TONG WARS: the untold story of vice, money and murder in new york's chinatown    

Paul Davis writes in the Washington Times, October 9, 2016: Historian Scott D. Seligman offers an interesting and true tale about the Chinese gang wars in New York City from the 1890s through the 1930s. . . Tong Wars is a well-researched and well-written story that will interest crime aficionados, as well as those interested in American history. MORE
Bookshelf, September 30, 2016: Mr. Seligman couples a vivid narrative with fresh historical perspective as he recounts how two brotherhoods, each supposedly providing “protection” for immigrants, waged a war that bled the neighborhood, and each other.
Briefly Noted, September 19, 2016: This wild ramble around Chinatown in its darkest days—when tongs, or gangs, warred for control of opium dens and illegal gambling rooms—is a colorful study of Tammany Hall-era Manhattan. MORE
September 7, 2016: The Tong Wars were as brutal as any that were dramatized in the Oscar-winning film, according to a new book. Seligman tells for the first time how the gangs of Chinatown were as brutal as their more famous Italian or Irish counterparts. MORE
In How a book about Chinatown made me remember my first New York date, Wei Tchou writes in the September 1, 2016 Paris Review that he spent much of the summer totally captivated by Tong Wars! MORE

From Jeff Chus August 18, 2016 review of Tong Wars in Hong Kongs major English language daily, the South China Morning Post: “The New York tong wars, as they were collectively known, would eventually claim countless lives while generating breathless accounts in the newspapers, inspiring Hollywood movies, and reinforcing threatening stereotypes of the Chinese in America. But until this summer’s publication of Tong Wars, there had never been a popular accounting of the full sweep of battles and skirmishes.“ MORE
Jim Riordan of the Peabody Institute Library writes, on August 9, 2016, This book is a rare look inside the world of Chinese American crime, immigrant life and the life of lower class New York in the 19th and 20th centuries in general. It is simultaneously rigorously research and readable by a general audience.“
There are lots of great characters here that fill in all sorts of organized crime archetypes, writes Bobby Fischer in the August 1, 2016 edition of American Microreviews & Interviews. There are assassins with cool names like Black Devil, Girlface, and the Scientific Killer. Theres tenderness and community and patriotism. . . Seligman captures all of these but he doesn't sensationalize it. He recognizes . . . the importance of recording history, as long as that history is recorded accurately.
On July 21, 2016, named Tong Wars one of its top 10 best non fiction books of July, 2016.

IBooks has listed Tong Wars as one of its 25 Best Books of July! “Tong Wars feels more like an action-packed thriller than a history lesson. Rich in detail, photos, and excerpts from primary texts, historian and genealogist Scott Seligman's book paints a riveting picture of New York Chinatown's tumultuous early days. Seligman weaves together competing narratives, showing how crony politicians, crooked cops, and ambitious businessmen all shaped this burgeoning community's destiny. It’s a gripping read.”

Joshua Wallace, writing in Library Journal, July 1, 2016: “This thoroughly researched and fascinating work is highly recommended for those interested in organized crime or the early history of New York's Chinatown.”

Signature, June 30, 2016: “Seligman takes us back to the 1890s, to the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a scramble for power, gang violence, opium dens and gambling halls and brothels. Over the following three decades, the stories play out like a turn-of-the-century thriller, offering a highly enlightening viewpoint on lower Manhattan.” MORE

Booklist Online, June 8, 2016: “This is propulsive narrative history. The depth of this research is remarkable . . . and results are delivered compellingly. A story about immigrants and their suffering that needed to be told.” MORE

Shelf Awareness,May 6, 2016: “At a time when the city government was notoriously corrupt, the tongs would act as middlemen between the vice dens and the police by exorbitantly taxing the former and paying off the latter. Competition between rival tongs became so fierce that there were hatchet fights in Chinatown's streets.”MORE

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2016: “His work is richly textured and avoids black-and-white judgments. The author dutifully follows the tit-for-tat wars between the two tongs over . . . three decades. In this entertaining book, Seligman ably demystifies the stereotypes in an age rife with discrimination and unchecked police abuse.” MORE

Asian Review of Books, April 21, 2016: “Seligman’s account focuses on New York City’s Chinatown between about 1880 and 1935. He groups the disputes into three major wars—chains of reprisals, in each case ended by a formal truce. He has done a great deal of research in court records and in the archives of long-forgotten New York newspapers. The result is a clear and systematic account of a long series of inherently opaque and confusing disputes.” MORE

Publisher’s Weekly, April 11, 2016: “Historian Seligman (The First Chinese American) provides a definitive look at more than 30 years of violence in this fascinating and nuanced examination of Manhattan’s Chinatown . . . This is the best kind of true crime book: a solid social history as well as a gripping narrative of murder and revenge.” MORE

“With Tong Wars, Seligman pulls back the veil on thirty years of hidden history, revealing an amazing cast of gangsters, crooked businessmen and corrupt lawmen that gave rise to one of the most extraordinary eras in the underworld history of the United States. This is not only a Chinese story; it is an American story. The research is impeccable and the storytelling light on its feet. Seligman pierces the nexus of political, cultural and economic forces that are at the heart of organized crime, making this essential reading for crime buffs, historians and lovers of larger-than-life sagas about the American experience. You may think you know the full story of organized crime in America, but until you read this book – you don’t.”


T.J. English, New York Times best-selling author of Where the Bodies Were Buried and Havana Nocturne

“A great book! Scott Seligman is a riveting storyteller and he brings New York’s Chinatown gang wars of the early twentieth century back to life with nuance and strikingly vivid detail.”


Tyler Anbinder, Author of Five Points: The 19th Century

New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance,

Stole Elections, and  Became the World's Most Notorious Slum

“New York’s early Chinatown has been portrayed unfairly as an exaggerated Yellow Peril den of mysterious Orientals. By diligently and expertly trawling the evidence, however, Scott Seligman has unshrouded the mystery and offered up the gripping story of the men of Chinatown’s underworld and their intramural battles over gambling, opium and other vices. In Tong Wars, he has rescued a tough and hardscrabble immigrant community from obscurity and offered a compelling new chapter in New York’s great story.”


Paul French, author of the New York Times

best-selling Midnight in Peking

Tong Wars pulls no punches. Seligman brings the skills of a scholar and a detective to a story that plays out like a good police procedural novel. This is lively material, and Seligman deftly avoids the trap of simply cataloging the crimes of nameless, faceless denizens herded into an Asian American ghetto. His linguistic fluency and obvious comfort with primary Chinese language sources allow him to assess the myths and the brutal realities of the tong wars, and he has brought a daring and fresh approach to an important American story.” 

Sue Lee, Executive Director,

Chinese Historical Society of America

“Seligman masterfully examines the undercurrents of 1925 New York Chinatown in an engrossing depiction of a complex time. By shining a light on the power of association, the struggle for power, and the desire to survive, Seligman gives 'face' to the challenges of community-infighting, community-building, and community-identity in a racist and exclusionary America.”


Nancy Yao Maasbach , President,

Museum of Chinese in America


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