MEYER LANSKY: Mogul of the Mob by Dennis; Uri Dan & Eli Landau Eisenberg

MEYER LANSKY: Mogul of the Mob

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We meet Meyer Lansky, age 70, on the Mount of Olives praying over his grandparents' graves, Israeli journalist Dan in attendance--a surprising introduction to the man once ""at the pinnacle of organized crime."" But Dan (sometime narrator and Lansky interviewer), who with collaborators Landau and Eisenberg perused 6,000 pages of documents and conducted numerous interviews, remarks that Lansky was never convicted of any crime, and presents such a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental account that it is almost a parody. (""The only difference between us and, say, an ordinary legitimate organization or business,"" Lansky explains, ""was that we dealt basically in cash."") Lansky reminisces with Dan about Poland and pogroms; his childhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side; his fascination with street gamblers. With boyhood chums Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel (and later Frank Costello), he built a gambling operation--paying off police and local officials--and made a fortune from bootlegging (Prohibition was ""the biggest single factor that allowed really major crime to develop,"" Lansky says), profiting too from the timely demise of Mob leaders controlling the New York operation. Most unexpected are sections on Lansky's work with naval intelligence in World War II after the Normandie was burned (apparently by Albert Anastasia), his efforts to block further sabotage and provide advice for an Allied landing in Sicily; and there's interest, too, in his Cuban dealings (especially the claim of cohort Joseph Stacher that Lansky--who refuses comment--brought the CIA a plan to kill Castro which Howard Hughes later tried to revive). ""I have nothing on my conscience,"" says Lansky, now in Miami with his second wife and seeking to move to Israel (which has denied him citizenship). The squabbles, fame, and fortune of an American family--not only presumptuous but pretentious, and a good deal less than riveting.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1979
Publisher: Paddington--dist. by Grosset