In Search of a Mafia Classic
STORY BY Artie Vincent
Published: May 15, 2013
In 1976, a former police detective David Durk and famed TV investigative reporter Ira Silverman teamed up to publish a fascinating mafia expose, 'The Pleasant Avenue Connection'.
More than 30 years later, the book is practically out of existence. In turn, 'The Pleasant Avenue Connection' has become the most expensive and sought after crime books of all-time.
While bestsellers like 'Wiseguy' and 'Casino' remain the standard in mafia reads -- both were adapted in iconic films by director Martin Scorsese -- the Durk and Silverman book centers on East Harlem in 1960s and 1970s, as it was the capital of the heroin trade world. Detective Durk infiltrated the six-block neighborhood, bringing down a heroin supermarket headed by the East Harlem Purple Gang, local hit man Ernie Boy and 85 others that were affiliated with the Lucchese family and later the Bonanno and Genovese crime families.
The book recounts wide-spread police corruption. Many officers tried to deter Detective Durk's involvement as they wanted the drug action to continue on Pleasant Avenue. It delves in to how Detective Durk went to the city government, and he eventually started 'Operation Undercover' that went become the largest and probably most significant organized crime investigation ever in the country.
The book went out of distribution without even a sniff of a film adaptation -- though the movie 'American Gangster' touches on some of the drug trade back then.
And now if you scour the Amazon. com book store you'll find the book for $400 brand new or nearly $200 used. There's no existence of a paperback, just hard covers.
You could still purchase the book 'Crusader: The Hell-Raising Police Career of Detective David Durk'. That book details Durk's attempts to force the city narcotics teams to shut down the East Harlem drug cartels. Also, if you are aching for more, you could still purchase 'Blue Domino', which also sheds light on the heroin and mafia world of East Harlem.
Currently, the six block neighborhood of East Harlem, a primarily Italian neighborhood in the '60s and '70s, has gentrified recently. The older heroin stomping grounds now houses a shopping center that includes a Target.
The early accounts of East Harlem are filled with mafia lore.
'The Godfather' was filmed there. The East Harlem Purple Gang was also mentioned in 'Carlito's Way'. The neighborhood was so protected by the mafia back then that residents didn't have to lock their doors. Many recall characters like Eddie the Butcher, who's meat shop didn't have a single piece of meat in it for more than 40 years; or Charlie Ding-Dong, who's candy shop was a turned into a casino at night.
Resident gangsters like Vincent Papa and Anthony Loria Sr became glorified as they masterminded a scheme the involved law officials and NYPD officials uplifting nearly $70 million in narcotics over several years from the late '60s to early '70s.
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