For the NCS fan looking for something different to add to their ever-expanding library of mob books, allow me to recommend this gem of a read, Frank Costello, A Novel by Ronald K Fried. Though this book is a work of fiction, (don’t scroll by!) it is an extremely accurate depiction of what we (think) we know about the life and times of the man known as, The Prime Minister of the Underworld.
Podcast with Ronald K Fried
Told from Costello’s point of view as an aging racketeer following the Kefauver hearings, he looks back on his life and the choices that led him to his downfall—from growing up on the streets of Harlem, to his bootlegging days, his time as acting head of the Luciano crime family, and his humiliating testimony in front of Estes Kefauver’s senate committee.
Fried became fascinated with Frank Costello after working as a writer and interview producer for AMC’s The Making of the Mob New York. That fascination began an led to extensive research that lasted years and eventually culminated in this novel.
Fried wisely chose to adhere to the timeline and actual events of Costello’s life. Whenever possible, he uses Costello’s actual words, which are available thanks to the many interviews and court transcriptions that exist. When this wasn’t possible, the author relied heavily on his experience writing Corner Men, Great Boxing Trainers and conducting interviews with actual mob types for, The Making of the Mob, New York to create a plausible version of Costello’s thoughts and his conversations with fellow gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Joe Adonis. As a result, Costello’s first-person narration comes across convincingly, a key ingredient to the novel’s success.
Though this is not the first time Costello has appeared in a work of fiction, Frank Costello: a Novelstands apart from other books such as The 6th Family, or television series like The Godfather of Harlem. While those portrayals are entertaining and I enjoyed them, they should be taken as just that, entertainment only. Fried has created a work that will not only keep the reader engrossed in Costello’s story; it will serve as an excellent primer for anyone interested in learning more about one of the mobs most colorful and complex characters.