I am a firm devotee of Mad Men. No invitation could be exciting enough to get me out of the house on a Wednesday night while the current series is showing. However, I’m ready to be tempted away from my Joan Holloway-esque dresses for the flapper style and (fake) fur wraps of the 1920s by Boardwalk Empire, the fantastic new series from Martin Scorsese and the producers of The Sopranos.
It tells the story of Nucky Thompson (based on the real-life Enoch ‘Nucky’ Johnson) and the gangsters, racketeers and corrupt politicians who kept Atlantic City wide open during Prohibition. The performances of Steve Buscemi, and British actors Kelly McDonald and Steve Graham (who plays a young Al Capone) are already receiving acclaim from US critics, but it seems that the real star of the show will turn out to be Atlantic City itself.
From humble beginnings as a small-time seaside resort, Atlantic City became America’s playground. Even the humblest labourer could afford a good time there, and people of all classes flocked to be entertained, indulge, listen to the new ‘jazz’ and, of course, drink. This fascinating and colourful history is encapsulated in a book, also called Boardwalk Empire, which provided the original inspiration for the show’s creators. Written by Atlantic City local Nelson Johnson, Ebury are publishing in the UK edition in February 2011.
The book tells the complete story of the rise and fall of this unique city, and explains just how Nucky and his cast of shady associates of Boardwalk Empire were able to take power as they did, and how their legacy affected the future of the city. The series opens on the eve of the coming into force of the Volstead Act, the eighteenth amendment that created ‘Prohibition’. This hangover (so to speak) from Victorian morality didn’t come about overnight, however. The supporters of the Act had been campaigning for years, little suspecting the massive impact it would have on the creation of organised crime, and what the huge boost they would give to the careers of people like Nucky Johnson.
I’m really enjoying working on the UK edition of this book. The history of this era is fascinating anyway, but to have the added excitement of the anticipation of the show makes the project even more fun. We’ve nearly got a UK cover finalised, and can’t wait to hear Sky’s plans of how the series will be promoted over here. So, in the post-Christmas, New Year gloom we have the shining lights of Atlantic City, circa 1920 to look forward to. And who knows, the forgiving shape of those flapper dresses may even prove a handy alternative to the New Year diet!
Liz - Editorial Assistant