Few figures, if any, succeed in unveiling the interplay of modernity and America in the 20th century as well as the gangster does. The two match up so well and so often that the gangster has become coterminous of our culture. The gangster is everywhere: movies (Public Enemy, Bonnie & Clyde, The Godfather, Goodfellas, American Gangster, Black Mass), literature (The Great Gatsby, Billy Bathgate, Gentleman Jigger, Stiletto and Steel), newspaper stories, TV shows (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire), memoirs (The Valachi Papers) and popular music, including rap songs (“The Ledge”). 4 Its presence is essential to understand some fundamental aspects of our material culture (clothes, fashion); technology (fire weapons, automobiles) as well as racial, sexual, ethnic and class relationships. and the so-called culture industry. Indeed, the century long continuing success of the gangster indicates how pervasive this identification is in the American psyche. Why is that and how did it all happen?

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