Picks and Pans Review: Roemer: Man Against the Mob

updated 11/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by William F. Roemer Jr.

When it comes to feds fighting organized crime, the author of this graphic, fascinating look inside the modern-day deadly dealings of the mob has to rank right up there with Eliot Ness.

Roemer, a World War II marine and Notre Dame Law School grad, joined the FBI in 1950 but felt underused and by 1957 was ready to quit and join his brothers' Indiana law firm. Then, on Nov. 14, 1957, some 70 top leaders of organized crime met in a small New York town. When their meeting was discovered, it became front-page news nationwide. Within days, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared war on the mob. The war was to begin in Chicago, and it came to be led by special agent Bill Roemer.

For more than 20 years Roemer faced down the toughest that organized crime had to offer—from Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo to the infamous don Sam "Momo" Giancana. By the time Roemer handed in his shield in 1980 (retiring as the most decorated agent in FBI history), he had left the Chicago mob a skeleton of its powerful self and had helped the bureau cripple organized crime across the country.

As Roemer conveys it, the dialogue of his life is right out of a Walter Winchell voice-over on The Untouchables. The mob characters who pop up throughout the book more than live up to their colorful nicknames and dire intentions. Roemer himself emerges as a larger-than-life crimebuster, filled with charisma and gall. Once, encountering Giancana at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, he called to passersby, "All you folks, come over here! Take a look at this piece of slime!...You people are lucky; you're just passing through! We have to live with this jerk!"

All these factors combine to make Roemer a high-speed journey through mob-land's inner sanctum, with wiretaps, payoffs, shoot-outs, double-dealing and instant death. It is what all mob books should be—crisp, detailed, crammed with both action and information. (Fine, $19.95)

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