Friday, August 9, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer, And The Birth Of A Gangster Nation'

The Washington Times published my review of The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation.

I loved Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” when I was a teenager in the 1960s.

One episode I recall was “The New Exhibit,” in which Martin Balsam portrayed the curator of “Murderer’s Row” in a wax museum who later goes mad. The TV program opened with the curator speaking to a group of visitors about the wax figures of infamous killers, such as Jack the Ripper. The first murderer the curator introduced was an infamous sailor who murdered his fellow crew members in 1860. The ferocious, life-like, ax-wielding wax figure glared angrily at the museum visitors.    

And that was my introduction to Albert Hicks, the subject of Rich Cohen’s book, “The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation.”

Mr. Cohen notes that while other children heard fairy tales, his father told him tales about the criminal legends of his New York childhood, such as Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and “Charlie Lucky” Luciano. As a writer, he later discovered that criminals had also grown up on gangster stories told by their fathers.

“It gave me a mission, inspired a quest: I would track down and name and chronicle the very first New York gangster, the man behind all the other legends,” Mr. Cohen writes.

Monk Eastman is considered to have been the first, and then there was Bill “The Butcher” Poole (both of whom were featured in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York”). Mr. Cohen wondered who they were told stories about?

Albert Hicks is the closest thing the New York underworld has to a Cain, the first killer and the first banished man, carrying that dread mark: MURDER,” Mr. Cohen explains. “He operated in a city so similar to and yet so different from our own, the word gangster had not yet been coined. He was called a pirate.”   

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

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