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

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 join...

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Title:The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation
Author:Rich Cohen
Rating:

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

  • Jenny

    Incredibly well-written and engaging. Most people don’t know piracy was still happening in the US this late into the 19th century. The author paints a vivid picture of the life and crimes of a notorious New York-based pirate.

    Advance copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Andrew

    Cohen is one of my favorite authors-fiction or non-fiction. The Last Pirate of New York is one of his best books and that is high praise. The story of the first(1860) New York Gangster—Albert Hicks—the link between Captain Kidd and John Gotti-this book is both a fascinating history of the now little known Hicks but is also a social history of New York and a melancholy ode to our rambunctious and unbridled past. Highly Reccommended.

  • Heidi The Reader

    A fantastic and non-fiction account of Albert Hicks, the last man to be publicly executed in New York City and also one of the last to be tried and convicted for piracy. For fans of history, this is a must-read.

    A fantastic and non-fiction account of Albert Hicks, the last man to be publicly executed in New York City and also one of the last to be tried and convicted for piracy. For fans of history, this is a must-read.

    Beyond the fascinating true crime story about Hicks, Rich Cohen, the author, has brought New York City, mere years before the Civil War, to life. You get to learn about the streets, the notable people, the attitudes, the newspapers and more. It is a fun and, occasionally serious, romp through the past.

    Cohen doesn't tell his story through the dry recitation of facts and figures. He has a storyteller's way of weaving the details into the larger narrative. This is history as it was meant to be told.

    Four to five hundred pirates! In New York City! This book changed my view of "The City So Nice They Named It Twice." I suppose everybody and everything comes from somewhere. The early years of the city had more story to it than I imagined it could.

    Part of the reason why Albert Hicks may have been so forgotten is because of the extraordinary events that occurred just a short time later, the Civil War. It overshadowed everything that came before it, and, also, time moves on. I think about what was in the news last week and how our attention will already have moved on by next week.

    As much as Cohen was able to discover about Hicks, his trial and what came next, I wish more had existed in the historical record about Hicks' wife. I get that, beyond a few details, she basically disappeared from the record and that's such a shame.

    It made me wonder if Hicks has any descendants out there and if they know the story of one of their most notorious ancestors... I have relatives a few generations back who were adopted in New York City. Hicks' history could belong to any of us who have question marks in our family tree.

    As Cohen points out in his book, Hicks' history, as shocking as it is, is also the early history of our country. Any shining point of light casts a shadow. This is one of those stories that took place in the shadows — a nightmarish memory from early New York City.

    Recommended for readers of history and true crime.

    is brilliant.

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free digital, advance reader copy of this book. Please note that the brief quotations I cited in this review may change in the final printed version. The estimated date for publication is June 2019.

    Update June 21, 2019:

    is on sale now. The History Guy made an episode about Albert Hicks, the subject of this book. You can see the short documentary-style YouTube video here:

  • Bandit

    Once upon a time New York was a land of gangsters and before that…gasp…pirates. Much as I loathe the city, I love a good New York story and this one had a freaking pirate, how do you pass that up? Well, you don’t. You read it and find out all about the man who went by alias William Johnson and was in fact the last person to be publically hung in New York. What a character. What a story. It starts off dramatically enough with a ghost ship discovered right off the coast of New York, no one on boar

