I read this book about 12-Jan-2009. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright . This note was last modified Friday, 01-May-2009 12:11:25 PDT.
This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.
"Dutch" Schultz was among the last of the major jewish gangsters. He was king of the Harlem numbers racket, and during prohibition was known as the "Beer Baron of the Bronx". He was murdered in 1935.
I stumbled across references to the online version, and that's what I read. The site recommending it to me talked about the newspaper writing style of the period, and I have to admit that was present, but it wasn't actually one of my favorite parts. Still, it was interesting to read about organized crime in the happy easy days, when every ordinary person had to be a criminal by dealing with bootleggers. And the numbers racket was about as legitimate as it gets. I think it had about the same payback as state-run lotteries do now, despite the additional dificulties of running it (due to its being illegal).
At the time, the "number" was based on race results (I believe stock market volume was later used, just the bottom three digits). One person was good enough at the mental arithmetic that he could stand at the betting window at the last seconds before a race and figure bets to place to shift the amounts reported to move it away from heavily-played numbers. This ability made him a lot of money, and saved Schultz a lot of money, and was clearly cheating. But at least it was clever cheating based on an actual skill.