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Review: Living on the Fringe of the Mob
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Tuesday, September 6, 2022


Author: Joseph P. O'Donnell as Told by E. Steven Sachs

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1-9772-5009-4

E. Steven Sachs was the former owner of Topps, which was one of the largest manufacturers of frozen retail hamburgers in the United States.

What is fascinating about Steven is for roughly fifty years, he had an ongoing business relationship with several Mafia figures. According to Steven, his dealings with the Mob were based on trust. He trusted them, and they trusted him. None of the favors he performed for them was illegal, and he never received financial compensation for any favor or information he collected on their behalf. 

Steven's incredible encounters are recounted in his memoir, Living on the Fringe of the Mob, based on interviews conducted over one year by mystery thriller author Joseph P. O'Donnell. 

Admittedly, some of Steven's antics with these characters, as conveyed to Joseph in the memoir, are more unbelievable than fiction. This is a frequent misunderstanding about memoirs, which are often invented by nature, given that our memory is often unreliable.

When I asked Joseph how much of what I was reading was a figment of Steven's imagination, he informed me that even though he believed the stories, he felt that many readers, such as myself, would doubt them. He realized that if he were to go forward with publishing the memoir, he needed to meet at least two individuals who would corroborate the incidents. Steven complied, and after Joseph communicated with two individuals who read the manuscript and personally knew Steven, he was reassured that the incidents chronicled were not embellished.

Steven grew up in a tough area in Brooklyn, New York, where most families were Italian, Irish or German. Being Jewish, Steven had to battle his way throughout his childhood, and he credits his toughness to helping him survive a very complicated life. 

Much of the material of the memoir draws on Steven's personal encounters where, as a youngster, he played with some kids who ultimately grew into major figures in the Mob. Consequently, he was able to cultivate ties and connections that carried over to his adulthood. As he states: "I always understood how these men evolved from the streets of Brooklyn, New York City and the Bronx to lofty positions of power and influence. I never questioned how they made their money or conducted themselves." 

And although at moments in his later life he could have been drawn into criminal activities and established a partnership with the Mob to ward off his competitors in the meat industry, he never did. He understood that such intervention would have injured someone, or worse. This would have led to a criminal inquiry where he would have been implicated.

Most of the personalities mentioned in the book with whom Steven had business exchanges are dead, either by natural causes or assassination. Many have been imprisoned for criminal endeavors, such as loan sharking, racketeering, income tax evasion, and authorizing or committing murder. In most instances, he has changed or omitted their names out of respect for them and their families. 

To say that there are moments in this memoir that are nothing short of spine-chilling would be an understatement. These include Steven's being part of The Bay of Pigs Invasion, which ended up being a failed landing operation on the coast of Cuba in 1961 by exiles who opposed Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution.

Another was when Steven stood up to John Pandolfi, who had been implicated in criminal shenanigans involving meat distribution to supermarkets in the New York area.

Steven's partner, Joey and his son Anthony, wanted to broaden their pork, beef, and poultry distribution company into supermarkets in New York. Steven wanted to help them out and knew that the Mob had their "hooks" in many New York supermarkets.

One of Steven's close contacts, whom he nicknamed Uncle John, suggested he meet with John Pandolfi. When Pandolfi demanded on doing business with him, he had to operate on his terms. This meant "cash brokerage at seven percent." Steven balked and told Pandolfi there would be no cash brokerage, only legitimate payment by check.

You can fully imagine Pandolfi's backlash when he retorted: "I'll make sure your fuckin' Topps line of meat will be discontinued in every supermarket in New York. I can bury your fuckin' company, and you know it." Because of Steven's link with Uncle John, there were no unpleasant repercussions following his rejection in doing business with Pandolfi. 

Living on the Fringe of the Mob is a frank memoir that does not disappoint how complicated life can be when the temptation of participating in illicit activities is shunned, even if it means turning down substantial money.

O'Donnell draws us in on a voyeuristic adventure that turns out to be riveting and unforgettable.

Quite revealing is what Steven expresses in the Epilogue where he states: "Looking back on those times, I now understand that in many ways my friends were trying to protect not only me, but also themselves. If they had told me the details of their illegal activities, the name of a person they had beaten or assassinated, or the name of a police officer or politician they had bribed, the FBI could have eventually coerced me to provide this information, and testify against them." As it turned out, Steven informs us that he never witnessed any crime and has no specific testimony to offer.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Joseph P. O'Donnell



 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
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Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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