"The Combination" Was Dubbed "Murder Incorporated" By the Press

Abe "Kid Twist" Reles wanted to be a power in Brooklyn's Brownsville section once he'd committed himself to a life of crime.

But in 1930, when America's economy slumbered in the Depression's depths, Brownsville already had a sitting criminal viceroy, a man standing in Reles's way.

The underworld erupted into intense violence as Reles and his good pal Buggsy (no, that's not a typo; we don't refer to Benjamin "Bugsy" but to Martin "Buggsy" Goldstein) formed a gang and waged a war to establish their dominance over Brownsville's criminal activity.

The canary who sang, but
couldn't fly.

Abe Reles's death, by the way, was never solved, despite different stories being told about Frank Costello and/or Albert Anastasia paying off cops, etc. Not true.

This has been exhaustively researched and analyzed -- and don't believe any claims, at face value, regarding who was responsible. Because the fact is, the murder of Abe Reles is the Mafia's greatest unsolved mystery -- truly a much more enigmatic crime than even the murder of James R. Hoffa.....

Reles even named his gang The Combination. He and the "soldiers" he recruited were a mix of Jewish and Italian street guys who already had long criminal resumes. Frank "The Dasher" Abbandando, Harry "Happy" Maione and Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss were among the members of this murderous group (who seemed predisposed to raping women. There is a number of unsettling accounts on this front).

They got some help from Brooklyn's chief of crime, Albert Anastasia.

Frank The Dasher. Died by
execution, in New York.

He didn't help them out too much though because Don Umberto, his real nickname -- what other mobsters called him -- didn't want to back losers. He wanted only the strongest to thrive and prosper. (These guys were practicing Darwinism without even knowing it existed. They invented their own version.)

Reles and his guys won.

Kid Twist was on top.

In Brownsville. For a while... Reles ultimately became the original mob songbird, otherwise known as the singing canary. (Which reminds me, if you haven't read The Canary Sang but Couldn't Fly: The Fatal Fall of Abe Reles, the Mobster Who Shattered Murder, Inc.'s Code of Silence, I urge you to immediately purchase a copy and devour. You will thank me heartily.)

Reles and the guys who flipped with him caused a slate of executions of Murder Inc. hitmen, perhaps most famoulsy Louis "Lepke" Buchalter.

Murder Inc. has always been a subject of great fascination to me.

My grandfather used to speak of Murder Incorporated (I don't remember what he had said. And I later learned he (my grandfather) was friends with Phil Giaccone, the one and only Bonanno capo killed in the Sonny Red Trifecta....Phil, Sonny Red and Big Trin actually all came over my grandparents' house for dinner. Yours truly was there, though I was too young to remember it. My parents were there as well. I remember watching the news when Giaccone and Big Trin were found buried in Queens. My mother was shocked -- "We didn't know they were capos!" she told me. She remembers nothing of the meal, though my grandmother remembered it. She's since passed. But she told me some details, such as how Sonny Red spoke to her of his son's drug addiction, and how horrible it was. My grandmother felt sorry for him.... Now my 92-year-old uncle tells me my grandfather was a driver for someone who went to the Apalachin meeting; I don't believe that, though I am definitely on the search for a list of everyone who attended.)

Happy Maione was another
hitter for the Combination,
which the press called
Murder Incorporated.
He had a lot of other sayings, which must've been common in places like Brownsville, Brooklyn in the 1920s and '30s, which is where my grandfather grew up.

"Sixty years from now, the chorus girls'll still be kickin' and the subway'll still be in a hole! Let's get ready for Freddy!"

I am not sure if my wording of his catchphrases is correct, though I once used the "Ready for Freddy" to Frank Gangi and he laughed, having a familiarity with the expression. Freddy, apparently, was an undertaker.

I recently started reading a book that has been recommended to me for years. I first cracked it open a week ago, and am deeply into it. It's a fantastic book, a well-told story, from which I cribbed all the above information on Reles.

"This must've been written back in the 1940s by some hard-drinking newspaperman, the kind who sits at the typewriter banging away, stopping for the occasional writerly pause to gulp from a brown-bagged bottle stored in a desk drawer..." I incorrectly thought.

I was wrong. Surprisingly, when I checked the copyright, I saw the year 2009. No, I thought, must have been republished or reprinted in 2009.... But no, the book was published, for the first time, in 2009.

Wow, I thought next. This guy is going to have one hell of a career in front of him!. I checked to see if he had published anything else since 2009. That's when I found the news... Old news to the world; big bad breaking news for me.

The author was dead.


  1. Hi ed it says 3 comments posted not showing up any way not sure whats going on been pretty quiet. Ive been busy ill be in touch somebody else been using my name so gonna stay

  2. I know! Gotta look into it...

  3. There being very quiet one fam


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