New From Viking Books!

TONG WARS: the untold story of vice, money and murder in new york's chinatown    
A true story of money, murder, gambling, prostitution and opium: the gang wars that engulfed New York’s Chinatown from the 1890s to the 1930s.

Nothing had worked. Not threats or negotiations, not shutting down the betting parlors or opium dens, not house-to-house searches or throwing Chinese offenders into prison. Not even executing them. New York's District Attorney was running out of ideas and more people were dying every day, as the weapons of choice evolved from hatchets and meat cleavers to pistols, automatic weapons and even bombs.


Welcome to New York City‘s Chinatown in 1925.

The Chinese in turn-of-the-century New York were mostly immigrant peasants and shopkeepers who worked as laundrymen, cigar makers and domestics. They gravitated to lower Manhattan and lived as Chinese an existence as possible, their few diversions available, but illegal. It didn’t take long before one resourceful merchant saw a golden opportunity to feather his nest by positioning himself squarely between the vice dens and the police charged with shutting them down.

Tong Wars is historical true-crime set against the perfect landscape: Tammany-era New York City. Representatives of rival tongs (secret societies) corner the various vice markets using admirably creative strategies. The city government was already corrupt from top to bottom, so once one tong began taxing the gambling dens and paying off the authorities, a rival, jealously eyeing its lucrative franchise, co-opted a local reformist group to help eliminate them. Pretty soon Chinese were slaughtering one another in the streets, inaugurating a succession of wars.

The book roars through three decades of turmoil, with characters ranging from gangsters and drug lords to reformers and do-gooders to judges, prosecutors, cops, and pols of every stripe and color. A true story set in Prohibition-era Manhattan a generation after Gangs of New York, but fought on the very same turf.

A Chinese translation of Tong Wars was jointly published in November, 2020 by the Shanghai Cultural Publishing House and Post Wave Publishing under the title 堂斗:纽约唐人街的罪恶金钱谋杀, a faithful translation of the original. Click on the image below for more information.


Meet the men of the On Leong and  Hip Sing tongs, the police captains and prosecutors, the mayors and the Progressives and the victims of the tongs.

See rare surviving video footage of the tongs in the early 1930s.

Enjoy some images and documents that tell more of the story, but that couldn't fit into the final book.


Scott D. Seligman, 2019-21. All rights reserved.  Contact

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