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lynne-marie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A young and incorrigible Teddy Roosevelt locks horns with the Tammany machine in the New York police force and equally as significantly with the dozens of high and low New Yorkers who are accustomed to their alcohol and their prostitutes. Though he is feted at first for his reform politics, Theodore eventually loses and looks for a way out. The story is one of initial success and a sense of accomplishment, and then of a bridge taken too far. No one give in. Theodore least of all, which leave him A young and incorrigible Teddy Roosevelt locks horns with the Tammany machine in the New York police force and equally as significantly with the dozens of high and low New Yorkers who are accustomed to their alcohol and their prostitutes. Though he is feted at first for his reform politics, Theodore eventually loses and looks for a way out. The story is one of initial success and a sense of accomplishment, and then of a bridge taken too far. No one give in. Theodore least of all, which leave him with almost nowhere to go. And NYC is left in its intransigence to re-embrace the spoils system of Tammany Hall. No one wins. Except in the out lands, where Roosevelt's reform image stays bright and eventually transmutes itself into his Vice-Presidency and following the McKinley's death, to the Presidency itself. Zacks shows the personality flaws of Roosevelt almost to a fault, as if it were a creed to knock down old heroes. I have read other accounts of the period that admit to Roosevelt's sense of personal empowerment, without scourging him so dramatically for other personal qualities. Some think scuppering a ship automatically makes for news; I think you need to have some better proof than that. Proof of your conclusions, not just of your sources. Zacks repeatedly quotes the yellow presses, until we are left wondering if that is where he got his ideas as well. This book demands to be read with an alert and judging mind.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gaby

    To be honest, I didn't really know that much about Teddy Roosevelt beyond the book The War Lovers by Evan Thomas, his general reputation of being a Rough Rider, an adventurer, a Harvard man, one of the forces behind the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I wanted to read Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York and had expected to like him very much. Richard Zacks' account of Teddy Roosevelt's term as a police commissioner is meticulously researc To be honest, I didn't really know that much about Teddy Roosevelt beyond the book The War Lovers by Evan Thomas, his general reputation of being a Rough Rider, an adventurer, a Harvard man, one of the forces behind the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I wanted to read Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York and had expected to like him very much. Richard Zacks' account of Teddy Roosevelt's term as a police commissioner is meticulously researched, detailed, and an interesting read. However, it doesn't paint Roosevelt in a flattering light at all. Through the correspondence between him and Cabot Lodge, his letters to his sister, and through various newspaper accounts, we get a sense of Teddy Roosevelt's grandstanding, his rigid and sometimes unreasonable behavior, and the depth of his ambition. Zacks spares little and we join TR and his companions as they perform their sting operations - outing the madams and their brothels, the barkeepers and the underground saloons, the police that are willing to look the other way. The book gives us a fascinating account of an unusual time in New York City's political and cultural history. ISBN-10: 0385519729- Hardcover $27.95 Publisher: Doubleday (March 13, 2012), 448 pages. Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program and the publisher.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    This book covers a lot of different aspects of New York life in the late 1800s with a particular focus on vices and Teddy Roosevelt's attempt to clean the city up as a young police comissioner. It starts off with a story of a minister who attacks the sex industry yet goes to a series of "whorehouses" to thoroughly investigate the problem and services rendered. The whole time you read this part you'll be shaking ur head for sure. There is a lot about creepy men deploring the sex industry yet taki This book covers a lot of different aspects of New York life in the late 1800s with a particular focus on vices and Teddy Roosevelt's attempt to clean the city up as a young police comissioner. It starts off with a story of a minister who attacks the sex industry yet goes to a series of "whorehouses" to thoroughly investigate the problem and services rendered. The whole time you read this part you'll be shaking ur head for sure. There is a lot about creepy men deploring the sex industry yet taking part in them at night and just an overall war on women (god forbid u talk to a guy at night-you'll get arrested and have to get your virginity examined).TR comes in and has some good ideas for the city like cleaning up the police dept. (who would have thought it was filled with corrupt policers?) and having more regulations for officers. However, some of his ideas are unrealistic puritan ideals of what society should be. TR comes off as an uptight, bland personality who is power hungry (lashing out at any disagreement). I'm not really sure how much good he did. The book covers a lot, and when listening to the audiobook, I found myself zoning out often. There is a lot of people, court cases, and politics to keep track of that I just started hearing all the key words and not content (e.g., "whorehouses"..."TR"...."Tammany Hall"..."Republicans").

