It may not have the mass appeal of modern day mafia stories like The Sopranos, but Nathan Ward’s Dark Harbor, his true crime expose on the gangs that ran the New York waterfront in the late 1940’s is every bit as exciting and has the benefit of being realistic.
A magazine journalist by trade, Ward does a fantastic job of taking his research on the topic and laying it out in hard boiled noir fashion resulting in a truly great read. The book unfolds the story of a rookie journalist working for the New York Sun who writes a series of articles about the mob-connected Unions that ran the city’s docks – a topic largely ignored by corrupt politicians and cops and the lazy reporters at rival papers. The articles eventually served as the basis for the Marlon Brando, Karl Malden movie On the Waterfront.
In Dark Harbor, Ward does a fantastic job of breathing life to the characters that make up this historical crime story. Characters like the relatively young, but undeterred Malcolm “Mike” Johnson, the reporter who started it all and union reps/mobsters like “Cockeye” Dunn.
Johnson’s series on the corrupt waterfront won him a Pulitzer; On the Waterfront won eight Oscars, including “Best Picture”; and Dark Harbor should easily win Ward a slew of fans as well.
Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront by Nathan Ward/FS&G/250 pages