and the Gangster Life
Little Man is a book about organised crime unlike any other yet written. If, in the mythology of organised crime, Al Capone symbolised the crude menace of the machine gun and the baseball bat, Meyer Lansky stood for the brains, the sophistication, the hot money, the sheer cleverness of it all. This brilliant biography and social history separates the strands of fact and legend in Meyer Lansky's - the Godfather of Godfathers - career, revealing a truth about the gangster life in America that is far more fascinating and dramatic than fiction.
Based on dramatic new documentation and on firsthand interviews with Lansky's close friends and business associates, the Lansky family, and law enforcement experts, Little Man is a ground-breaking exploration of organised crime in America and of our enduring fascination with criminals.
Meyer Lansky (1901-1983) was a Jewish immigrant from Russia who broke into a life of crime running crap games and acting as a 'shtarke', or strong-arm man for Jewish and Italian gamblers on the Lower East Side of New York. He graduated to bootlegging and soon became the master of the 'share-out', keeping all the figures in his head and dividing up the spoils from smuggled liquor shipments. He moved on to illegal gambling in the thirties and forties, running the classiest casinos around and becoming the gambling consultant to President Batista during Havana's glory days. In World War II he even acted as a go-between for U.S. Naval Intelligence, paving the way for gangster help to the Allied invasion of Sicily. In 1951 he was named by the Senate Crime Committee as one of the leaders of organised crime in America, and his attempts to go into legitimate business were haunted by the shadows of his past. His death made front-page news, but all his power and wealth were gone.
Little, Brown, 1991