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The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  809 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Was he New York City's last pirate...or its first gangster? This is the true story of the bloodthirsty underworld legend who conquered Manhattan, port by port--for fans of Gangs of New York and Boardwalk Empire.

Albert Hicks was a feared, shadowy figure of the New York underworld in the mid-1800s. Handsome and charismatic, he was known to frequent the dive bars and gin join
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Spiegel & Grau
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Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  809 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Heidi The Reader
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and non-fiction account of Albert Hicks, the last man to be publicly executed in New York City and also one of the last to be tried and convicted for piracy. For fans of history, this is a must-read.

"Albert Hicks is the closest thing the New York underworld has to a Cain, the first killer and the first banished man, carrying that dread mark: MURDER. He operated so long ago, in a city so similar to and yet so different from our own, the word gangster had not yet been coined. He was ca
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1860, a blood spattered ship was found floating off the coast of New York. The only sign of its crew was a few severed fingers. Albert Hicks was arrested, tried and convicted of piracy. He had murdered and robbed the three-man crew and was hung in the last public execution in New York. “He was the first swamp angel, the great-grandfather of every mob punk and Bowery psycho who would follow.” That sentence promises more than this true crime story delivers, and the author is a little too impres ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Cohen is one of my favorite authors-fiction or non-fiction. The Last Pirate of New York is one of his best books and that is high praise. The story of the first(1860) New York Gangster—Albert Hicks—the link between Captain Kidd and John Gotti-this book is both a fascinating history of the now little known Hicks but is also a social history of New York and a melancholy ode to our rambunctious and unbridled past. Highly Reccommended.
Robert Sheard
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The true crime story is compelling, especially Hicks's confession. But he wasn't exactly what we think of when we hear "pirate," and the link to more modern gangsters is tenuous at best. So D+ for the marketing, but B+ for the story itself.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once upon a time New York was a land of gangsters and before that…gasp…pirates. Much as I loathe the city, I love a good New York story and this one had a freaking pirate, how do you pass that up? Well, you don’t. You read it and find out all about the man who went by alias William Johnson and was in fact the last person to be publically hung in New York. What a character. What a story. It starts off dramatically enough with a ghost ship discovered right off the coast of New York, no one on boar ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Astonishing account of a thief and murderer of as many as a hundred people, hanged as a pirate.
Sadly, the book repeats itself so often that it almost tells the tale twice, subtracting from what might have been outstanding if half the length.
The title and introduction promise a saga of gangsters, but this is the story of one man, his crimes and his pursuers.
Eric Beheler
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I wasn't aware it was true crime. Not really my jam

The writing was really superb, but like I said just not my thing.🙄
Brandon Cronk
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The story of Albert Hicks was interesting and it was presented in a way that was easy to follow along. My complaint is that the author spends too much time on some aspects of the story and speeds through others. An example is The Confession, it felt like all of Hicks' history was given in such a short part of the book when it seemed like it would have been interesting to hear about all of the things he did in his life up until he was finally captured. Considering that the account claims that Hic ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly well-written and engaging. Most people don’t know piracy was still happening in the US this late into the 19th century. The author paints a vivid picture of the life and crimes of a notorious New York-based pirate.

Advance copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, if you want to read about a crime in the mid-nineteenth century and the police cracking the case then maybe this is for you. I was really looking forward to learning how a single pirate gave birth to a gangster nation. This was never convincingly presented.
Casey Wheeler
The book was well written and researched. The story line about Albert Hicks, a notorious killer and so called pirate, was well done. The author does a good job on the killer and the ghost ship, but greatly lacking on how this created the birth of a gangster nation. I also found the frequest quoting of testmony in the trial somewhat tedious. Other parts of the book felt a little like filler to make for greater length.

