Why you should care
Because you can get your mob read on while working on your tan.
As a true-crime fanatic, I’ve read a ton of books on La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, the Syndicate or whatever you want to call it. Mobster books make for engrossing, engaging and oftentimes brutal reads. With the intertwining and romanticized ideologies of death before dishonor and omertà — the code of silence — the glorification of the mob in pop culture has proliferated, promoting a vital, though not always true, story line in the chronicles of Mafia lore.
Everybody knows Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, Donnie Brasco by Joe Pistone and The Iceman by Philip Carlo, but if you really want to get your mob read on while kicking back on the beach and enjoying some sun and fun this summer, then check out these intense reads on Philly’s “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, the Colombos from the Crazy Joe Gallo era and what the Mafia can teach legitimate businessmen.
Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Crime Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra by Scott Burnstein is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of the mob in Atlantic City and Philadelphia in the decadent 1980s. With shocking twists and suspenseful, dramatic turns, the tale highlights the political intrigue, blind power lust and bloodthirsty betrayal relevant in this era of American underworld history. The story is told through the eyes of “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, the young, handsome overseer of the mob’s activities in Atlantic City during the Reagan era. Groomed for the job by his maniacal uncle and surrogate father, notorious East Coast don “Little Nicky” Scarfo, the deadliest godfather since Prohibition, Crazy Phil engages in violence-fueled episodes that eventually bring his crew down.
If you think the mob can’t teach you a thing or two about business, you’re wrong.
Ed Scarpo wrote Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire (Cosa Nostra News: The Cicale Files) with a former Bonanno capo who was like a brother to onetime boss Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano. The story follows events that stretch back to the Bonanno family under Joseph Massino, a violent guy who killed a lot of people to get to the top. He was pals with John Gotti and was behind some historic gangland hits, including Carmine Galante’s in 1979 and the three rebel capos who were whacked in the Bonanno family in 1981 (what has been called the Sonny Red trifecta). Everyone was shocked when he flipped and turned rat. Massino ran what was the last great Mafia empire, and Scarpo’s book is a mesmerizing look into his reign.
If you think the mob can’t teach you a thing or two about business, you’re wrong. Louis Ferrante’s Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman is an international best-seller that has been translated into 16 languages and counting. A Gambino associate, Ferrante was pulling off huge heists at a young age. He was a future mafioso, but after an eight-and-a-half-year prison stay, he decided to go straight. The book outlines 88 strategies Ferrante learned in the mob that can translate into successful business practices, including: “Go get your own coffee,” “Is this phone tapped?” and “Don’t split yourself in half.” School yourself with Mafia strategies explained in anecdotes from Ferrante’s own personal experiences and learn what it’s like to be a mafioso in training.
Frank DiMatteo, author of The President Street Boys: Growing Up Mafia, was raised in a Mafia household, something very common in certain New York boroughs in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. He saw the mob from the inside out and recognizes the mindset of being lifelong criminals and career gangsters, who live by the gun and on their own terms. The book follows a young Frankie as he grows up with the President Street Boys, the crew that formed the nucleus of Crazy Joey Gallo’s power. But DiMatteo stresses that it’s not a book about Gallo; it’s about the President Street Boys, the crew of Joey Gallo, which included DiMatteo’s father and, eventually, himself.
Other Titles to Check Out
- Your Mafia Read of the Summer: Dock Boss: Eddie McGrath and the West Side Waterfront chronicles Eddie McGrath’s rise and fall in the criminal underworld with New York City’s Irish mob.
- The Glory of Eyeball Assault: Visual Abuse: Jim Blanchard’s Graphic Art 1982–2002 breaks down Blanchard’s styles into chapters with written intros for context. And it’s mesmerizing.
- Hustling Muscle: A ’90s Classic: Sam Fussell’s recently reprinted 1991 book, Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder tells a story that quickly separates the bodybuilding wheat from the chaff.
- Mickey Spillane’s Hard-Boiled Debut: I, the Jury, which debuted in 1947, is tough-guy fiction filled with skin-crawl-y sex and unbridled violence.