counter create hit Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob

Availability: Ready to download

Best-selling author Russell Shorto, praised for his incisive works of narrative history, never thought to write about his own past. He grew up knowing his grandfather and namesake was a small-town mob boss but maintained an unspoken family vow of silence. Then an elderly relative prodded: You’re a writer—what are you gonna do about the story? Smalltime is a mob story straig Best-selling author Russell Shorto, praised for his incisive works of narrative history, never thought to write about his own past. He grew up knowing his grandfather and namesake was a small-town mob boss but maintained an unspoken family vow of silence. Then an elderly relative prodded: You’re a writer—what are you gonna do about the story? Smalltime is a mob story straight out of central casting—but with a difference, for the small-town mob, which stretched from Schenectady to Fresno, is a mostly unknown world. The location is the brawny postwar factory town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The setting is City Cigar, a storefront next to City Hall, behind which Russ and his brother-in-law, “Little Joe,” operate a gambling empire and effectively run the town. Smalltime is a riveting American immigrant story that travels back to Risorgimento Sicily, to the ancient, dusty, hill-town home of Antonino Sciotto, the author’s great-grandfather, who leaves his wife and children in grinding poverty for a new life—and wife—in a Pennsylvania mining town. It’s a tale of Italian Americans living in squalor and prejudice, and of the rise of Russ, who, like thousands of other young men, created a copy of the American establishment that excluded him. Smalltime draws an intimate portrait of a mobster and his wife, sudden riches, and the toll a lawless life takes on one family. But Smalltime is something more. The author enlists his ailing father—Tony, the mobster’s son—as his partner in the search for their troubled patriarch. As secrets are revealed and Tony’s health deteriorates, the book become an urgent and intimate exploration of three generations of the American immigrant experience. Moving, wryly funny, and richly detailed, Smalltime is an irresistible memoir by a masterful writer of historical narrative.


Compare

Best-selling author Russell Shorto, praised for his incisive works of narrative history, never thought to write about his own past. He grew up knowing his grandfather and namesake was a small-town mob boss but maintained an unspoken family vow of silence. Then an elderly relative prodded: You’re a writer—what are you gonna do about the story? Smalltime is a mob story straig Best-selling author Russell Shorto, praised for his incisive works of narrative history, never thought to write about his own past. He grew up knowing his grandfather and namesake was a small-town mob boss but maintained an unspoken family vow of silence. Then an elderly relative prodded: You’re a writer—what are you gonna do about the story? Smalltime is a mob story straight out of central casting—but with a difference, for the small-town mob, which stretched from Schenectady to Fresno, is a mostly unknown world. The location is the brawny postwar factory town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The setting is City Cigar, a storefront next to City Hall, behind which Russ and his brother-in-law, “Little Joe,” operate a gambling empire and effectively run the town. Smalltime is a riveting American immigrant story that travels back to Risorgimento Sicily, to the ancient, dusty, hill-town home of Antonino Sciotto, the author’s great-grandfather, who leaves his wife and children in grinding poverty for a new life—and wife—in a Pennsylvania mining town. It’s a tale of Italian Americans living in squalor and prejudice, and of the rise of Russ, who, like thousands of other young men, created a copy of the American establishment that excluded him. Smalltime draws an intimate portrait of a mobster and his wife, sudden riches, and the toll a lawless life takes on one family. But Smalltime is something more. The author enlists his ailing father—Tony, the mobster’s son—as his partner in the search for their troubled patriarch. As secrets are revealed and Tony’s health deteriorates, the book become an urgent and intimate exploration of three generations of the American immigrant experience. Moving, wryly funny, and richly detailed, Smalltime is an irresistible memoir by a masterful writer of historical narrative.

