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