By: Joseph P. O’Donnell as told by E. Steven Sachs
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Publication Date: February 2022
ISBN #: 978-1-9772-5008-7
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 19, 2022
Living on the Fringe of the Mob is a fantastic array of stories and experiences as told by Steven Sachs; a man who experienced many accounts as an outsider looking in on the New York Mob from the 1960’s through 2000.
Steven Sachs was never going to be a ‘made man’ and this was the choice he made from the beginning. He was connected to some of the most notorious mobsters in New York City simply because of the childhood friendships fostered and later in life through legitimate business dealings. "...As a young boy in Brooklyn, I grew up and played with some kids who ultimately became major figures in the Mob. We forged friendships and a bond that carried over to adulthood. I always understood how these men evolved from the streets of Brooklyn, New York City, and the Bronx to lofty positions of power and influence..." While these relationships may have been foundational and influential in the path he chose in life, there was a mutual and unspoken respect between ‘mobsters’ and Sachs when (and if) an ‘offer’ was made that ‘he couldn’t refuse.’
Chapter I (‘The Tombs’) sets the tone as Sachs relays his memory of being arrested in the early morning hours and taken to the notorious ‘Tombs,’ the nickname assigned to the Manhattan Detention Complex. There is an unwritten code and honor that that worst thing one can be in life is a ‘rat.’ Keep your mouth shut and your head down and everything will work out in the end. As Sachs recounts this experience, he recalls: ‘I was the only white face in the entire holding area…a white Jewish guy in a room with sixty black and Latino criminals. I knew right away that I had to show strength, not fear, if I was going to come out of the room alive…’ Sachs had a great defensive move that he developed in early childhood and carried with him into his adult years: the element of surprise. The last thing his perpetrator would ever anticipate is a punch to the groin from his intended victim. Sachs often used this technique when threatened and it always played to his advantage. As the story progresses, Sachs takes the reader through the looking glass of growing up in a suburb of Brooklyn (Woodhaven). It was the late 40’s/early 50’s and being Jewish meant there were several occasions of being singled out as being ‘different’. Through his perseverance and remaining true to himself, Sachs not only survives a rough and tumble childhood, but grows up to being a successful businessman and widely respected (and protected) by iconic ‘Mob’ figureheads along the way.
This is not only a fascinating read, but one of the more succinct and direct accounts of "...my story and relationship with the Mob..." I’ve read. There is a shotgun start from the Forward that carries the reader to the very end with an abundance of grit and real accounts throughout. It’s always a pleasure to pick up a book and instantly detect the writer’s voice. O’Donnell is adept at anchoring his voice and therefore sets the tone. The stories Sachs shares throughout are entertaining, eyebrow raising and certainly deliver a vibrant cadence across the pages. Everything about this book beckons: read me. The chapters are compact and full of entertaining information. There is a logical transition from one story to the next as the story evolves and, in the end, one will find him/herself sitting back, taking a deep breath, and letting out a sigh along with a moment of reflection: ...what a time to be alive...times sure have changed from then to now... Well done Mr. O’Donnell and Mr. Sachs! This was a most enjoyable read.
Quill says: Living on the Fringe of the Mob lends way to the notion of just how ‘notorious’ the ‘Mob’ was (or wasn’t) back in the day.
For more information on Living on the Fringe of the Mob, please visit the author's website at: www.jpodonnell.com