Published May 9, 2017

Kingpin: Gilding the King

Reviewing the controversial new book from Sarah Dewey!

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“The Life and Times of Wilson Fisk,” a heady tome of impressive writerly dexterity and ambition arrives in stores this week after what seems like months of think pieces and editorial pronouncements.

After devouring the undeniably propulsive prose, I find myself disinterested in all that ballyhoo and well-inked handwringing. Instead I am consumed with just one larger question:


This is a question that Ms. Dewey herself seems to be struggling with throughout the book. Does this biography, completed with apparently unprecedented access to the so-called Kingpin of Crime, exist to show us a different side of Fisk? Is it meant to argue against the myriad of convictions that Fisk has collected over the years? Is Dewey seeking to affirm all our fears about this skyscraper dwelling con and his ability to rule with his iron will?

While Dewey, a skilled journalist who, until now, has never seemed undone by a subject, remains unusually quiet on her book, the book’s editor Matthew Rosenberg has publicly been explaining the work to any and all who will listen:

“Wilson Fisk is an impressive man in terms of both his physical stature and what he has done with his life,” he argues convincingly. “Coming up from nothing, his sheer determination and his love for the city alone have made him an important figure in the future of New York. I think whether people love him or hate him, we can all agree his story is one that deserves to be told.”

Kingpin #5 cover by Jeff Dekal

And yet one cannot help but feel that Dewey had not been able to fully decide her perspective on Fisk during her time with him. Her able writing style is as strong as ever, but the book seems unable to tie itself to a central theme.

Despite all this, I heartily recommend the book. Ignore the moral scolds that say this is a sop to a monster or the cynics who say it is nothing more than a cash grab. Dewey’s is a unique work that shows the queasy seductive power of evil. She stared it in the face and survived to tell the tale, but she also came away obviously changed by Fisk’s influence. Her inability to come to a conclusion about The Kingpin does not reflect a failure of ability but rather the reality of darkness. It arrives not as demon spewing fire, but a friendly man who helps the homeless with one hand while crushing skulls with the other.

Judge for yourself when KINGPIN #5 arrives June 14 from Matthew Rosenberg and Ben Torres!