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Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  525 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Based on interviews with Lansky's close friends & criminal associates, with law enforcement experts, & with members of Lansky's own family, & using previously unpublished documents written by Lansky himself, this is both the biography of a mob operator & a social history of American crime.
Hardcover, 1st, 559 pages
Published September 1st 1991 by Little, Brown & Co. (Boston/Toronto/London) (first published 1991)
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Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
I noticed some of the reviews on Amazon of this book called it a whitewash. I would say thats true to say the least. For that matter at times it almost reads like a tribute. This shouldn't be surprising considering Laceys main primary source for this book was Lanskys son. You would think Meyer Lansky was just a hard working business man that straddled the line of legality from time to time when he ran his bootleg liquor and gambling parlors. He claims that Lansky never ordered a hit or even used ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting and well written biography of Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky. The book begins with his birth in a small Jewish village called Grodno in Eastern Europe and subsequent immigration at ten years of age to America with his family. The book details his youth as a precocious young gambler and his entry into bootlegging during Prohibition years. LITTLE MAN describes his underworld contacts and friends (Frank Costello, Benny Siegel, Lepke Buchalter, Charlie "Lucky" Luciano etc) and the most not ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this. An un-hyped biography that dispenses with all the mythology surrounding it's subject. Meyer Lansky has been heralded for the past 40 years as a criminal mastermind that organized the rackets into a corporate entity that was "bigger than US Steel." In reality he was primarily, after a beginning as a bootlegger, a guy that ran legal and illegal casinos. He ran them honestly, believed in the power of the payoff when it came to the authorities and the strength of being a m ...more
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic biography of Meyer Lansky, the greatest Jewish Gangster in America.
A biography is a difficult proposition. It must include the events in a persons life, but information from the early years preceding a person's fame are not always easy to obtain or to understand its context. The events of the stubject's associates, and the surrounding world that interacts with them can be difficult to interpret, and previously written reports necessitates reliance upon other writer's skill and integrity in reporting. Understanding the individuals meaning, to themselves, to othe ...more
J.H Gaines
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
absolutely Loved this book1 we have all seen the films and the documentary's so I brought this off of eBay and gave it a go, it is one of the only books I have actually read twice.
it is fascinating to see how New York was at the turn of the century and legalised gambling came to be in america, it is a great insight into gambling from the back room games in New York to the swanky parlours in Sarasota springs and Miami to ultimately Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
the book captures the feel of the tim
Neil Pierson
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
During his lifetime, Meyer Lansky was the stuff of organized crime legend. He was portrayed as the Chief Financial Officer of the Mafia, devising brilliant devices to turn illicit schemes into wealth for gangsters and accruing a great fortune himself.

In reality, he was an interesting figure but nowhere near the hype.

He started life as a poor, Jewish kid who emigrated to New York from Russia with his family. He had a great faculty for numbers and became fascinated by the craps games he observed o
D. Johnson
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man or myth

Interesting bio of reputed underworld crime boss Meyer
Lansky...found it very intriguing and entertaining... great bonus material included at the end of this tome
Jillian Fischer
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not usually a big fan of biographies, but thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have always been interested in the history of the mafia/gangster life in America, but most of what I knew was info about the Sicilians (i.e., the Bonannos, Colombos, Genoveses, Luccheses, & my all-time favorites the Gambinos). I knew there were Jewish gangsters, & had heard of Meyer Lansky, but didn't realize there was an entire organized Jewish mob back in the late part of the 19th century/early 20th century. ...more
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
It is of interest to read the book now, in 2012, a few years after the death of the scumbag. This book is a crude, now I think laughably crude, attempt to lionise a little twerp. Ironically it shows where he made his roots- preying on his fellow Jews in the most violent manner. I did not see a mention of the prostitution and porn "industry" that he helped spawn- if that is the correct word!
I started but did not want to read all of it- the writer and his subject, indeed most of the characters are
Erik Graff
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: US citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Well researched and very well written, this is a biography of Meyer Lansky (ca. 1902-1983) and his family members nested within a social history of organized crime which goes far in the direction of demythologization.

Although involved in illegal enterprizes, mostly concerning gambling, throughout his life, and although expensively pursued by local and federal authorities through much of it, Meyer Lansky was rarely convicted of anything and, despite his enormous reputation as a mob boss, died lea
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it
I would have rated this book higher if the passages about the later stages of Lansky's life been edited down. Too much ink spent on explaining how Lansky's wealth did not approach $300 million and there was no organized national syndicate that he was the accountant and/or planner for. I was persuaded by the evidence, but I didn't need all the argument. Lacey is a good story-teller though and seems to research thoroughly, so I will try out more of his non-fiction.
James Nelson
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much but it was NOTHING like I thought it would be. Very amazing that the author did not include one bad thing to say about this infamous gangster. I'd like to find another book on the infamous Meyer Lansky and see if Robert Lacey forgot to include a few chapters in his book!
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: organized-crime
An excellent book on Lansky. Probably the best. Lacey details his gambling career; collects as much as he can on Lansky's bootleg career; and probably spends too much time on Lansky's legal and family troubles late in life. Lacey clearly argues that Lansky was poor and in retirement by the time he left the country to avoid legal proceedings.
Michelle Everhart
I read this book at least once a year, and it's still one of my favorites. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes mafia Doc's. Very well researched and I know from History channel Documentaries that Lacey spent allot of tie getting to know the Lansky family.
Excellent biography of Meyer Lansky. "The Chairman of the Board". A genius and one of the most powerful Americans of the last century.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A real page-turner that dispels a lot of commonly held myths about Lansky's wealth and power, and myths about organized crime in general. Super book!
Ron Peterson
Is it true that all intelligent mob people are surrounded by challenged minions? How do the less creative minds in the business survive to 30?

Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating, but not entirely balanced.
Michael Holbrook
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well documented and well researched. An exhaustive study about a man who lived under the radar compared to many of his contemporaries. A fascinating read.
Micky Livingston
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a very good book for those who love Mafia based stories. I bought two of Robert Laceys books and enjoyed it immensely. I am using it for research on my second book, "The Saratoga Project."
Tom Nolan
paperback 4x6
Aug 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This was read during my mafia stage. Which I may or may not still be in.
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am really loving this book so far. I am interested in all things Gangster!
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
A quite comprehensive biography well-balanced in the treatment of a complicated character.
Susan Donk
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not a fast read, but an interesting one. Just heard AMC is showing a miniseries on the topic beginning tonight at 10pm.
Oct 11, 2007 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
so far fascinting lower east side stuff when it was full of Jewish gangsters.
Frank Palardy
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Straightforward biography.
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book downplays some of Lansky's gambling connections, it does make a good point that organized crime is not as well organized as politicians have claimed.
rated it really liked it
Jul 18, 2012
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Robert Lacey is a British historian noted for his original research, which gets him close to - and often living alongside - his subjects. He is the author of numerous international bestsellers.

After writing his first works of historical biography, Robert, Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh, Robert wrote Majesty, his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II. Published in 1977, Majesty remains
More about Robert Lacey...

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