In the annals of African American organized crime, no one’s shadow looms larger than Frank “Black Caesar” Matthews. His story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the fictional character Keyser Söze from the film The Usual Suspects. In the early 1970’s, he lorded over a heroin empire that stretched out over 21 states. His fearsome reputation preceded him, to the extent that even the Italian Mafia considered him a threat. He sought to organize Black and Spanish gangsters into a nationwide network that would eventually push La Cosa Nostra completely out of the drug trade. His dream was not to be, as he was apprehended before it could come to fruition. U.S. authorities had him in their grasp, yet still he managed to disappear with nary a trace. According to legend, he skipped the country in 1973 with 15 million dollars in tow. He hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Vigilantes have long been a fixture on both the movie screen and the comic book page. Many of the first action films focused on violent loners who take the law into their own hands. Many others have featured cops that play so fast and loose with the rules that they might as well be considered vigilantes. Pretty much every superhero operates outside the confines of the law, regardless of whether they use super powers, gadgets, or guns. Needless to say, such depictions of vigilantism rarely have anything to do with realism. They usually serve as a springboard for cathartic, stylized bloodletting. Everyone loves to see those that prey on society get their comeuppance.