This extensive biography recounts the life and times of Ralph Liguori, life-long friend of the notorious gangster Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
Beginning with his 1936 trial for alleged involvement in New York prostitution, the book flashes back to Liguori’s childhood. Known as “Baby Face Ralph” for his good looks, Liguori was the son of successful Italian immigrants and grew up in a large, loving family, with a father he adored. When his father suddenly died, however, the lure of making extra money through illegal means became more difficult to resist, and he moved into managing the numbers racket.
By then, he had met and befriended Luciano, a rising star in the underworld who would become the head of organized crime and the “General” of the title. Although Liguori and Luciano never went into business together, they remained friends throughout their lives.
Unfortunately, Liguori’s association with Luciano led him into the trial that would change his life. New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey, eager to advance his career, implicated Liguori, Luciano, and several others in running organized prostitution rings. While Liguori claimed the evidence against him was fabricated, he was convicted, and the book follows his life after this tremendous defeat.
Liguori’s story has many dramatic events, and at times the book reads like a novel, with crisp dialogue and fast-moving action. At other times, however, the details can overwhelm. For instance, in the trial scenes, the author recounts the testimony of each witness, as well as the defense’s cross-examinations, although only a few of these moments are important or dramatic. Similarly, Liguori’s life after prison sometimes feels like a day-to-day account, rather than emphasizing the highlights.
Overall, however, the author paints a sympathetic portrait of a caring man, charming and forever loyal to those he cared about. Readers of organized crime histories will particularly enjoy this book, and it may also appeal to others interested in a life story filled with twists and turns.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.