Review: Black Caesar – Ron Chepesiuk

Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: Strategic Media Books (June 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985244011
ISBN-13: 978-0985244019
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In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Frank Marshall was one of the biggest drug Kingpins in the United States. After being arrested, he jumped bail and was never seen again. This novel details his rise to power, and all those involved in trying to bring him to justice.


I found this book to be very interesting. The author went into a lot of major details on how Frank Marshall made his climb up the ladder of the drug world. There is also a lot of information provided on the investigation of Mr. Marshall and the search for him after he disappeared.

It’s quite obvious the writer spent many hours into researching this, and it shows in the detail. If I had one issue with it, it was that it seemed a bit slow at times. One would think a book about a drug kingpin, a police search, etc. would be action packed. I think that only tends to occur though in the movies. An actual investigation would be slow, and I think that’s reflected in this book. That doesn’t make it a bad book, in fact, it is very informative.

If you are interested in 60s/70s culture, true crime, or black history, then definitely pick this up. I think you’d find it an enjoyable book.


Jumping Bail
“Mr. Deary, am I going to get that life count they’ve been talking about?”
Frank Matthews

JULY 2, 1973—a typical hot, muggy day in New York City. Frank Matthews, alleged drug kingpin, is scheduled to appear in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York. He is already facing six charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy, but the new indictment will add charges and supersede the first one. On December 20, 1972, federal prosecutors swore out a warrant for Matthews’ arrest, accusing him of possessing 15 kilos of cocaine worth an estimated $3.6 million at street prices. About two weeks later, the authorities finally arrested Matthews in Las Vegas, one of his favorite haunts, as he prepared to leave the city and fly to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl VII game between the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins.

After being extradited from Las Vegas to New York City, Matthews had managed to secure bail despite the claim of the federal government that he is the U.S.’s biggest drug trafficker. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials who investigated the Matthews organization considered the bail of $325,000 a bad joke, and they worried that Matthews would skip town. After all, investigators had evidence that Matthews may be been quietly stashing $1 million a month for the past several months. So why, they wondered, would the drug kingpin be doing that unless he was preparing for his imminent flight? All Matthews had to do to meet the bond requirements was to report regularly to the U.S. Attorney’s office and stay within the jurisdiction of the Eastern District of New York. Being short of manpower, law enforcement had no way of keeping tabs on Matthews.

The suspect’s attitude and demeanor reinforced the authorities concern. The charismatic and handsome Matthews swaggered into the federal courthouse and greeting everyone he met with a broad smile and a friendly nod, while flirting with the ladies. Law enforcement officials could only look on and marvel. “Frank looked and acted like the King of New York City,“ said Ray Deary, the Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District who had served in the Appeals Division since 1971. “He walked around our turf like he owned it.”

Deary was right. Frank Matthews is no ordinary criminal. On the mean streets of the urban jungles of America Matthews’ exploits have earned him the moniker of “Black Caesar.” He is charismatic as well as dangerous and even his adversaries, the authorities, have a grudging respect for him.

Matthews seemingly unconcern about the serious charges that could put him in jail for several decades baffled the authorities. They could not tail him, but they had received reports that Matthews has been conducting business with his associates even before securing bail. Sources within the West Street Detention Center, where Matthews had been detained after his arrest, observed that top lieutenants of his organization, as well as his lawyer, Gino Gallina, were visiting him frequently, and it seemed to the sources that Matthews was giving instructions and orders.

After his release on bond, Black Caesar was seen in the company of several leading drug dealers and gamblers. Moreover, Matthews was in the constant company of Cheryl Denise Brown, a beautiful light skinned black woman who turned heads wherever she went. It should have been an embarrassment to the alleged drug kingpin since he had a common law wife, Barbara Hinton, and three kids waiting for him at home. But Hinton, herself an attractive woman, did not seem to be bothered or embarrassed by Matthews’ apparent public infidelity, even after the family was forced to leave their luxurious surroundings for a more modest apartment at 2785 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. In better days, Matthews had used the Ocean Parkway apartment as a getaway and a place to stash his many paramours. In their effort to nail Matthews, prosecutors hauled Hinton before a grand jury, offering her immunity if she would cooperate with their case against her husband. Hinton refused, even though she faced a possible conspiracy charge herself.

Then a few days before his scheduled court appearance, Matthews arrived in the Brooklyn federal court building with his lawyer, Gino Gallina when he bumped into Federal Prosecutor Raymond Deary as Deary was leaving a room. Matthews said to Deary, “Mr. Deary, am I gonna get that life count they been talking about?” Matthews was referring to part of section 848 of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970: “Any person who engages in a continuing criminal enterprise shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 20 years and which may be up to life imprisonment.” The thought of Section 848 terrified many traffickers because they feared that, if convicted under the statue, they would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Deary looked at Matthews and said, “It’s very possible Frank….very possible.” Later, Deary said he was joking, but for Matthews, spending his life in jail was no joking matter. “Frank knew what the 848 could do to him,” recalled Liddy Jones, a former drug kingpin and an associate of Matthews. “No way was he going to spend the rest of his life in jail.”