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lady ♥ Belleza

    This book gives us a very good picture of what life was like in the late 1800's in Manhattan. We get the picture of the level of 'sin' in the city and the efforts of a Reverend Parkhurst to document it. He goes into the Tammany Hall politics of the day and gives us an idea of what Roosevelt was up against. For Roosevelt to clean up vice he first needed to clean the police department. The NYPD would look the other way when vice laws were being broken, for a price. Many of the captains and commiss This book gives us a very good picture of what life was like in the late 1800's in Manhattan. We get the picture of the level of 'sin' in the city and the efforts of a Reverend Parkhurst to document it. He goes into the Tammany Hall politics of the day and gives us an idea of what Roosevelt was up against. For Roosevelt to clean up vice he first needed to clean the police department. The NYPD would look the other way when vice laws were being broken, for a price. Many of the captains and commissioners and the chief of police got rich off the illegal gambling, brothels and liquor sales. Roosevelt attempted to fire the corrupt police officers and hire men of high morals. He managed to ban liquor sales on Sunday (for a while), during the reform there were some claims of false arrests and imprisonments. Theodore Roosevelt is portrayed as a know-it-all blowhard, this is supported by direct quotes from letters, speeches and newspaper articles. This is a very detailed account of Roosevelt's time as police commissioner of New York. It doesn't drag but it is also not an exciting or fast moving story. I would recommend this book for people who enjoy biographies and history, also for people interested in true crime.

  21. 5 out of 5

    George

    THE TITLE SAYS IT ALL. “A must read for any student of Gotham.”—Teresa Carpenter, author of New York Diaries (p. 4) I agree with Ms. Carpenter, Richard Zacks’s, The Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York should be read by any student of Gotham, expecially for an up close look at it’s seedier side. It also offers up a lot of interesting information about Theodore Roosevelt and his contemporaries. Early on I found the presentation a bit slow and confusing, b THE TITLE SAYS IT ALL. “A must read for any student of Gotham.”—Teresa Carpenter, author of New York Diaries (p. 4) I agree with Ms. Carpenter, Richard Zacks’s, The Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York should be read by any student of Gotham, expecially for an up close look at it’s seedier side. It also offers up a lot of interesting information about Theodore Roosevelt and his contemporaries. Early on I found the presentation a bit slow and confusing, but the last hundred or so pages rocked enough to merit four-stars. Recommendation: New York history lovers put this one on your list, today. “Ultimately, his fixs for vice was simply virtue. Roosevelt saw the solution in the American home and American marriage.” (p. 220) …and, an interesting glimpse of the vainity of the man, “The expeditionary force, know early on as ‘Teddy’s Terrors,’ then as the ‘Rough Riders,’ landed at a small fishing village, Daiquiri, on the coast of Cuba. Roosevelt was wearing a military uniform ordered from Brooks Brothers…” (p. 415) NOOKbook edition, 430 pages

