three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
user_rating: 
0

A History of Its Rise to Power

A-AmericanMafiaThe Mafia first gained notoriety on March 14, 1891, after six Italian men supposedly murdered New Orleans's police chief. Although the mob may have started out as an unruly arm of America's immigrant pool, it never became the alien and conspiratorial "public enemy" its opponents decried. Focusing on a few key figures such as Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, Reppetto shows that by the 1930s, the Mafia had shed its humble origins and morphed into a multiethnic, national "syndicate" led by a dozen wealthy, highly influential leaders. Over the next two decades, the Mafia's ties to New York's Tammany Hall and Chicago's political machine ensured its financial success, notoriety, and eventual decline.
Henry Holt. 318 pages. $26.

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"The subject is sensational, but the work is never sensationalistic. ... Any serious mob-watcher, and there are a lot of us, will want to have this book." Michael Pakenham

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Though the bookshelves cry for mercy under the weight of Mafia literature, Reppetto's book earns its place among the best. ... [He] has navigated a world of wacky nicknames and Machiavellian alliances, of false romance and coldblooded greed, to provide a lucid history of the American Mafia for those of us who would not know what else to say after greeting Sammy the Bull." Dan Barry

SF Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This [book], dedicated to a police officer, isn't so much a history of the American Mafia as a history of law enforcement's attempts to understand and conquer it. ... In eschewing sensational legends for controlled analysis, Reppetto presents a different Mafia than the one we know from The Godfather and The Sopranos." Trey Popp

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Be prepared for an absolute deluge of evil, and killers with nicknames like 'The Enforcer' and 'Cherry Nose.'" Robert Sherrill

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"(Ken Burns would have a field day turning this book into a documentary.) But encountering every major player in organized crime can be dizzying and may require some rereading, especially when it comes to internecine feuds like the Castellammarese War, a standoff between New York bosses Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano that ended in both men's murders." Victorino Matus

Critical Summary

There's no one better equipped to tell this story than Reppetto, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City and former Chicago commander of detectives. Dispelling popular myths about the American Mafia perpetuated by the media and entertainment industry, Reppetto casts new light on the history of the mob's evils. Instead of one Mr. Big, there was a highly organized business network. Reppetto's evenhanded analysis of the Mafia's key men and their powerful opponents creates drama and suspense. But if you're not familiar with mobster rule, the sheer wealth of names, details, and assassinations can overwhelm. Overall, there's an immediate lesson to be learned: the government can't collect legal taxes from illegal money, so you're safe. For now.