“A Gangster’s Paradise”

Greg Veitch’s Latest Book and ‘The Saratoga Way’

Greg Veitch launches his latest book at the Canfield Casino with a discussion and book signing. He has three more this week (see below). Photos: Cathy Duffy

SARATOGA SPRINGS – “It is not the indecency that we object to but the exposure of the indecency. We can stand it to be rotten but not to have the rottenness made known.”Pastor Alfred Boutwell

This quote, on page 99 of Greg Veitch’s new book – “A Gangster’s Paradise” (originally chronicled in The Saratogian on October 4, 1926,) summarizes the climate in Saratoga Springs during the era of the 1920-50’s, in which illegal gambling, vice, and bootlegging were given a green light to flower.

The associated corruption by elected officials and local law enforcement, who looked the other way (while often having their hand out,) enabled this situation. But make no mistake: the citizenry were complicit as well.

Just keep the money rolling into our economy, and don’t make me acknowledge how it got there. This was the “Saratoga Way.”

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“Gangster’s Paradise” Promotional Tour:

– Wednesday, December 11, 6 pm – Northshire Bookstore
– Thursday, December 12, noon – Saratoga Springs Public Library “Brown Bag Lunch Series”
– Friday, December 13, 1 pm – Saratoga Senior Center
All discussions are open to the public and are FREE.
Books will be available for purchase and signing at each.

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A recently retired Police Chief for the City of Saratoga Springs, who now teaches Criminal Justice courses at SUNY Adirondack, Greg Veitch has certainly brought plenty of documentation to his writings (each chapter is copiously footnoted.) Yet he does so without sacrificing the turn-pager quality of the narrative.

Locals particularly will raise an eyebrow or two with stories of rum-running on Route 9; gunfire on West Avenue, cars being ditched on Washington Street; houses catching fire (mysteriously) on Beekman, etc.

One might expect, given his background, that Greg Veitch might take a high-minded, outraged tone about the whole lot of these mugs, grifters and gangsters – and particularly towards the police who proceeded him in the SSPD. But this is not the case.

“It was a different time,” he said. In fact, The Great Depression was a real factor for a good chunk of the era the book covers. “These people were trying to feed their families. Who is to say how anyone might have reacted?”

Indeed, another component of “The Saratoga Way,” which endures today, is our faithfulness in preserving our history accurately: scars, blemishes and all sometimes. In that connection, Greg Veitch has done a great service by illuminating an era – now nearly a century ago! – without overly romanticizing or moralizing his perspective.

Arthur Gonick – December 8. 2019

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