Inside the steamy courthouse on this sweltering July day in 1973, the electric fans whirred as the judge, federal prosecutors and the defense team waited patiently for Frank Matthews to appear. But he never did. Instead, he became a fugitive from justice. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the lead agency in the investigation of Frank Matthews, is confident they will apprehend the fugitive. After all, don’t law enforcement officials always get their man? The weeks turned into months and the months into years, and law enforcement did not catch him. The U.S. Marshal Service took over the hunt for Matthews from the DEA. There were alleged sightings of Matthews in more than 50 countries. Cheryl Brown, Matthews’ mistress disappeared the same time he did, and her whereabouts were just as mysterious. No informant stepped forward. No bodies were ever found. No fingerprints were discovered. No solid leads appeared. Nothing.

With time, law enforcement moved on to other priorities. New generations of law enforcement officials replace the old guard and they knew little about Matthews. Periodically, Matthews’ story appeared briefly in the press and rekindled speculation. Is he alive or is he dead? The public wondered. But then the reports faded from public consciousness and people focused on other crime stories.

What follows is the remarkable story of the legendary Frank Matthews, one of organized crime’s most original gangsters. It is the story of the biggest gangster mystery of all time. It is a story with an improbable beginning and a story with no conclusive ending.

About the Author

Ron Chepesiuk is an award-winning author and a publisher, screenwriter and documentary producer and director. He’s a two-time Fulbright Scholar to Bangladesh and Indonesia and a consultant to the History Channel’s Gangland TV series.

His books include Sergeant Smack, Gangsters of Harlem, Gangsters of Miami, among others. He is also Executive Producer and co-host of the popular radio show Crime Beat (

For other books by Ron Chepesiuk go to

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Gina at Partners in Crime for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

5 Responses to “Review: Black Caesar – Ron Chepesiuk”

  1. Cheryl "Mash" Says:

    Very nice review!! Great job! Thank you for sharing your insight on this title.

  2. Tammy Blackwell-Keith Says:

    I wanted to read this one. I have to move it up in my TBR.

  3. Setya Says:

    Hey I would like to know the strum pattern too! I’m new to ukuelle (I’m so proud I can play Hallelujah with the picking pattern ^.^ haha) but I would love to play christmas songs on my uke this year. Help Help

  4. Open Says:

    My wife Katherine and I send our sympathy fo Donna and all membres of Tom’s family.My acquaintance with Tom Femreite consisted of one Skype telephone meeting last winter. My brother Dennis Fimrite and his wife Susan have a winter home in Yuma Arizona, and shortly after they checked in at the office of their park last fall my brother was told that there was another Femreite (Fimrite) in the park. The name is quite rare, so his first reaction was that the office had forgotten that he himself had also been in the office a day or two earlier. The office however, insisted that their was indeed another old gentleman of Norwegian heritage living there, and the two were soon introduced. That meeting resulted in another one of my retired brothers and wintertime residents of Arizona, Neil, and his wife Judy, driving down from Buckeye, near Phoenix, to enjoy a dinner with Tom, Donna and with Bernal and his wife, Dennis and Susan. After their dinner they 8 of them connected by Skype to our home,and my wife and Kathy and I were privileged to meet our new-found family membres.I say family, because there are so few of us in the world, and they seem to all be able to trace their heritage to the beautiful Sognfjord of western Norway. Near Sogndal, the county seat of Sognfjord, there is a district that bears the name Fimreite, and a number of decendants of of the families of my paternal grandfather’s brothers and sisters live in that area and in many other parts of Norway. My second cousin Else Fimreite and her husband Helge Willy Roed have become close friends and we have exchanged visits to each other’s homes five times since 2004.We are aware (or at least have ben told) that a USA resident who was a relative by marriage was a lawyer, and that it was he that had the name’s Norwegian spelling of Fimreite changed legally to Fimrite. There are obviously decendants of our branch of the family in the USA, including the late Ron Fimrite who wrote for Sports Illustrated and the San Francisco Chronical, and his son Peter Fimrite who is also a writer. We met Ron and his family at their home is Sausalito California in 1974 when we were enroute to Disneyland with our four children.I had the privilege of reading Tom Femreite’s autobiography, and found it very interesting and entertaining.I have exchaged emails with Bernal since his father’s passing, and hope to meet him and other membres of Tom’s family in the not-too-distant future. I believe Tom’s branch of the family came to the USA from Norway in the mid -1800 s, and we know that my grandparents both came to Madison Wisconsin in the early 1900 s, as they were married in Madison in 1910.Rod Fimrite

  5. Vijay Says:

    My Love is So Raw – ‘Hate’ is a harsh word to use … although, I agree with you about Black Republicans. The only thing that makes sense about it is that they can make alot of money as the ‘token’ Black psoern in a lily-white GOP barnyard.