About the Author
Toronto native and full-time freelancer Art Montague writes feature articles on (mostly) Canadian accomplishments for U.S. and international print publications. Writing Amazing Stories (six to date) has allowed him to research and write in the fields he most enjoys: history, crime, and biography. Time permitting, he also writes crime and mystery fiction.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was January 1914, and New York City's winter was harsher than usual. On this particular January afternoon, as gray and frigid as the water of the East River, a small, sullen boy named Meyer Lansky was hurrying down Hester Street, hunched against the wind's bite. Home was a block away. Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks. He was surrounded, walled in by a gang of Sicilian teenagers. If he had been paying attention, he could have crossed the street to avoid them. Now it was too late. Meyer recognized the gang. Most Jewish kids in the neighborhood knew them, paying them a nickel a week in protection money. The alternative was repeated beatings. The gang's leader, Salvatore Lucania, was five years older than Meyer, stood a head taller, and had a reputation as a bully who was brutally quick with his fists. Any cry for help from Meyer would be wasted on passersby - on East Side streets, people did what they could to avoid confrontations. Non-involvement was the norm. Meyer was on his own, and Salvatore was in his face, demanding the nickel tribute. "There was nothing to him," Salvatore later recalled. "He was a short skinny kid, a matchstick I could have snapped in a second. Any of us could have." But Meyer wasn't about to go down without a fight. He pulled his hands from his pockets, his fists already clenched. Tensely, he lifted his head, looked the threatening Sicilian directly in the eye, and retorted, "Go #&@! yourself." Later, Salvatore said he admired the "gutsy punk." Meyer's surprising, almost laughable bravado saved him from a certain beating. Salvatore relented - this fish was too small to be anything but a throwback. He defused the situation and, to save face with his gang, threw an ominous parting warning to Meyer as he trudged up Hester with his entourage: "We'll be back." Indeed, the two were destined to meet again, but never once would they raise a hand against each other. Meyer would become known as "the Little Man," Salvatore as "Lucky Luciano." Working together, the pair would go on to shape the foundation and face of organized crime in America.