: Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life (Audible Audio Edition): Robert Lacey, Ron Silver, Phoenix Books: Books. Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life. Robert Lacey, Author Little Brown and Company $ (p) ISBN More By and About. Meyer Lansky. When you heard the name, you shivered. He was the cold-eyed financial genius behind the omnipresent, omniscient Mob.

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When you heard the name, you shivered. He was the cold-eyed financial genius behind the omnipresent, omniscient Mob. For decades, the mention of Lansky laneky visions of thick stacks of cancerous cash eating away at the ethics of judges, cops, politicians, businessmen and union leaders.

In an era when gangsters little both glorified and feared, Lansky was the most sinister and elusive of that generally flamboyant crowd. He was the shadowy mastermind of countless illicit enterprises, the Svengali who really pulled the strings while his col leagues were busy defining the gangster life style, getting gunned down in barbershops or buying diamond stickpins big as the Ritz.

Pretty soon, these goodfellas, who for a time rivaled gangdter Communist threat to the American Way, were going to control just about everything, the press and ambitious reform politicians warned.

It was a fortune bigger than the economies of some nations, and the number stuck to Lansky like a wad of chewed gum.

Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life

This vast amount, worth billions in today’s dollars, seemed to epitomize his most famous quote: The gangster mystique probably peaked in the early s with the first two of “The Godfather” movies.


Robert Lacey describes this apogee in his entertaining and fascinating portrait of Lansky and his world: What was intimidating in real life became the dream of escape when experienced in the weightless universe of fantasy.

Fans of dark conspiracies will be disappointed, then, to also learn in “Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life” that hardly any of this glittering, ominous hype aand true, especially about Meyer Lansky. Sure, Lansky made a few bundles, primarily from gambling and taking a fee for computing complicated shareouts on gangland deals.


True to legend, he was a wizard with numbers, so good that he could recalculate baseball players’ batting averages in his head while watching a game. He was also, by the standards of his peers, an intellectual. But actually Lansky was a mediocre businessman, Lacey reports. He failed twice in ventures to set up legitimate businesses. One of them, a mfyer to build and sell TV sets to bars, went belly-up because the sets often failed to work.

A Lansky investment in oil wells did pay off for a while, but after his death inthe value of the investment went south, wiping out the rather paltry estate he had left behind. No way, asserts Lacey.

What Meyer Lansky really knew was how to run a casino or gaming house. After breaking into full-time gangsterism as a Manhattan bootlegger during Prohibition, Lansky established himself with enterprises in Saratoga, Miami, Las Vegas and Havana. Mostly, he ran a smooth operation; the gambling was clean, the entertainment excellent, the food good. Most of all, it was peaceful and hassle-free. Nobody got perforated in front of the blackjack table and bled all over the cards, cash and chips.


When Cuba got lansiy deserved reputation for running sucker games, dictator Fulgencio Batista called in Lansky and kan to clean up the action.

Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life by Robert Lacey

As Lacey notes, the only way to run an honest casino in the Western Hemisphere was to call in the hoods. Lansky’s professional life topped out with the construction and opening of the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Havana just before Fidel Lfe came to power. While it lasted, Lansky had a world-class establishment. He took his duties as kitchen manager very seriously indeed.

But for politics, Lansky would have been set for life. More important, he finally would have made the transition to legitimate businessman, a goal that was forever beyond his lengthy grasp. November 10, Garry Abrams Abrams is a Times staff writer. Clearly, honesty was for chumps.

LITTLE MAN by Robert Lacey | Kirkus Reviews

Seizure Led to FloJo’s Death. His scores make his case. Copyright Los Angeles Times.