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    I have to agree with those who thought the book got a little too detailed with political infighting descriptions. It is quite a long book but it never really kept me more than mildly interested. I suspect if I were to read again I would like it more. You are fairly bludgeoned with facts so it is harder to internalize what payoff they all are building toward when reading the first time. This happened to me with his Captain Kidd book, the second time was much better. I agree Zacks is quite hard on I have to agree with those who thought the book got a little too detailed with political infighting descriptions. It is quite a long book but it never really kept me more than mildly interested. I suspect if I were to read again I would like it more. You are fairly bludgeoned with facts so it is harder to internalize what payoff they all are building toward when reading the first time. This happened to me with his Captain Kidd book, the second time was much better. I agree Zacks is quite hard on Roosevelt but he does nothing but publish the facts. TR was a prude according to this book but obviously smart. Zacks does go on to say his future level-headed advisers which were not in place during this time, helped TR become the great leader he became. It is almost a tragedy to consider what Roosevelt could have accomplished without being so overbearing with the enforcement of the drinking laws. Reform did happen not longer after his tenure but who knows how much could have been done with Roosevelt in charge of the police or city.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Not knowing much about Theodore Roosevelt before reading this book (even that he was a native New Yorker like myself!), I was excited to read this book about his time as Police Commissioner of NYC. This book was so interesting I could hardly bear to put it down... Not only is Roosevelt a fascinating character, but learning about the intrigues of NY politics and Tammany Hall made this story even more interesting. Although he had his flaws to be sure (hotheaded and overly confident in himself at Not knowing much about Theodore Roosevelt before reading this book (even that he was a native New Yorker like myself!), I was excited to read this book about his time as Police Commissioner of NYC. This book was so interesting I could hardly bear to put it down... Not only is Roosevelt a fascinating character, but learning about the intrigues of NY politics and Tammany Hall made this story even more interesting. Although he had his flaws to be sure (hotheaded and overly confident in himself at times), TR was a truly fascinating man, and I came away from this book admiring him for his zeal, energy, and love for life and doing the right thing no matter what the cost... There aren't many politicians who still stick to their guns when push comes to shove. This fun, interesting, and highly readable book made me want to know more about Theodore Roosevelt and his accomplishments. A must read for any student of history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I got 80 pages into it, after 3 weeks of sporadic reading. I almost always found something else to read when it came time to choose between this book and just about anything else.Then it was due back at the library and I just wasn't interested enough to renew it. Oh, it's not a bad book. It is very well researched, with an extensive bibliography and footnotes. If I were a student writing a paper about this topic, I'd be excited to find this book. But I'm not a student and the info in the book wa I got 80 pages into it, after 3 weeks of sporadic reading. I almost always found something else to read when it came time to choose between this book and just about anything else.Then it was due back at the library and I just wasn't interested enough to renew it. Oh, it's not a bad book. It is very well researched, with an extensive bibliography and footnotes. If I were a student writing a paper about this topic, I'd be excited to find this book. But I'm not a student and the info in the book was just too detailed and dragged out to hold my attention. There are too many other books on my nightstand crying out to be read. Maybe someday I'll check this book out again. But probably not. If you are obsessed with Theodore Roosevelt or cops or NYC minutiae of the 19th century, then this is the book for you!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Nice little chunk of TR's life. We see him spluttering, striding, sneaking through vice-ridden Manhattan as police commissioner, vowing with moral indignation to enforce all the laws and leave no little crack unchinked. We see him successful. But then we see him caught in the political backlash, and Tammany ascendant once more, and his own party run in terror from him. No matter. Bumps in the road for TR, who always had his eye on bigger game. A year chasing beer and jailing prostitutes was neve Nice little chunk of TR's life. We see him spluttering, striding, sneaking through vice-ridden Manhattan as police commissioner, vowing with moral indignation to enforce all the laws and leave no little crack unchinked. We see him successful. But then we see him caught in the political backlash, and Tammany ascendant once more, and his own party run in terror from him. No matter. Bumps in the road for TR, who always had his eye on bigger game. A year chasing beer and jailing prostitutes was never too high a price for national notoriety--even if New York no longer spoke to him at parties. It gets a bit tedious, truth to tell, this along-the-way story of TR's rise to international power. But a good brick in the monument nevertheless. And we get to see the vice that aroused such indignation!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shira

