Anthony Bruno, 61, writer

Anthony Bruno
Anthony Bruno
Posted: September 01, 2014

Anthony Bruno, 61, a well-regarded writer of crime novels and books about real-life criminals as well as a devoted teacher of the Japanese martial art aikido, died Thursday, Aug. 28, at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage several days earlier.

Mr. Bruno, who lived in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia with his wife, Judith Sachs, was the author of Iceman: The True Story of a Cold Blooded Killer. The book is an authoritative account of the life of contract killer Richard Kuklinski, who claimed to have murdered as many as 200 people during his long criminal career affiliated with various North Jersey and New York crime families.

The book was made into a movie released in 2012 that starred Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, and James Franco. Bruno was an executive producer of the film.

"Everyone says that the reason he is so good at what he does is that he listens," his wife said. "When we went to a party together and people would learn that he was a writer, they would say, 'I have an idea for you.' He would say, 'Don't tell me your idea. I will use it.' "

Mr. Bruno, known simply to friends and family by his last name, decided at an early age he wanted to be a writer. He attended Boston University as an undergraduate, where he was accepted into novelist Donald Barthelme's creative writing workshop. He earned a master's degree in medieval studies from Boston College and worked for a time as an archivist at Boston University.

He had his first big success as a crime writer in 1988 with the publication of his novel Bad Guys. The novel was the first in a series with similar titles, such as Bad Blood, Bad Luck, and others about fictional FBI agents Mike Tozzi and Cuthbert Gibbons tracking down New York and New Jersey mobsters. In 2004, a television movie adaptation of a novel in the series, Bad Apple, starring Chris Noth, premiered on TNT.

Other works included Seven, the novelization of the film by the same name starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Mr. Bruno was born in Orange, N.J., the son of a gardener and a nurse, and was raised in a blue-collar milieu. Organized crime was a palpable presence in the suburbs of North Jersey during Mr. Bruno's youth, and it was in that atmosphere that he developed a lifelong interest in criminal characters and their motivations and behavior. His wife said that background caused mobsters he interviewed to be more candid than they might have been otherwise. Such was the case with Kuklinski, whom Mr. Bruno interviewed at Trenton State Prison for five hours for his book. For years afterward during the holiday season, Kuklinski's Christmas card was the first to arrive at the home of Sachs and Mr. Bruno.

Mr. Bruno was a fifth-degree black belt in aikido and an avid guitarist who played jazz and blues.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Mia Bruno; and a sister, Barbara Siano.


cmondics@phillynews.com

215-854-5957

@cmondics

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