Brooklyn Boro

100 Borough Criminals: A review of ‘Brooklyn’s Most Wanted’

Brooklyn BookBeat

August 25, 2017 By John B. Manbeck Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Cover: Elijah Toten
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Selecting the most colorful of Brooklyn’s “made men” was not difficult, but reaching for a hundred of them can be a challenge. Craig McGuire achieved the goal by searching for every possible criminal activity in the borough and examining in detail the modus operandi of each subject. His detailed, breezy writing style perfectly matches the street patois of the theme.

Each individual, 90 percent males, has a detailed description of his background and the most infamous of his or her crimes. Topics cover murders, extortion, cults, child murderers, corruption, hostages, sex scandals, robbers, serial murders and Walter O’Malley. Some are renowned (Lepke; Gallo; Gambino; Abe Reles, “the canary who couldn’t fly”; and Capone, “the Babe Ruth of organized crime”) while others are obscure. Many are outgrowths of Prohibition, while more recent names such as the politicians, Anthony Weiner and Carl Kruger, have been sensationalized. McGuire covers this in his subtitle: “Criminals, Crooks and Creeps.”

Surprisingly, some of the names do not easily relate to Brooklyn, like Billy the Kid. Others — John Wilkes Booth, for example — are a stretch. Booth’s Brooklyn associations are his performances at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and a spurious account of a diary left on a train that may be buried in a tunnel under Atlantic Avenue.

Many of the surnames are Italian and Jewish, but there is a sprinkling of Russians, Irish, Polish and Greek felons. McGuire has rated each “perp” on the significance of the crime(s) committed. The most heinous criminal is Albert Fish, labeled “a Brooklyn vampire,” but in reality, a cannibal who outdid Hannibal.

While most of the crimes involve violence, others are associated with robbery (Willie “that’s where the money is” Sutton), politics, fraud (selling the Brooklyn Bridge) and simple dishonesty. Very helpful is an “official walking tour” map at the beginning of the book and a legend explaining where some of the more notorious of the crimes occurred at “the crossroads of the underworld.”

Unfortunately, no index appears in the volume, but a list of other book references about many of the subjects appears at the end, as well as occasional illustrative mug shots. McGuire’s full-time job is co-director of an advisory organization, Brooklyn Creative Partners. And I must reveal that once upon a time, he was my journalism student at Kingsborough Community College and has published one other book, “Beyond the Ides: Why March Is the Unluckiest Month of All.”

McGuire indicates that he is open to suggestions. I’m certain he could find another 100 by researching other ethnic groups — the Chinese in Sunset Park, the Arabs in Flatbush and the Caribbeans in Canarsie. And then there’s the 1874 kidnapping of 4-year-old Charlie Ross from Germantown outside Philadelphia that ended with a shootout in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge near the home of Justice Charles Van Brunt. Charlie was never found.


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