Frank Costello

A Novel

By Ronald K. Fried

Subjects: Fiction, New York/regional, General Interest
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438491141, 236 pages, December 2022

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Provides a reimagined but historically accurate account of the life of the notorious gangster Frank Costello through his own words.


As Frank Costello looks back over his life as head of the most powerful crime family in America, he doesn't focus on the triumphs of his bootlegging empire, his nationwide gambling network, or his de facto control of Tammany Hall. Instead, Costello—the politically connected "Prime Minister of the Underworld"—remembers the lies he's told, the mistakes he's made, and his fateful decision to testify before the televised Kefauver hearings investigating organized crime in America. The novel reaches its climax as Costello—in a naïve attempt to preserve the patina of respectability he's spent his life creating—tries to defend himself before senators out to expose the full extent of the Mafia's reach. The result is a humiliating, very public lesson about who holds the real power in America. This is an historically accurate work of fiction told in Costello's imagined, bitter, street-wise voice.

Ronald K. Fried is the author of two novels, My Father's Fighter and Christmas in Paris 2002 and the nonfiction title Corner Men: Great Boxing Trainers. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications.


"A chilling, memorable line. And historically accurate. That's the first achievement of Frank Costello, Ronald K. Fried's novel about 'The Prime Minister of the Underworld.' It's exhaustively researched, it reads like non-fiction because much of it is … The second, and perhaps greater achievement, is that Fried wrote Frank Costello in the first person. Critics talk about 'unreliable' narrators in novels. How about a thoroughly unlikeable narrator? And yet so solid is Fried's writing … that I totally believed he had stumbled upon a lost file of Costello's memoir." — Jesse Kornbluth, Head Butler

"This book crackles with the same energy I felt when I prosecuted real-life mobsters in New York—the cinematic personalities, the whip-sharp dialogue, the humor, and the ever-present sense of menace. Some mob books and movies are cartoonish, but not this one. Frank Costello: A Novel is fiction, but it's also genuine, the real deal. It could only be told by somebody who has studied the life and truly understands all that it reveals about mobsters, and about ourselves." — Elie Honig, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and author of Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupted the Justice Department

"Frank Costello's raspy-voiced tale is rendered with unmitigable brio by Ron Fried in this deeply researched and evocative novel, which rivals E.L. Doctorow's masterpiece, Billy Bathgate. I cannot laud this book enough." — J. Michael Lennon, author, Norman Mailer: A Double Life

"A brilliant work of fiction by a man who knows the true story of the mob inside out." — Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd

"I loved this chilling, crackling yarn that feels like an inside job." — Robert Lipsyte, author and former New York Times columnist

"There is more truth about Costello in this historical novel than many 'nonfiction' histories of Cosa Nostra. A terrifically fun read for mob history aficionados." — Alex Hortis, author of The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York

"This reads like both Uncle Frank and Frank Costello: Prime Minister of the Underworld if they were told from Costello's perspective as an older, and wiser man. It is fiction in that dialogue had to be created to move the story along, but the story Ronald K. Fried presents is indeed Costello's life and not a fabrication. Not only is it well written, Fried did an absolutely astonishing job with his research on Costello. If you are interested in Frank Costello, this book is a must." — Casey McBridge, from the "Uncle Frank's Place" Facebook page