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My Father Was a Gangster: The Jim Vaus Story
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One of the most fascinating conversion stories of the 20th century, My Father Was a Gangster tells the dramatic life story of Jim Vaus, former associate of crime syndicate boss Mickey Cohen. In this book, son Will Vaus tells the inside story of his father's nefarious activities in organized crime and describes how close his father came to losing his life in a "Sting" operation.  The author then describes the dramatic transformation that took place in his father's life as a result of attending the 1949 Billy Graham meetings in Los Angeles.

This story has been recounted in Time, Life and Reader's Digest, and was chronicled in a motion picture, The Wiretapper. Now it is told from a son's perspective, a son who watched his father reach juvenile delinquents across America with the same message of hope that changed his own life.


"The story of Jim Vaus needs to be read and shared by this generation. He is a tremendous example of a man who had a dramatic encounter with the living God and whose story has impacted countless lives. Take time to read it, absorb it, and share it."

Steve Russo
International Communicator,
Best-selling Author
Host of the syndicated daily radio program Real Answers

"I first heard of Jim Vaus shortly after Billy Graham's first Los Angeles Crusade in 1949. It was therefore quite remarkable that I was the one to be selected to organise a programme for him in the British Isles. At the time I was working with the British Evangelical Alliance, and my friend George Wilson (who had been business Manager at Northwestern College when I was there in 1948/9) had asked me to do this.

"We had a remarkable time with Jim and his wife as we took them to church after church where, time and again, he told the story of his conversion. More importantly (for me) he brought with him one of the tiny 'bugging' microphones which he had removed from Mickey Cohen's house, and when he left England, he left it with me. I still have it - and it is a prized possession.

"To me it seemed inevitable that Jim would devote his life to Christian service - and so it was. It was not long before I heard the story of what he was doing and, as a result, he remained on my prayer list for the rest of his life.

"God has many trophies as He works through the proclamation of His word. Through the ministry of Billy Graham in the Los Angeles tent, Jim was one of them. Surely his welcome into heaven must have been accommpanied by the angel choir singing 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!'"

Maurice Rowlandson
Author of Behind the Scenes with Billy Graham

"My Father Was a Gangster: The Jim Vaus Story is an intriguing narrative of one of the most colorful, most complex and most fascinating characters of recent times. Written by his son, Will, the book illustrates vividly how the transforming power of faith in Christ can dramatically change the life of the most seasoned criminal. The reader will find it difficult to put the book down."

Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. M. D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
Author of The Question of God

"Jim Vaus' story of crime and salvation is a glorious testimony to the redemptive power of Christ.  As told by his son Will, Jim's journey from rebellious youth to wiretapper to servant of God seems a drama straight from a Hollywood script.  Jim Vaus left a legacy of service to his Lord and love for his family that is both compelling and inspiring."

Luis Palau, President, Luis Palau Association

"I am delighted that there is to be a new book about him. I recommend it as the continuing of his work, his echoing story deserves this generation's full attention. The time I spent with Jim was short but its effect on my life will be long lasting. I first met him when he spoke to a group of Christians active in the business of New York City Theater. He was a champion of Godly newness and our stumbling beginnings responded to the certainty of this wise man who dared to begin and accomplish a new ministry. That ministry would shake up the world's acceptance of the tawdriness of misguided young people and offer instead the surprising validity of hope. I returned to Houston to work as an actress in the Alley Theater and started a small group Bible study within Houston's theater community. I asked Jim to come to Houston to speak to a gathering of that group in my home and invited a few guests. Jim's name and the impact of his work brought a crowd to my house that immediately out distanced the amount of food I had prepared. Jim joined me in the kitchen and laughed at my dilemma as I divided the considered portions and literally watered the cups of soup. My living room was crowded and no comfortable chair was left for our guest of honor. He perched awkwardly on the arm of an undersized sofa and spoke to a wide-eyed group of under fed guests who never noticed the scant service in the midst of the wonderment of Jim's abundant words. Later I realized how appropriate that evening was. Jim was seldom confined within the expectations of the ordinary and much of his work was spent in undersized accommodations serving those whom society had underfed. God had a special place for Jim. No other ministry served as Jim's did and in a manner seldom equaled, Jim did not require agreement or fellowship; with or without it . . . he served in obedience to God . . . and that ministering service had and still has performance.

"Many years have passed since that season of my life. I have become the Artistic Director of a Christian Theater that began at a time when I knew no similar ministry offering the pattern of fellowship and scant recognition of its purpose. Now, in our 40th season I see my work as an outcropping of what I learned from Jim: when God calls unto a new ministry we dare not wait for the future to catch up with us. God had a word for Jim: authenticity. I am grateful for the men and women who have illustrated that word in my life. It is a demanding word. Jim was authentic in his faith, authentic in his friendship, authentic in his love for his family, authentic in his humor, authentic in his sorrows and authentic in his joy. That authenticity defined his ministry and reflected the One absolute God in Whom we can trust absolutely."

Jeannette Clift George, Founder & Artistic Director, A.D. Players, Houston, Texas

"My Father Was a Gangster: The Jim Vaus Story is a powerful reminder of how God reaches into the lives of the most unlikely people, redeems them from a destructive way of life and makes them powerful instruments of His Gospel in ministry. It is refreshing to see the story told again by Will Vaus, Jim's son.

"I remember well the first biography and the subsequent movie, The Wiretapper. As it touched my life then, so I trust this story will touch many lives today."

John Guest
Senior Pastor
Christ Church at Grove Farm
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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