Lucky Luciano: Mafia Murderer and Secret Agent

Clive Emsley on the tale of a controversial mobster

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Reviewed by: Clive Emsley
Author: Tim Newark
Publisher: Mainstream
Price (RRP): £11.99

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Lucky Luciano was no Robin Hood. He took from the poor, and they stayed poor. But like Robin Hood, the stories about him grew and grew.

He made his name with the mob in New York in the days of prohibition; then he moved into vice and narcotics. Using mafia links with the unions he helped protect the New York wharfs from Nazi agents. Supposedly he also helped the Allies take Sicily by linking with Sicilian Mafiosi, and after the war ran an international drug-trafficking syndicate.

Even the Federal Bureau of Narcotics stuck with the latter story, probably because it helped boost their budget.

Using a range of official sources and dissecting some of the dubious memoirs of mobsters, including that of Luciano himself, Tim Newark provides what is, probably, the most balanced biography of a man who often claimed to be a victim, but had little thought for his own victims.

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Clive Emsley is the author of Crime and Society in England: 1750–1900 (Longman, 2010)