Disconcerting profile by journalist Konigsberg of his father’s Uncle Heshy, a murderous freelance gangster.
Harold Konigsberg (Heshy was his Yiddish name) was a hit man of the first tier and a loan shark of last resort, writes his grand-nephew. He’s also a queer piece of work who prompts the author’s appalled fascination. In this skillful narrative, Harold first emerges as the archetypal black sheep: an illiterate in a family of students, a malevolent creature in a house of Sabbath-keepers, a force as destabilizing as an earthquake to his relatives. He became involved in petty crimes at an early age, then graduated. Fortunately, for public safety, he proved talkative when arrested in 1963 and has been parked in jail for the past 42 years. Konigsberg knew his uncle’s reputation, yet its full import only sank in when he read the FBI files in which Harold spilled his secrets, including the nasty details of 20 hits. Making ten prison visits over a three-year period, the author tried to gain some understanding of this way-wayward family member. Harold, still a rude force, welcomed Konigsberg and talked to him about the whys and wherefores of his acts. “The curse of my business is you got to do business with a lot of scumbag cocksuckers,” declared this philosopher thug who, true to form, threatened to kill Konigsberg if he dared publish material about him. (“I’ll go right through your eye and rip your brain out of your fucking head.”) Just where does his uncle fit in current theories about psychopathy? As a forensic psychologist put it, “We may be looking at a genotype for the bad seed.”
The kind of man who makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up—and readers get to enjoy the creepy thrills without actually having to meet him face-to-face.