So I pretty much hate having to give a list of “Top Faves” because it changes so regularly. I think every comment I’ve read about this topic said the same thing, though, so this is how I know I’ve found my people 😀
For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Broke and Bookish, I decided to do my Top Five American Mafia Non-fiction. I’m cheating at only doing five but, really, after these five it all becomes a mush pile anyway (so please don’t tell on me!)
(1) Valachi Papers by Peter Maas (1972)
Publisher’s Description: The First Inside Account of the Mafia. In the 1960s a disgruntled soldier in New York’s Genovese Crime Family decided to spill his guts. His name was Joseph Valachi. Daring to break the Mob’s code of silence for the first time, Valachi detailed the organization of organized crime from the capos, or bosses, of every Family, to the hit men who “clipped” rivals and turncoats. With a phenomenal memory for names, dates, addresses, phone numbers—and where the bodies were buried—Joe Valachi provided the chilling facts that led to the arrest and conviction of America’s major crime figures. The rest is history. Never again would the Mob be protected by secrecy. For the Mafia, Valachi’s name would become synonymous with betrayal. But his stunning exposé. broke the back of America’s Cosa Nostra and stands today as the classic about America’s Mob, a fascinating tale of power and terror, big money, crime … and murder.
(2) Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi (1986)
Publisher’s Description: This is the true-crime bestseller that was the basis for Martin Scorsese’s film masterpiece GoodFellas,which brought to life the violence, the excess, the families, the wives and girlfriends, the drugs, the payoffs, the paybacks, the jail time, and the Feds…with Henry Hill’s crackling narration drawn straight out of Wiseguy and overseeing all the unforgettable action. Read it and experience the secret life inside the mob—from one who’s lived it.
(3) Five Families by Selwyn Raab (2005)
Publisher’s Description: Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo and Lucchese. For decades these Five Families ruled New York and built the American Mafia (or Cosa Nostra) into an underworld empire. Today, the Mafia is an endangered species, battered and beleaguered by aggressive investigators, incompetent leadership, betrayals and generational changes that produced violent and unreliable leaders and recruits. A twenty year assault against the five families in particular blossomed into the most successful law enforcement campaign of the last century. Five Families is the vivid story of the rise and fall of New York’s premier dons from Lucky Luciano to Paul Castellano to John Gotti and more. The book also brings the reader right up to the possible resurgence of the Mafia as the FBI and local law enforcement agencies turn their attention to homeland security and away from organized crime.
(4) Havana Nocturne by TJ English (2009)
Publisher’s Description: To underworld kingpins Meyer Lansky and Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Cuba was the greatest hope for the future of American organized crime in the post-Prohibition years. In the 1950s, the Mob—with the corrupt, repressive government of brutal Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in its pocket—owned Havana’s biggest luxury hotels and casinos, launching an unprecedented tourism boom complete with the most lavish entertainment, top-drawer celebrities, gorgeous women, and gambling galore. But Mob dreams collided with those of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others who would lead an uprising of the country’s disenfranchised against Batista’s hated government and its foreign partners—an epic cultural battle that bestselling author T. J. English captures here in all its sexy, decadent, ugly glory.
(5) The Sinatra Club by Sal Polisi (2012)
Publisher’s Description: The Mob was the biggest, richest business in America—too dangerous and too deadly to fail. Until it was destroyed from within by drugs, greed, and the decline of its traditional crime Family values. And by guys like Sal Polisi. He was born in Brooklyn—the same place that spawned Murder, Inc., Al Capone, and John Gotti, the future Mob godfather who became his friend. Polisi was raised on a family legacy that led him into the life he loved as a member of the Colombos, one of the New York Mob’s feared Five Families, and came of age when the Mafia was at the height of its vast wealth and power. Known by his Mob name, Sally Ubatz (“Crazy Sally”), he ran an illegal after-hours gambling den, The Sinatra Club, that was a magic kingdom of crime and a hangout for up-and-coming mobsters like Gotti and the three wiseguys immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas—Henry Hill, Jimmy Burke, and Tommy DeSimone. For Polisi, the nonstop thrills of glory days spent robbing banks, hijacking trucks, pulling daring heists—and getting away with it all, thanks to cops and public servants corrupted by Mob money—were fleeting. When he was busted for drug trafficking, and already sickened by the bloodbath that engulfed the Mob as it teetered toward extinction, he flipped and became one of a breed he had loathed all his life—a rat. In this riveting, pulse-pounding, and, at times, darkly hilarious first-person chronicle of his brazen crimes, wild sexual escapades, and personal tragedies, Polisi tells his story of life inside the New York Mob in a voice straight from the streets. With shocking candor, he draws on a hard-won knowledge of Mob history to paint a never before- seen picture of the inner workings of the Mob and the larger-than-life characters who populated a once extensive and secret underworld that, thanks to guys like him, no longer exists.