Down Under godfather rivals Mafia dons

Saffron Abe Saffron at one of his clubs.

NOTE: In celebration of the completion of my third novel, I’m revisiting my obsession with picking at scars and probing the criminal underbelly. In conducting research for SCAM, a tale derived from the exploits of a real-life American con artist counterfeiting US currency in Australia, I came across Sydney’s “Mr. Sin.”

Beginning near the end of World War II, Abe Saffron took more than a passing interest as he observed American and other forces footing it from nearby military posts to the Sydney’s King Cross district in search of good times. Abe made sure they found them. From the mid-nineteen forties through the early eighties, the so-called King of the Cross operated prostitution rings and a drug cartel while controlling numerous nightclubs, strip joints and sex shops in the Australian city’s infamous red-light district.

In order to build and maintain his illicit empire, Saffron acted like a latter-day Al Capone, buying off police, politicians, and judges and employing judicious force when bribes failed him. Saffron escaped numerous criminal investigations only to be convicted once, like his Chicago counterpart, for tax evasion.

Mr. Sin’s fall began with suspicions that he masterminded the disappearance of a newspaper and anti-development activist, Juanita Nielsen. Nielsen vehemently opposed construction of Victoria Point, a project fronted by developer Frank Theeman, who allegedly had financial ties to Saffron. She disappeared after attending a public meeting conducted in one of Saffron’s clubs. Mr. Sin’s deputy managed the club, and it’s night manager was later convicted of conspiring to kidnap her. Neither her body nor her killer were ever found.

In SCAM, my counterfeiting lead character works for Saffron after seducing and marrying one of Mr. Sin’s strip club managers. Although the real counterfeiter did marry a Sydney woman, I’ve taken a fictional liberty to thicken a plot about this rogue instigator of international crime sprees and sexual conquest. As his story unfolds, he learns through a life threatening confrontation that one of those conquests bore a daughter, who is on a harrowing mission to find him.

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