Low Light is about a scheme to neutralize the FBI by blackmailing
its young Director, J. Edgar Hoover, in Atlantic City during the
summer of 1929. Al Rubin, the narrator protagonist, is an ordinary
man who wants a better life and is offered one by the New York
gangster Meyer Lansky and by the Boss of Atlantic City, Enoch Nucky
Johnson. Low Light is a novel that weaves a plausible explanation
for a 20th Century mystery why did J. Edgar Hoover deny that there
was a national crime syndicate operating in America? Until the late
1960s, Hoover claimed that criminals were too dumb to be organized.
In 1929, Lansky threw a bachelor party in Atlantic City to which he
invited all the men who controlled the alcohol trafficking network
of America s cities east of the Mississippi. During the weeklong
party, a loose confederation of gang lords was organized into what
would morph into The Mob and into its assassination arm, Murder
Incorporated, just a few years hence. In Washington, Hoover had
just been given a job as the first permanent director of the
investigations bureau of the Justice Department. Young Hoover had
made a name for himself when he d built a first-class filing system
and used it to keep incriminating records of the high and mighty as
well as of the low-life Commies and immigrant trash who were trying
to destroy The American Way of Life. Atlantic City was a hotbed of
immigrant trash, ground zero for the culture wars of the day the
Las Vegas of the Jazz Age. In Cutler s tale, Atlantic City s people
the African Americans who staffed the hotels and restaurants, the
Italians who built the hotels, the Jews who owned the stores and
the supply businesses, the white folk from the farms who owned the
land and the Republican Party compete for the brass ring. The
characters are distinct and believable. Al Rubin tells their story
as he tells us what happened to him when he was offered a
legitimate, can t-miss business opportunity in exchange for taking
a photograph of the Director in his comp ed hotel room on
Decoration Day, 1929. This is the story about the ways of power in
big city neighborhoods, not about angst in the Gatsby suburbs.
Lansky and Nucky Johnson, in Stanley J. Cutler s tale, see Federal
power as a threat to their interstate business plan. They know of
Hoover because of his leadership role in the Palmer Raids, the
arrest and deportation of hundreds of immigrants on charges of
subversion. Hoover was a ruthless publicity hound, a darling of the
guardians of moral rectitude, the one man in a position to bypass
the corrupt cops and judges that Johnson and his ilk kept in their
pockets by throwing prosecutions directly into the hard-to-fix
Federal Courts. Al Rubin - an ex-garment worker, ex-boxer turned
studio photographer - is just the man for the job. He s the
Everyman who wrestles with his conscience. Is it right to eavesdrop
on an eavesdropper? What is the moral legitimacy of laws in a
country that views selling beer as a crime, that allows the New
York Stock Exchange as it closes down casinos, that deports working
people without due process? Cutler compels the reader to see
parallels between Prohibition and The War on Drugs, The Red Menace
and Radical Jihad, European immigration and Central American
immigration, and how adoption of the telephone, radio and
automobiles foreshadowed efforts to adjust today s America to the
technologies of the 21st Century. As the fast-paced story develops,
Al s carefully planned photo-shoot goes awry. He runs for his life
into a dangerous world of bootleggers, IRA gunmen, big time
gamblers, anti-Semitic sea captains, African American race jockeys,
flappers, gun molls, G Men, and powerful politicians. Readers who
like the HBO miniseries Boardwalk Empire will find a great deal to
enjoy in this entertaining and informative novel.
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