The Ice Man’s Greatest Hits

The life and crimes of cold-blooded hit man Richard Kuklinski.

The Ice Man’s Greatest Hits

Richard Kuklinski [left] with Philip Carlo, author of “The Ice Man.” Photo courtesy of Philip Carlo.

It’s safe to say that Anna and Stanley Kuklinski were unfit parents. Two of their three boys grew up to be convicted killers, and Stanley brutally murdered the couple’s oldest son. But it’s their middle son, Richard Kuklinski (1935-2006), who developed into one of the most cold-blooded and prolific serial killers in history. Over the course of 37 years, Kuklinski (a.k.a. The Ice Man), extinguished the lives of several hundred people—usually premeditated hits ordered by one of the East Coast crime families, but sometimes spontaneous stranger killings that resulted when personal conflict revealed a frighteningly bad temper.

Now Kuklinski is the subject of a riveting, fast-paced biography entitled “The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer” (St. Martin’s Press), by renowned true crime author Philip Carlo. What makes Kuklinski’s story so fascinating isn’t just the ghoulish, inhuman nature of his crimes—it’s how he managed to live a double life and elude law enforcement for nearly four decades. Until he was arrested in 1986, The Ice Man lived in the sleepy upper middle class town of Dumont, New Jersey, with his wife and three children. Neighbors considered him a doting family man and a good provider. But unbeknownst to his wife and kids, when Kuklinski left home to do a “piece of work” anyone who crossed his path was liable to end up dead.

Failure recently spoke with Carlo about the life and crimes of The Ice Man, and why he believes Kuklinski—who died earlier this year in a prison hospital at the age of 70—was himself the victim of a Mob hit.

Tell me about the process of writing the book. How did you get access to Kuklinski?
I had already written “The Night Stalker” about serial killer Richard Ramirez and had a lot of experience interviewing murderers. When I watched one of the HBO specials about Kuklinski I was blown away by what he was saying—his demeanor. He was describing how he fed [live] human beings to rats. I had interviewed numerous serial killers but had never heard anything like that before.

That same night I wrote Richard a letter saying how interesting I thought he was and that I wanted to do a comprehensive book on him. Several weeks later his wife Barbara called me and I went to meet his family. If his wife and children didn’t like me I don’t think it would have gone any further. But they gave me their stamp of approval and he agreed to meet with me.

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