    Once upon a time New York was a land of gangsters and before that…gasp…pirates. Much as I loathe the city, I love a good New York story and this one had a freaking pirate, how do you pass that up? Well, you don’t. You read it and find out all about the man who went by alias William Johnson and was in fact the last person to be publically hung in New York. What a character. What a story. It starts off dramatically enough with a ghost ship discovered right off the coast of New York, no one on board, the deck’s covered in blood. All so very much like America’s very own Dracula’s Demeter. The police sets off to investigate and fairly soon (given the state of police work at that pre DNA, pre modern technology era) find and arrest a suspect. Wasn’t too challenging, since the man managed to leave a trail so wide and easy to follow, it would put certain fairy tales to shame. Inexplicably the last pirate must have been convinced of his own invincibility to walk around spending money like that. Possibly he was thinking of the no body no crime rule, but this wasn’t how it played out. So the book is basically long chapters divided logistically into crime, arrest, trial, confession, execution. And it’s good, but it doesn’t get really good until the confession. Up until then you’re just thinking here’s another charming but dumb criminal, who did one crime and got nabbed straight away. The man isn’t even a real pirate, is he. The only reason to call him that is the fact that since his crime was technically committed at sea (albeit right near the shore) that’s piracy and the case was tried, convicted and sentenced as such. But…but in his confession (and who knows how much of it was fabricated, after all he did it for money for his wife and newborn child) the last pirate goes on to spin a proper pirate tale of seafaring adventures, exotic lands, wicked deed and so on. The confession didn’t survive in its original form, since it went through the editing and publishing mill for the popular enjoyment, but there are some great stories. This might have been all an attempt to leave some sort of legacy too. But still. A handsome charismatic gallows bound pirate is a good subject for the book. The author must have thought so too, he came across the account originally in the older book Gangs of New York, where Johnson is said to have been shanghaied and murdered out of revenge, but that didn’t seem right, so 20 ( crazy to think, but yeah 20) years of research later and we have this, a much more complex and stimulating account of the life of the last pirate and the original gangster of New York. For two decades of research the book is only 224 pages, which is a great length for nonfiction, especially the one that reads as dynamically as the best of fiction. Read and enjoyed in one afternoon. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

  • Xstch3

    Very well written book! Lots of history, very interesting, captivating true story.

    4 1/2 stars!

  • Anna

    The Last Pirate of New York was a really fun book to read. The author wrote it not in the style of a biography, but more like a story, following Hicks through his final crime. Though I was expecting more of a biography style book, I found myself to enjoy the book greatly. I was surprised at how much information the author was able to find on Hicks! Many of the resources were from the early to mid 1800's which cannot be easy to obtain. His knowledge on the history of New York and the surrounding

    The Last Pirate of New York was a really fun book to read. The author wrote it not in the style of a biography, but more like a story, following Hicks through his final crime. Though I was expecting more of a biography style book, I found myself to enjoy the book greatly. I was surprised at how much information the author was able to find on Hicks! Many of the resources were from the early to mid 1800's which cannot be easy to obtain. His knowledge on the history of New York and the surrounding area was intriguing and helped significantly in understanding the type of circumstances that people in that time were living in.

    There were couple of aspects of the book that stuck out to me that I was left wanting more of. I wish there was more discussion of how Hicks and his personal history formed the 'gangster' image as we see it now. I would have also liked more information on the other crimes Hicks committed but realize that this can be exceedingly difficult during a time where these crimes were not documented the same way they are today.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the book and think that even people who typically do not like true stories would find this to be enjoyable.

  • Karen & Gerard

    The Last Pirate of New York by Rich Cohen tells you the story of Albert Hicks aka The Last Pirate. You will have to read the book to find out why this is so. You go back to the 1880s in this book which I found interesting. The writer did his homework in making me really get the feel who Hicks was. This is a quick read, read it in two days. (Gerard's review)

  • Amy

    Not since Erik Larson have I read a nonfiction that reads like fiction. A event that I knew nothing about, Rich Cohen relays the incredible tale of Albert Hicks,-a monster of a man who committed horrible crimes. I wavered between four and five stars.... four stars because it was to short and I wanted more.

  • jesse r lewis

    Thoroughly enjoyed Rich Cohen's "The Avengers" and "Tough Jews," and this book makes three great works of his. This is the true story of Albert Hicks - a career criminal who hired on as a seaman on a sailing vessel with the intention of robbing it and slipping back into the anonymity of NYC, but whose plan ended with an unmanned ship with its decks covered in blood. Cohen's writing pulls you into a story you most likely didn't know, but definitely deserves to be told.

  • Kristin

    Harold Schecter's short,

    tells the whole story of Albert Hicks in 67 pages and felt like it didn't leave much left on the cutting room floor; this book proves it. Hick's crime and trial don't have really any connection to the 'birth of the Gangster Nation' promised in the title. It's just padding to get this historical footnote to book length. Cohen even covers the numerous gangs in Five Points-- and the little league versions they used to train

    up budding kiddie criminals -- as somet

    Harold Schecter's short,

    tells the whole story of Albert Hicks in 67 pages and felt like it didn't leave much left on the cutting room floor; this book proves it. Hick's crime and trial don't have really any connection to the 'birth of the Gangster Nation' promised in the title. It's just padding to get this historical footnote to book length. Cohen even covers the numerous gangs in Five Points-- and the little league versions they used to train

    up budding kiddie criminals -- as something that existed well before the murders have occurred.

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