Growing up in a household that seemed "as generic as midwestern Jews get," author Eric Konigsberg never imagined there was anything remotely mysterious about his family. When he was sent back East for boarding school, however, he learned from an ex-cop groundskeeper that indeed there was: his great-uncle Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg had been a legendary Mafia enforcer, suspected by the FBI of upwards of twenty murders.
What Eric Konigsberg had uncovered was a shameful family secret. While his grandfather was a true-life Horatio Alger story - a son of immigrants who'd become a respected merchant - the family had long since written off his black-sheep younger brother as all but dead. In fact, "Uncle Heshy" was cooling his heels in prison. Over his family's protests, Konigsberg embarked on a series of visits that inspired the acclaimed New Yorker piece that laid the groundwork for this book.
In 'Blood Relation', Eric Konigsberg unspools the lurid rise and protracted flight from justice of the notorious criminal in his family, spoken of by prosecutors and associates in superlatives: "smartest hit man," "king of the loan sharks." Over six years, the author uncovered confidential records of J Edgar Hoover's struggle to bring Kayo to justice and tracked down Kayo's collaborators and the descendants and loved ones of his victims.
In this intriguing and deeply affecting portrait, Konigsberg reveals Kayo as a fascinating, paradoxical character: both brutal and seductive, a cold-blooded killer and larger-than-life con artist who taught himself to read as an adult and served as his own lawyer in two major trials - to riotous effect. Functioning by turns as his pursuer, jailhouse scribe, and sole link to the rest of the Konigsbergs, the author investigates Kayo's impact on his family and others who crossed his path, brilliantly interweaving the themes of Jewish identity, family dynamics, justice, and postwar American history.