Murder Inc Book Compared to Gangs Today Essay

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Murder Inc. by Graham K. Bell

Book Summary

Starting from the 1920s, the American crime landscape underwent a complete transformation under an all-star gang of thugs, garrotters, and snipers. Ethnic and religious diversity was evident in its members. A majority of them hailed from New York City itself, chosen from its toughest neighborhoods, including Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and Flushing. The exorbitant amount of crime they perpetrated led the media to name them "Murder, Inc.."This merciless gang, considered the innovation of Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and other elderly gangsters, was quick to catch the entire nation's attention, and made headlines across the country for more than twenty years. Graham Bell highlights the sinister history of the most infamous Mafia crime organization, including the men's identities and the forging of their partnership (Arcadia Publishing, 2010).

The media labeled 1930s-40s organized crime gangs "Murder, Inc.."These gangs were said to work on behalf of nation-wide organized crime gangs including the Italian Mafia and Jewish mob. Jewish and Italian-American thugs hailing from East New York, Ocean Hill, and Brownsville chiefly made up the gangs. The organization's original leader was Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, who was succeeded by Albert "The Mad Hatter" Anastasia. The gang allegedly perpetrated 400 to 1,000 contract murders, till former Murder Inc. gangster Abe "Kid Twist" Reles exposed the gang somewhere during the former half of the 1940s.

The Evolution of Murder, Inc.

Besides perpetrating crime within New York and working as hit men for Buchalter, members of the mob accepted assassination contracts from gangsters across America. While Mafia defector, Joe Valachi's biographical work "The Valachi Papers" states the organization didn't perpetrate crime on the Mafia's behalf, this is in contradiction to other sources; further, Albert Anastasia was master of one of the Mafia criminal families. Partly based from Rosie Gold's Brooklyn-based candy store (precise location: the corner of Livonia and Saratoga Avenues), the hit men employed ice picks and various other weapons for committing murder. While many contract killers were enlisted by the group, its most prolific assassin was Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss who took more than a hundred lives (according to some historians, he killed 500 people).

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In addition to a fixed salary, the assassins received between one thousand and five thousand dollars for each murder, with their families enjoying monetary benefits as well. In case any assassin was caught, the gang would employ the services of the nation's best lawyers to get them acquitted (Payne, 2015).

It was no easy task to get all the right facts regarding the organization. Their gruesome tale's initial draft was penned by journalists in newspapers dated 1940-41, underneath screaming headlines. Media stories teemed with occasionally muddled facts and eye-witness reports, a few exaggerations and unbelievable revelations. Al Capone from Chicago was certainly a media celebrity during the 1920s. However, only after Hollywood came up with its idea of the typical gangster, in its 1931-32 classic movies like The Public Enemy (starring Jean Harlow and James Cagney), Scarface (starring Ann Dvorak and Paul Muni), and Little Caesar (starring Glenda Farrell and Edward G. Robinson) did the "gangster" film subgenre develop. Such movies fused fantasy and the real world, as the films were modeled on real mobsters, while real mobsters went to Hollywood. "Murder, Inc." may be rightly termed a simultaneous cultural phenomenon and criminological reality (Whalen, 2014).

Bringing Crime under Control

With the reduction in the number of investigators into organized crime, mafia gangs adjusted their tactics to make them consistent with the analytical methods of law enforcers. Unlike the direct approach John Gotti -- the press's gangster star -- took during the eighties, the present-day mafia has gone back to its original approach, attempting at maximum invisibility, according to research scholars and law enforcement personnel. For example, the Genovese household, traditionally recognized as the biggest, most secretive and strongest crime family, currently probably utilizes a rotating leadership panel for its everyday operations, for preventing specific boss from becoming the targets of prosecutors.….....

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Arcadia Publishing. (2010). Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved from

Duplat, V., Very, P., & Monnet, B. (2012). Forgotten economic actors. How pirates, mafias and other illegitimate firms shape economic systems and competition. AIMS.

Gardiner, S., & Shallwani, P. (2014, February 18). Mafia Is Down -- but Not Out. The Wall Street Journal.

Payne, S. (2015). The Info List - Murder, Inc. Retrieved from The Info List:,%20Inc.

Sarp, U. (2014). To what extent are the mob languages responsible for the rise and success of ethnically-based organized crime in the U.S. from late 19th century to early 20th century? TED Prints.

Sherman, L., Gottfredson, D., & Mackenzie, D. (n.d.). Preventing Crime - What Works, What Doesn't and What's WPromising. National Institute of Justice.

Whalen, R. W. (2014). Gangsters & Gangbusters in La Guardia's New York. Queens University of Charlotte.

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