When I finished my second novel, 2005’s The Heartbreak Lounge, I was determined never to write about traditional organized crime again. The whole New Jersey mob thing had become too much of a cliché, thanks in part to the brilliance of The Sopranos, which brought that world into people’s living rooms every week.
For a crime novelist who lives in and writes about New Jersey, this wasn’t an easy choice. Clichés are clichés because they’re true. Credit The Sopranos creator and N.J. native David Chase for knowing his subject. Part of his research, by Chase’s own admission, came from stories published in The Star-Ledger of Newark, the newspaper where I worked as an editor for 13 years. Recognizing the Ledger as the N.J. O.C. paper of record, Chase often featured it prominently in the show, with an additional thanks in the end credits of most episodes.
At one point, the Ledger – New Jersey’s largest newspaper – had two full-time organized crime reporters. In 1992, one of them, Robert Rudolph, wrote a book called The Boys from New Jersey, a seminal work on organized crime. It chronicled a Lucchese family trial that went on for two years and ended with the acquittal of all 20 defendants, and a bitter defeat for the government.