Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel
The Gangster, the Flamingo, and the Making of Modern Las Vegas
by Larry D. Gragg
January 2015, 200pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-0185-3
$53, £40, 46€, A72
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-0186-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Two new mob museums in Las Vegas feature “Bugsy” Siegel.

This intriguing biography recounts the life of the legendary Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, revealing his true role in the development of Las Vegas and debunking some of the common myths about his notoriety.

This account of the life of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel follows his beginnings in the Lower East Side of New York to his role in the development of the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Larry D. Gragg examines Siegel’s image as portrayed in popular culture, dispels the myths about Siegel’s contribution to the founding of Las Vegas, and reveals some of the more lurid details about his life.

Unlike previous biographies, this book is the first to make use of more than 2,400 pages of FBI files on Siegel, referencing documents about the reputed gangster in the New York City Municipal Archives and reviewing the 1950–51 testimony before the Senate Committee on organized crime. Chapters cover his early involvement with gangs in New York, his emergence as a favorite among the Hollywood elite in the late 1930s, his lucrative exploits in illegal gambling and horse racing, and his opening of the “fabulous” Flamingo in 1946. The author also draws upon the recollections of Siegel’s eldest daughter to reveal a side of the mobster never before studied—the nature of his family life.

Features

  • Assesses Siegel's life as a gangster in organized crime of the time
  • Provides a detailed account of Siegel's last day in 1947, culminating with his murder at his girlfriend's house in Beverly Hills
  • Discusses the facts and fallacies about his association with the development of Las Vegas
  • Features a chronological treatment of Siegel in films, novels, documentaries, and accounts in newspapers and magazines
  • Includes photographs of Siegel and the Flamingo Hotel and Casino at the time of its construction and opening
Larry D. Gragg, PhD, is curators' teaching professor of history at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. His published works include Praeger's The Salem Witch Crisis as well as Bright Light City: Las Vegas in Popular Culture and The Quaker Community on Barbados: Challenging the Culture of the Planter Class. Gragg holds a doctorate in history from the University of Missouri.

Reviews

"A new book, drawing on more than 2,400 pages of FBI files, sheds fresh light on the gangster."—London Daily Express, January 19, 2015

"Gragg also provides an in-depth examination of Siegel . . . . Unlike previous biographies, Gragg's book is the first to use more than 2,400 pages of FBI files on Siegel."—Missouri S&T, January 27, 2015

"The inaccurate myths about Siegel’s creation of Las Vegas linger. Yet for those who are interested in the truth, there is Gragg’s detailed biography."—Informer Journal, November 9, 2015

"Larry Gragg’s narrative is well-constructed, and he provides interesting perspective in separating history from fiction in the life of Benjamin Siegel."—Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, March 15, 2016

"This is a wonderfully readable, meticulously researched look at the life of one of the most notorious figures of the 20th-century criminal underworld. Gragg, using his historian’s eye to add world-building details to Siegel’s story, skillfully brings to life both the gangster and the world he dominated. Drawing on new interviews and a nuanced perspective on existing sources, Gragg brings to light facts about Siegel’s career—including much about his role in the construction and opening of the Flamingo hotel—that will fascinate those intrigued by both organized crime and Las Vegas."—David G. Schwartz, Director, Center for Gaming Research, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

"Larry Gragg has written the first comprehensive biography of Bugsy Siegel—and by far the best to date. The combination of unprecedented research and a compelling story make this a must-read for those who want to know more about organized crime and Las Vegas."—Geoff Schumacher, Author of Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas

"The nickname Bugsy Siegel conjures up a time in the first half of the 20th century when criminals dominated the nation’s front pages. It was an era when the line between legitimate businesses and mob enterprises was blurred. With authoritative research into wiretaps, interviews, and other primary sources, Larry Gragg has written the definitive life and times of the endlessly fascinating and contradictory Bugsy. A must-read for fans of true crime."—Marc Mappen, Author of Prohibition Gangsters: The Rise and Fall of a Bad Generation

"Proving he’s comfortable in an academic setting and on the street, Larry Gragg has written a well-sourced biography of Benjamin Siegel that separates fact from fantasy about one of the most intriguing characters in Las Vegas history. Mob aficionados and fans of the real Las Vegas will definitely want to add it to their libraries."—John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist and author of Even a Street Dog: Las Vegas Stories
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