It is easy to see why Johnson’s book has become a highly successful TV show, and not just because this paperback edition comes with characters of the HBO adaptation on the front cover. The book is full of compelling anecdotes and characters. From Thomas Edison designing some of the first lighting and landscaping in Atlantic City in 1902 to Louis Kessell, Nucky Johnson’s five-foot-five ‘trunk of a tree’ butler who started the day massaging his boss before ending it by putting him to bed he was too drunk to do it himself. The book ends with Donald Trump and the ‘eighth wonder of the world’: the Taj Mahal.
The book explores interesting connections between the criminal, commercial and political worlds of Atlantic City. Al Capone had a deft justification for his profession as he highlighted society’s double-standards by saying: “Everybody calls me a racketeer I call myself a businessman. When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on a silver tray on Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality.”
Nucky Johnson’s description of Atlantic City is equally applicable to Nelson Johnson’s book:
We have whiskey, wine, women, song, and slot machines. I won’t deny it and I won’t apologise for it.