Works by Scott D. Seligman


To visit the book's website, click here.

For a preview of the book, click here.

To purchase the book, click here.

Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money and Murder in New York's Chinatown

Scott D. Seligman                          

Viking Books

Penguin Random House


A true story of money, murder, gambling, prostitution and opium: the Chinese gang wars that engulfed New York’s Chinatown from the 1890s through 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 their 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.


Chinese Edition

A Chinese translation of Tong Wars was published jointly in China in November, 2020 by the Shanghai Cultural Publishing House and Post Wave Publishing under the title Tang Dou: Niuyue Tangrenjie de Zui'e Jinqian Mousha (堂斗:纽约唐人街的罪恶金钱谋杀), a faithful translation of the original. Click on the image at right for more information.


Book Launch Video


Watch the video of the launch of Tong Wars at the Strand Bookstore in New York City on July 13, 2016:




Other Books

The Chief Rabbi's Funeral: The Untold Story of America's Largest Antisemitic Riot

Murder in Manchuria: The True Story of a Jewish Virtuoso, Russian Fascists, a French Diplomat, and a Japanese Spy in Occupied China

A Second Reckoning: Race, Injustice, and the Last Hanging in Annapolis

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots that Shook New York City

The Third Degree: The Triple Murder that Shook Washington and Changed American Criminal Justice

The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo

Three Tough Chinamen

The Cultural Revolution Cookbook

Chinese Business Etiquette

Mandarin Chinese At a Glance


Justice for the Dead

The Franklin Prophecy

When Jewish Wives Beefed With Butchers and Changed the World

He Was the Father of Anti-Semitic Publishing in America

The Triple Homicide in D.C. That Laid the Groundwork for Americans’ Right to Remain Silent

The Nasty, Little-Known Turf Wars of Chinatown, NYC

Joseph Thoms: Defending America's Chinese

Rediscovered: An Eloquent Chinese Voice Against Exclusion

Everything But Rats and Puppies

Echoes of the Chinese Exclusion Act in Immigration Debate

The Forgotten Story of the First Chinese American

The Hoosier Mandarin

The Night New York's Chinese Went Out for Jews