    This is an amazing book! Written about the turn of the century in New York, New York with all of the color you might expect, or, at least hope for. The story focuses on the police department and the republican party who attempt to convert the sexy, boozy Big Apple into a tame, respectable, Sabbath abiding citizens. Roosevelt, the head of the police, is brought to life as a zealous advocate of reform not much liked by the vice-loving residents of the city. The book is thoroughly researched and ti This is an amazing book! Written about the turn of the century in New York, New York with all of the color you might expect, or, at least hope for. The story focuses on the police department and the republican party who attempt to convert the sexy, boozy Big Apple into a tame, respectable, Sabbath abiding citizens. Roosevelt, the head of the police, is brought to life as a zealous advocate of reform not much liked by the vice-loving residents of the city. The book is thoroughly researched and tightly written - it makes for a dense, but fun!, read. I particularly enjoyed the bits that described what was considered scandalous in Victorian times to not even register in present day. Highly recommended for anyone who loves non-fiction (history), biographies, or New York.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    It's comforting to know corruption is a part of the human condition. We manage to struggle along and progress. New York City in 1895 had a new administration and Theodore Roosevelt in the police department thought he could eliminate vice. It was simple--just enforce the laws. Starting with making sure all bars were closed on Sunday, Roosevelt became increasingly unpopular. This is a fascinating look at New York politics. Roosevelt couldn't wait to get out of the quagmire, and New York couldn't w It's comforting to know corruption is a part of the human condition. We manage to struggle along and progress. New York City in 1895 had a new administration and Theodore Roosevelt in the police department thought he could eliminate vice. It was simple--just enforce the laws. Starting with making sure all bars were closed on Sunday, Roosevelt became increasingly unpopular. This is a fascinating look at New York politics. Roosevelt couldn't wait to get out of the quagmire, and New York couldn't wait to get rid of him. Next undersecretary of the navy under McKinley where he promised not to do anything rash. Our Teddy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Island of Vice; I thought this book which chronicles Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to curb vice in 1890's NYC would be fascinating. A political narrative akin to the work of Luc Sante. I have to think there is a more intersting tale about sinning in NY then the one that Zacks has authored. Way too much time is spent on Roosevelt's sparring with a fellow Police Commissioner on who should get promoted within the NYPD. Even typing this I am falling asleep. The author has does prodigious research but Island of Vice; I thought this book which chronicles Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to curb vice in 1890's NYC would be fascinating. A political narrative akin to the work of Luc Sante. I have to think there is a more intersting tale about sinning in NY then the one that Zacks has authored. Way too much time is spent on Roosevelt's sparring with a fellow Police Commissioner on who should get promoted within the NYPD. Even typing this I am falling asleep. The author has does prodigious research but in the end the reader is left with the feelng of eating an unsatisyiny meal.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

    It seems like the author did an exhaustive amount of research, but at the same time, it kind of weirds me out when authors seem to be encouraging me to cozy up to the subject of a biography without properly introducing us first. I know who Theodore Roosevelt is, of course, but I don't know enough about him to feel comfortable thinking of him as "TR." Maybe that was his intimates called him but ... I don't know that. It seems like the author did an exhaustive amount of research, but at the same time, it kind of weirds me out when authors seem to be encouraging me to cozy up to the subject of a biography without properly introducing us first. I know who Theodore Roosevelt is, of course, but I don't know enough about him to feel comfortable thinking of him as "TR." Maybe that was his intimates called him but ... I don't know that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Hanson

    This one was a bit dull for me. The research itself was great and the story of Theodore Roosevelt's obviously disastrous attempt at cleaning up New York City was pretty interesting. You could also see why TR was so determined by looking at the impact that addiction had on his family. However, something about the writing didn't hold my attention. I spent about half of this book zoning out before snapping out of it and returning my attention to the book. This one was a bit dull for me. The research itself was great and the story of Theodore Roosevelt's obviously disastrous attempt at cleaning up New York City was pretty interesting. You could also see why TR was so determined by looking at the impact that addiction had on his family. However, something about the writing didn't hold my attention. I spent about half of this book zoning out before snapping out of it and returning my attention to the book.

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