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 joints of the Five Points, the most dangerous neighborhood in maritime Manhattan. For years, he operated out of the public eye, rambling from crime to crime, working on the water, in ships, sleeping in the nickel-a-night flops, drinking in barrooms where rat-baiting and bear-baiting were great entertainments.
Hicks’s criminal career reached its peak in 1860, when he was hired, under an alias, as an extra hand on an oyster sloop. His plan was to rob the ship, make his getaway, and disappear in the teaming streets of lower Manhattan, as he’d done numerous times before. But the plan went awry, and the voyage turned into a massacre. In the straits of Coney Island, on a foggy night, the ghost sloop, adrift and unmanned, was rammed by another vessel. When police boarded the ship to investigate, they found blood and gore everywhere, no bodies, only the grisly signs of struggle. A manhunt was launched for the mysterious merchant seaman on the manifest.
Long fascinated by gangster legends, Rich Cohen tells the story of this notorious underworld figure for the first time, from his humble origins to his incarnation as a demon who terrorized the Five Points and became the gangster most feared by other gangsters, at a time when pirates anchored off of 14th street.
The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation by Rich Cohen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was great. I’d recommend it to anyone. I listened via audiobook, narrated by Ari Flakos, one of my favorites. Easy to listen to, conciseness, clarity, and I liked his Spanish pronunciation. Anyone interested in true crime biographies of maritime and gangster legends in the urban setting of New York State will appreciate this one.
Covered everything about Albert Hicks, a pirate I knew nothing about. Also an era of PT Barnum, the entertainment of the day to phrenology, studying one’s physical characteristics that show what type of person they are personality-wise.
I loved the description of the setting, Manhattan, over 160 years ago, from leafy elegance to urban nightmare.
I got a lot out of it and enjoyed the ease of listening to it.
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