An ""as told to"" bio by the author of Playboy's History of Organized Crime and the co-author of The Court-Martial of Lieutenant Calley (Hammer) collaborating with Gosch who wrote a screenplay of the famous Mafia gangster which the Black Hand later forbade Luciano to release. Until shortly before his death in Italy in 1962, even during the prison years (1936-46) and exile, Luciano was the capo di tutti of the Italian families who to an appalling extent ran our country. The most interesting part of this is the recounting of Luciano's rise in the early days -- on the way to the top with Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese and Albert Anastasia -- the perfection of the numbers racket, loan. sharking, infiltrating unions, laundering money, Lansky's pivotal role in the creation of Batista's Cuba as the western hemisphere's playground, Siegel's ""nutty"" idea (it cost him his life) of building a deluxe casino in a barren desert town known as Las Vegas. During the golden '20's and even '30's they seemed to own everybody from cops to politicians (Luciano smears Al Smith, FDR -- who doublecrossed him -- Dewey, who put him in jail), bluebloods curried their favor, and, like Gatsby, Luciano lapped it up. Outside of their ingenuity in crime, their lives seem tedious and dull, their imagination and sensibilities blunted, their emotions that curious mixture of sentimentality and cruelty that apparently afflicts the powerful. Of course, the story is self-serving whitewash; much that is of interest (precisely whom Luciano controlled, and who killed whom) is omitted; even his death (heart attack, with only $16,000 in the bank) is of exceeding banality. Yet at times it does make fascinating reading as the dark shadow of the Horatio Alger dream.