Jacobs Beach, by Kevin Mitchell

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The Independent Culture

Many boxing old-timers regard 1950s America as the sport's apogee, with New York's Madison Square Garden at its glittering centre. But Kevin Mitchell knows better; he details how the Mafia took over the fight game in the US during that decade, freezing out anyone who wasn't "connected", fixing fights and fixing – often terminally – those who challenged their authority.

Yet amid the corruption there was a tremendous vitality, and Mitchell has tracked down an impressive roster of first-hand witnesses. The result is discursive, and all the better for that, as Runyonesque remembrances leap from the page.

His unlikely hero is an earnest senator named Estes Kefauver, whose dogged pursuit of the Mob finally loosened their grip on the Garden. But Mitchell argues convincingly that it was the rise of television that finally killed off the good old, bad old days.

This is a tour de force of reportage and research by an author who really knows his stuff; it's just as well for him that Frankie Carbo, Blinky Palermo and their pals in Murder Inc aren't around any more to shut him up.

Published in hardback by Yellow Jersey, £18.99