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