Sunday, August 22, 2010

Under the Williamsburg Bridge: The Story of An American Family by Frank Bari

Frank Bari comes from a family of Mafia members, but opted to forsake the family business for a career in criminal law. While this sounds like the plot to a fictional crime novel, it is indeed the true story of a man whose grandfather was one of the founding members of the American Mafia. In the new biography Under the Williamsburg Bridge (published by Trafford), with help from writer Mark C. Gribben, Bari shares insight into a unique American family while revealing his own first-hand accounts of Coast Guard service in Vietnam.

Over a decade ago, Mark C. Gribben, a newspaper reporter who covered criminal trials and the police beat, published an article about the Purple Gang, a ruthless crew of killers and bootleggers who controlled Detroit during Prohibition. While this was his only foray into the writing of organized crime, Gribben was contacted by fast-talking New York lawyer, Frank Bari, who asked if Gribben had any information about Bari's great-uncle, a Big Apple transplant from Detroit named Jake Trager. While Gribben's research had never turned up anything about Trager, a friendship was struck up between Gribben and Bari. Bari eventually opened up to his friend about his family background and personal connections with organized crime.

"My grandfather was a founding member of the Syndicate, which set the pattern for organized crime in America," explains Bari, who has specialized in criminal defense law for over 20 years and is one of the foremost experts on Asian organized crime in America. "My father was a member of an organized crime family and worked with the likes of Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Bugsy Siegel. But more importantly, my father was a decorated war hero in World War II, serving with the famed unit Merrill's Marauders. In a strange way, it was in the Marine Corps that my father found his real niche in life, and his experience in the military would heavily influence my life. I am a Vietnam veteran, but chose a different path regarding organized crime.”

A cross between Platoon and The Godfather, Under the Williamsburg Bridge refutes, through eyewitness accounts, commonly held beliefs of organized crime. Bari recounts stories of life in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge where "boys grew up fast and they grew up mean". Stories such as how the hit on Dutch "the Dutchman" Schultz really went down as recounted by hit-man Charlie "The Bug" Workman. Bari also tells of his first-hand experiences in Vietnam that left him with a disability (determined by the VA) as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.

"Although Under the Williamsburg Bridge is the saga of a unique American family that was witness to a strange chapter in American history," explains Gribben in the introduction, "it really is the story of what made Frank Bari the man he is today."

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