I recomend this book for those looking for an interesting read about a crime tha
Jun 05, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
Harold Schecter's short, The Pirate tells the whole story of Albert Hicks in 67 pages and felt like it didn't leave much left on the cutting room floor; this book proves it. Hick's crime and trial don't have really any connection to the 'birth of the Gangster Nation' promised in the title. It's just padding to get this historical footnote to book length. Cohen even covers the numerous gangs in Five Points-- and the little league versions they used to train
up budding kiddie criminals -- as somet
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a book with an intriguing premise. The delivery is hindered by the structure of the story as well as the author’s side-along commentary which I personally didn’t care for. (In the middle of explaining the antihero’s movements, he interjects, “A pirate at forty is like another man at seventy- he has lived so rough for so long and done so many terrible things. He has lost all faith in human nature, turned his back on God. He is the most cynical creature in the world.”) This is not Gangs of ...more
jesse r lewis
Apr 18, 2019 marked it as to-read
Thoroughly enjoyed Rich Cohen's "The Avengers" and "Tough Jews," and this book makes three great works of his. This is the true story of Albert Hicks - a career criminal who hired on as a seaman on a sailing vessel with the intention of robbing it and slipping back into the anonymity of NYC, but whose plan ended with an unmanned ship with its decks covered in blood. Cohen's writing pulls you into a story you most likely didn't know, but definitely deserves to be told.
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not since Erik Larson have I read a nonfiction that reads like fiction. A event that I knew nothing about, Rich Cohen relays the incredible tale of Albert Hicks,-a monster of a man who committed horrible crimes. I wavered between four and five stars.... four stars because it was to short and I wanted more.
Mitch Karunaratne
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Fascinating story of Albert Hick- his crimes, his confession & death. It was fascinating, not just the seedy underbelly of nineteenth century New York, but also the relationships developing between criminals, the law & the press. Albert Hick's story is said to be the one that really launches the New York Times
Chris Cole
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’d never even heard of Albert Hicks, but his story is fascinating. New York’s last pirate and first gangster. I wouldn’t have wanted to wake up with him standing over me, that’s for sure. I particularly enjoyed the adventure section on his confession, and the fantastic detail of his final hours.
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very well written book! Lots of history, very interesting, captivating true story.

4 1/2 stars!
Dave Taylor
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting historical drama, though I think Cohen makes two mistakes in the book that I didn't enjoy: 1. Sporadically weaves in dramatized prose that feels odd (the ending is particularly weird) and 2. He fails to label a single photograph, making me wonder why they were in the book and how they related to the specific chapters.

At a higher level, Cohen also claims that the main character is the archetype for all criminals in the greater New York area and American consciousness, but never
May 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
This was not my subject nor was the narrative to my liking; skimmed the pages. I know that many have enjoyed this and I picked this up wanting to experience a Rich Cohen novel. If you like a tale of gruesome killings perhaps this would be for you. "A copy of this book was provided by Random House Publishing Group - Random House via NetGalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion."
Out of the Bex
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for fans of true crime, history, and books set in New York City.

The bloody and true story of Albert Hicks is one hell of a ride. Better still, it is told perfectly in this rendition by author Rich Cohen.

The Last Pirate of New York is the kind of story that so enthralls the mind you can't wait to see a friend, just for the excuse to share it with another soul. It begs to be told, again and again and again.

I don't want to tell you to much since the story is so unbelievably like a thr
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
The Last Pirate of New York was a really fun book to read. The author wrote it not in the style of a biography, but more like a story, following Hicks through his final crime. Though I was expecting more of a biography style book, I found myself to enjoy the book greatly. I was surprised at how much information the author was able to find on Hicks! Many of the resources were from the early to mid 1800's which cannot be easy to obtain. His knowledge on the history of New York and the surrounding ...more
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before there were gangsters, there were pirates. This book is about Albert Hicks, the last man to be publicly executed in New York City and one of the last to be convicted for piracy. This book was excellent! If you are a history fan, definitely pick this up. It reads very much like a fiction book because it’s so enthralling. This books truly gives you a picture of the New York underworld before it was highways and towers. Having lived near and visited these streets most of my life it was fascin ...more
Karen & Gerard
The Last Pirate of New York by Rich Cohen tells you the story of Albert Hicks aka The Last Pirate. You will have to read the book to find out why this is so. You go back to the 1880s in this book which I found interesting. The writer did his homework in making me really get the feel who Hicks was. This is a quick read, read it in two days. (Gerard's review)
This was a fascinating book about Albert Hicks, a river pirate in 1860s New York. It is filled with a lot of fascinating tidbits of info, and also corrects some of the facts Herbert Asbury got wrong about him in his book Gangs of New York.

If you're interested in true crime from this time period, like I am, this will prove to be a most interesting and enlightening read. I gave it 5 stars and put it on the some of my best reads pile.
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A crime story set in 1860 New York starring Albert Hicks, pirate and precursor to gangsters notorious today. His arrest after a triple murder at sea ended his 20-year career as an adventurer, sailor, robber, and murderer. It's fascinating in his historical detail and its depiction of what passed for forensic science in those days.
Armand Rosamilia
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Albert Hicks is the nearly forgotten missing link between the days of pirates and gangsters, and this well-researched book tells not only his story but gives you a feel for the lawless times in which he roamed and pillaged.
Krisette Spangler
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I would compare this novel to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. The writing is great, but the story is extremely grisly. I would only recommend this one to those who really enjoy reading about serial killers.
Elise Wright
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
The writing never engendered any excitement into the narrative.
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RICH COHEN is the author of Sweet and Low (FSG, 2006), Tough Jews, The Avengers, The Record Men, and the memoir Lake Effect. His work has appeared in many major publications, and he is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. He lives with his family in Connecticut.

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