Synopses & Reviews
Shortlisted for the 2015 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize
Amazon Best Book of the Month, History andndash; October 2014
New York Postand#160;andldquo;must readandrdquo; andndash; October 2014
Coney Island, summer 1905: a new attraction opened at Luna Park. Within weeks it would be the talk of the nation.
For the first time,and#160;The Lost Tribe of Coney Islandand#160;unearths the incredible true story of the Igorrotes, a group of andldquo;headhunting, dog eatingandrdquo; tribespeople brought to America from the Philippines by the opportunistic showman Truman K. Hunt. At Luna Park, the g-string-clad Filipinos performed native dances and rituals before a wide-eyed public in a mocked-up tribal village. Millions of Americans flocked to see the tribespeople slaughter live dogs for their daily canine feasts and to hear thrilling tales of headhunting. The Igorrotes became a national sensationandmdash;they were written up in newspaper headlines, portrayed in cartoons, and even featured in advertising jingles, all fueled by Trumanandrsquo;s brilliant publicity stunts.
By the end of the summer season, the Igorrote show had made Truman a rich man. But his genius had a dark side and soon he would be on the run across America with the tribe in tow, pursued by ex-wives, creditors, Pinkerton detectives, and the tireless agents of American justice.
Award-winning journalist Claire Prentice brings this forgotten chapter in American history to life with vivid prose and rich historical detail. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the mercurial Truman Hunt; his ambitious, young Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; Fomoaley Ponci, the tribeandrsquo;s loquacious, self-important leader; Luna Park impresarios Fred Thompson and Elmer andldquo;Skipandrdquo; Dundy; and Frederick Barker, the government man dead set on bringing Truman to justice.
At its heart,and#160;The Lost Tribe of Coney Islandand#160;is a tale of what happens when two cultures collide in the pursuit of money, adventure, and the American Dream. It is a story that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage.
“[An] entertaining new book…by veteran crime writer T.J. English” New York Post
“A whiz-bang account of the Mafias short-lived romp through 1950s Cuba.” New York Times Book Review
“[An] excellent new book.… [English] provides a detailed account of the personalities and elements that made up Cuban life. His well-researched descriptions of how business, gambling, politics, revolution, music and religion all played off each other give Havana Nocturne a broad context and a knowledgeable edge.” Washington Post
“All the razzle-dazzle is hereSinatra, the black sedans, the showgirlsbut English goes further, to show how gangsterismo permeated the politics of Cuba and influenced its destiny.” The Scotsman
“Finally, the definitive book has been written on the Mobs heyday in Cuba. Havana Nocturne is at once compelling and incisivean entertaining page-tuner that will both shock and inform.” Sam Giancana, author of Double Cross
“Sex and drugs and rockin mambo! Havana Nocturne is a dazzling parade through the Mobs interests in Cuba. A must for Mob fans everywhere.” Legs McNeil, author of The Other Hollywood and Please Kill Me
“Its a roaring story, equal parts fact and myth, and for the first time, it gets told in its violent entirety by no less a crime scribe than T.J. English…compellingly telling.” Miami Sun Post
“While Havana Nocturne makes you glad that Batista and his gangster pals ultimately got what they deserved, it also makes you regret never having gotten the chance to soak up a few mojitos while catching the floor show at the old Tropicana.” Village Voice
“A tight storyteller, English provides a juicy mix of true crime and political intrigue, all set against the sexy sizzle of Havana nightlife.” San Francisco Chronicle
“True-crime writer English (Paddy Whacked) presents an empire-building saga in which the “Havana Mob” of American gangsters, led by visionary financier Meyer Lansky, controlled Cuba.” Publishers Weekly
“Crime writer English (Paddy Whacked) unfolds a story whose main outline will be familiar to any fan of The Godfather: Part II, but whose twists and turns no screenplay could keep up with.” Kirkus Reviews
“Engaging….Englishs brand of narrative is history, and he aims to set the record straight.” Miami Herald
“Spellbinding prose…Havana Nocturne is a powerful reminder of how the mob nearly achieved its biggest payday and how Castro beat the house, forever changing the course of history.” San Antonio Express-News
“Englishs engaging narrative reads with the gripping quality of fiction: the dark underworld of Havana comes to life....Highly recommended.” Library Journal
In modern-day Havana, the remnants of the glamorous past are everywhere—the old hotel-casinos, vintage American cars, and flickering neon signs speak of a bygone era that is widely familiar and often romanticized, but little understood. In Havana Nocturne
, T. J. English offers a riveting, multifaceted true tale of organized crime, political corruption, roaring nightlife, revolution, and international conflict that interweaves the dual stories of the Mob in Havana and the event that would overshadow it, the Cuban Revolution.
