SUBTEXTS

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS -

Yanked from the stacks: Cra­dle of Crime The mur­der of Bugsy Siegel is a mo­ment frozen in time — the fa­mous Hol­ly­wood mob­ster, shot dead in his Los An­ge­les home, slumped over on a flo­ral-pat­terned sofa. Not pic­tured in the crime-scene pho­tos is his friend and as­so­ciate Alan Smi­ley, who was sit­ting next to him when he was killed. There is al­ways a story be­hind the story, and though this is a cel­e­brated piece of lore for those who adore Mafia mythol­ogy, Smi­ley was a real per­son with a fam­ily — namely a daugh­ter, Luellen, who grew up afraid of him. He was a mer­cu­rial and an­gry man who was so good at keep­ing se­crets that his daugh­ter was un­aware he was a known gang­ster un­til her teens, and even then, it took her many more years to ac­cept it as fact. Now in her six­ties, Luellen Smi­ley lives in Santa Fe. She is the au­thor of the self-pub­lished mem­oir Cra­dle of Crime: A Daugh­ter’s Trib­ute, which chron­i­cles the iden­tity cri­sis she en­tered a decade after her fa­ther’s death, as well as her in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the truth about his in­volve­ment with Siegel.

Smi­ley is ea­ger to tell her side of the story, and though she does not glam­or­ize her fam­ily’s crim­i­nal his­tory, she is ob­vi­ously aware that her book has a ready-made fol­low­ing. Smi­ley’s prose veers to­ward the pur­ple, which can ei­ther test a reader’s pa­tience or sat­isfy oth­ers’ thirst for vivid de­tails. “Meyer turned around, sized me up, and we took off with a jolt,” she writes of see­ing mob­ster Meyer Lan­sky in Florida when she was a young adult. “His face was a his­tor­i­cal map. The lines curved like moun­tain roads and the bridge of his nose twisted like a tree branch. His eyes were un­flinch­ing like my Dad’s.” Cra­dle of Crime: A Daugh­ter’s Trib­ute is avail­able on Ama­zon. — Jen­nifer Levin

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