Also of interest...in rogues and thieves
by Deirdre Bair (Nan A. Talese, $30)
To most of us, Al Capone is “much more myth than man,” said Nathan Smith in Smithsonian.com. But Deirdre Bair’s new biography “draws on a rich and, until recently, untapped pool of resources”: the legendary gangster’s surviving relatives. Bair’s Capone proves “powerfully human.” Though he builds a criminal empire and rules it with blood, he’s also a music lover, a devoted son, and—after syphilis destroys his mental faculties—a middle-aged excon with the mind of a child.
by Frances Wilson (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, $30)
Thomas de Quincey is such a vividly drawn character in this “irresistible” biography that he could “step forth and hit you up for a loan,” said Laura Miller in Slate.com. De Quincey, who pioneered the addiction memoir with 1821’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, was a brilliant young writer who wormed his way into William Wordsworth’s circle. Opium and debts soon consumed him, but he remains a dazzling central figure in this period portrait, a book “short on literary analysis and long on dish.”
The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell
by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (NAL, $27)
Many dyslexics have become inspirational role models—but not CIA analyst Brian Patrick Regan, said Kevin Nance in the Chicago Tribune. Bullied and underestimated because of his disability, Regan sought payback by trying to sell secrets to Libya in 2000. The “electrifying core” of this account of the case is the cat-and-mouse game that developed between Regan and an FBI agent. Regan’s dyslexia, which initially made his encrypted messages doubly impenetrable, eventually gave him away.
The Thieves of Threadneedle Street
by Nicholas Booth (Pegasus, $28)
If only our financial swindlers were still as charming as they were in 1873, said Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times. In this “jaunty” account of a real-life caper, two brothers from Cincinnati nearly break the Bank of England by passing forged notes in London, and then maintain a remarkable level of decorum while eluding an international chase. The Bidwell brothers’ scam revealed that the entire banking system ran wholly on trust, but “strange as it may seem,” they actually admired that ethic.