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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Review of Augie's Secrets

Augie's Secrets: The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip
By: Neal Karlen
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013.

Karlen investigates the seedy side of Minneapolis during the first half of the twentieth century. Along side with a detailed history of Jewish Minnesota mob and corrupt local politicians is the narrative of Sammy "Augie" Ratner, Karlen's great uncle.

Augie is a diminutive and lovable yet buffoonish nightclub owner, an ex-boxer and bootlegger, who befriends local gangsters and sports stars alike. But Karlen surmises that Ratner's clownish schtick was a ploy. He shrewdly understood his best chance for survival was to be liked and trusted by everyone. And playing the fool was the best way to avoid making enemies.

Ratner as ex-pugilist is an important character feature in this tale, but the career details of the journeyman Jewish fighter merits barely a mention. A fellow Jewish boxer from Minnesota, Ernie Fliegel, makes an appearance. As does Jack Dempsey, the former heavyweight champion of the world, and friend of Augie's.

While this book doesn't focus on boxing, it highlights some other interesting subjects. If you're a fan of Jewish gangsters, particularly those in Minnesota, this book is for you. Kid Cann and Davie "The Jew" Berman garner their own chapters. Nationally known Jewish mob members such as Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegal take on less prominent roles in this story.

This book delves into Minneapolis history, particularly the relationship between local politicians and organized crime. And if Jewish gangsters from Minneapolis is your interest, this is the book for you!

Karlen also infuses his prose with numerous Yiddish phrases, which in other books can come across as forced or hokey, but is much appreciated here.

This book doesn't have much boxing, but it is an enlightening portrait of the Jewish mob in Minneapolis.

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