As the Cuban people labored under a violently repressive regime throughout the 1950s, Mob leaders Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano turned their eye to Havana. To them, Cuba was the ultimate dream, the greatest hope for the future of the American Mob in the post-Prohibition years of intensified government crackdowns. But when it came time to make their move, it was Lansky, the brilliant Jewish mobster, who reigned supreme. Having cultivated strong ties with the Cuban government and in particular the brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista, Lansky brought key mobsters to Havana to put his ambitious business plans in motion.
Before long, the Mob, with Batista's corrupt government in its pocket, owned the biggest luxury hotels and casinos in Havana, launching an unprecedented tourism boom complete with the most lavish entertainment, the world's biggest celebrities, the most beautiful women, and gambling galore. But their dreams collided with those of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others who would lead the country's disenfranchised to overthrow their corrupt government and its foreign partners—an epic cultural battle that English captures in all its sexy, decadent, ugly glory.
Bringing together long-buried historical information with English's own research in Havana—including interviews with the era's key survivors—Havana Nocturne takes readers back to Cuba in the years when it was a veritable devil's playground for mob leaders. English deftly weaves together the parallel stories of the Havana Mob—featuring notorious criminals such as Santo Trafficante Jr. and Albert Anastasia—and Castro's 26th of July Movement in a riveting, up-close look at how the Mob nearly attained its biggest dream in Havana—and how Fidel Castro trumped it all with the Cuban Revolution.
Readers of Erik Larson will loveand#160;this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream:and#160;A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Islandand#8217;s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.
The Lost Tribe of Coney Islandand#160;unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of and#8220;headhunting, dog-eating savagesand#8221; from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as and#8220;human exhibitsand#8221; alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Islandand#8217;s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.
Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer and#8220;Skipand#8221; Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New Yorkand#8217;s social elite.and#160;The Lost Tribe ofand#160;Coney Island and#160;is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.
About the Author
T. J. English is a noted journalist, a screenwriter, and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Havana Nocturne, Paddy Whacked, and The Savage City, as well as of The Westies, a national bestseller, and Born to Kill, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. He has written for Vanity Fair, Playboy, and Esquire, among other publications. His screenwriting credits include episodes of the television crime dramas NYPD Blue and Homicide, for which he was awarded the Humanitas Prize. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters
1.and#160;From One Island to Another
3.and#160;The Journey from the Tropics
4.and#160;The Money Men
5.and#160;Welcome to America
6.and#160;Making an Entrance
7.and#160;Meeting Uncle Sam
9.and#160;Tribal Life in the City
10.and#160;Headhunting the Star Attraction
12.and#160;Another Unwelcome Visitor
13.and#160;The End of the American Dream
15.and#160;Fighting for Control
16.and#160;A Break for Freedom
17.and#160;Dear Dr. Hunt
18.and#160;A Rival Enters the Fray
20.and#160;Raising the Alarm
21.and#160;A Worthy Opponent
22.and#160;Dr. Hunt, I Presume
23.and#160;On the Run
24.and#160;Luck Be a Lady
28.and#160;In the Care of the Government
29.and#160;A Gentleman Criminal
30.and#160;Trials and Tribulations
31.and#160;A Surprise Reversal
32.and#160;The End of the Line