Heroes, Sidekicks and Mobsters by Nancy Brophy


When I was a child, I thought the sun, the moon and the stars rose and set around me. And while I have friends who would assure you that I still think that. I don’t. Not really. Well, maybe a little.

In reality none of us are sidekicks. Everyone has her own life, but not every story is interesting. But sometimes it’s the quiet, over-looked ones who really should have center stage.

Like many people, I’m fascinated by the Mafia. Not the Soprano brand of mobster. Too new. Too crass. Give me the romance of an earlier generation complete with a bootlegging, snappy dressing murderer and I’m hooked.

New York was a tough neighborhood if you were an immigrant. Maybe still is. Lots of us know the story of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Al Capone and Bugsy Segal, but the one I really admire was Meyer Lansky. He was a Polish Jew, not Italian. Should never have fit in, but he was tough enough to hold his own in a room filled with tough guys and smart enough to be the hand behind the throne.

Bugsy Segal died from five gunshot wounds to the head at forty-one. Lucky Luciano was indicted on numerous crimes and deported. Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion and prostitute and suffered from syphilis.

But Meyer Lansky died a rich, old man in his bed at the age of eighty. The rich part has been disputed and according to rumor the money has never been found. I can’t help but think that everybody in the room should have their eyebrows raised and a smirk across their face at that statement.

Heroes in our stories are always larger than life characters. The nebbish accountant may be the nicest guy in the world, but one can afford to be a nice if he’s got nothing else going for him. The people who never step out of line don’t have a story either, unless something happens to force them into another path.

It’s hard to write the hero. Let’s face it, we love the silent, brooding alpha type – the man who thinks he’s in charge and sometimes really is. But his lack of words can give way to shallow POV so that we don’t really know the character,  only the external mask he’s chosen. Sadly it’s the twisted angst and conflict that make a good story work.

A writer is like the sun, moon and stars as she shines her beam on her characters uncovering their secrets. I want to know the hero inside and out, but I also would like a tip on where Meyer Lansky’s money is.

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Posted on December 29, 2011, in Nancy Brophy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Real frankly, I was hoping an heir would drop by and whisper in my ear. But since that didn’t happen, thank you for your insightful comments.

  2. Or Maggie, if he has a secret grandson who inherited it all, and is now having the last laugh. Wouldn’t that make a great story… The Hunt For Meyer Lansky’s Stash :)

  3. What an interesting post. One can guarantee that an accountant did NOT lose all his money. :) I suspect when he fled to Israel to escape the IRS that he divided his money into many other accounts under other names. So when he was deported back to the U.S. they could find no money and couldn’t prosecute him for tax evasion. The question is who, if anyone, in his family know about the accounts or if some other “trusted” person administers them.

    I agree that the interest part in writing any character, hero or villain, is making them completely human. Everyone has secrets they don’t want to let out–secret pasts, secret emotions of love/hate/envy, secret desires, secret plans. I also believe no one is completely evil or completely good (even the devil is a fallen angel). As long as writers remember that and make their characters completely human in all their complexity I love the books.

  4. Nice post! I’m agree….most of us do like the brooding, silent alpha, but I also like a few hints to his inner workings with some added deep POV. Makes for an interesting character to know why he is the way he is….and I love it when the heroine can get that out of him.

    As for Meyer Lansky’s money, well, I’ve heard rumor that….

    LOL…we’ll save that for another time. Happy New Year!

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