30 review for Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Well written family memoir and history of underworld activity in Johnstown, PA and how it evolved throughout smallish cities countrywide. Some of the family material goes on and on, but good nonetheless.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is the second son/father memoir I've read this month after several other non-fiction. This is the one I will remember for detail. I could go very long and interesting in this review/reaction because of my own Sicilian 1st generation, 2nd generation immigrant offspring history. His were Northeast tip of Sicily to PA area, especially in Pittsburg and near to it within mining and steel country towns. His territory became the Johnstown sector. Mine were Campofelici de Rocello outside of Palermo This is the second son/father memoir I've read this month after several other non-fiction. This is the one I will remember for detail. I could go very long and interesting in this review/reaction because of my own Sicilian 1st generation, 2nd generation immigrant offspring history. His were Northeast tip of Sicily to PA area, especially in Pittsburg and near to it within mining and steel country towns. His territory became the Johnstown sector. Mine were Campofelici de Rocello outside of Palermo to New York to Chicago but very similar. Although my people came about 8 or 9 years after his did. I won't be long, because there is too much to tell in my reaction. Specifics only with a few spoilers but there is MUCH more here than just the particulars I mention. Read the book. It's not an easy read because of all the intermixtures of dozens of people who usually in 3 generations own the same names as their grandfather. Same here. But also because of the patterns of job available to Italian/Sicilian immigrants at that time too. They were hired last. After Irish, after Blacks, after anyone. They had the lowest wages recorded for physical work in the USA for 20 or 30 years just after the turn of the century. Very few knew how to read or write in any language. The historical part of the book with exact detailing for his great-grandfather's life was a 5 star section. He died on his return to Sicily to bring back money for his wife and 2 kids there. He was stabbed to death for the cash he was carrying in his 40's by the old friends from his hill town in Sicily. But he left Russell's (the author named Russell) grandfather as a half grown child in the USA with his American Sicilian speaking family. (Most of the Sicilian men had at least 2 wives on different continents most usually. My husband's grandfather had 3 different families. One in Calabria, one in New York, one in Chicago- over his lifetime. And he named the boys the same names on top of it.) Not my own birth family at all- my Grandmother and Grandfather left Sicily together as teen agers and never went back, not even once. They also moved out of the Italian neighborhood immediately. My Nonna was smart and did NOT like the gambling and scams. She hated the Black Hand and wanted nothing to do with it. She got embedded within some of the other traditional superstition and healing (laying of hands) nonsense at times but that was it. But unlike this book's father/ son combo here she did it voluntarily and almost immediately. In this book Tony (Russell, the author's father) was on the bridge of getting in to the same lines of work and skills as his father but his father denied him placement. He kicked him out and would not let him stay near the Cigar store. The outcome was similar though. Because Tony and Russell were not incorporated into Mob or scam corporation life. But they did become member name known and recognized many associations of this towns and of the county or larger city area for territory. It was always The Numbers or horses or some other dice or cards regime. Slot machines and drugs came much later. This book is the analysis of what happened and why. And where. And how. The women's stories are especially poignant. Men didn't do this in such intricate organizational webs by themselves. And I especially liked how all the details and facts are recorded in nature and process over the years here for the Democratic Party tie ins and complete allowances by governmental and police powers for this system to operate at its best. There is a middle half of the book which is a terribly difficult read. So many names and tie ins and front business or bar openings or disputes that many will not relish to any degree anywhere close to a 4 star read. I understand how that was then. Also with changing jobs and how their domestic lives nearly always panned out. So for my own read, much of this was easier to understand for full cognition of rules and habits than it would be for most casual readers. Especially the babies being given away. And how Tony understands how he has two additional half brothers finally by the time he is past middle age. One being in family raised, one not. This happened within my husband's family too with the death of two young wives, one in childbirth. It is just how it had to be in their eyes when a secretary, nanny or other wife got pregnant. Thus it is extremely difficult to appropriate the bloodlines from a perspective of 2020 readers' eyes. And all of these people had broken English in the 1st generation or none at all. So they were always starting their own businesses (retail stores of every ilk or cart) because no one would ever hire them. There is one orphan from Sicily girl who became the 2nd no ceremony wife who had numerous children and another marriage after he was stabbed to death who lived 70 years in PA and never spoke any English. (Mary but he called her "Chinky".) So it is a difficult book to know whose on 1st or who stole 2nd. But it is easier for me to understand the emotional mores in some of this than it will be for the average reader. This isn't a long book but it is not one you will fly threw in any sense. The author is a skilled writer, it's his trade. You can tell. He also puts the onus of the whole almost entirely on his own Dad's plate which is well done. He didn't "take over" in the legacy/aftermath of fallout as the other memoirs like this I have read. A very good thing. This was done with many witness and quoted conversations. Nearly everyone male Shorto died fairly young. Just like my Sicilian family exactly. And until his own Father's death, I don't think this author understood who had rejected whom either. Now he does. I almost gave this book 5 stars for the portion of Italian Unification period history here. It was a total 5 star detailed one that rarely, rarely is ever visited. When Italy became unified, it devastated the already worse economics of starving in Europe that existed in Sicily. It caused/ finished what invasion after invasion and stealing of the populace to Mideastern slavery systems had begun. The dialect is another language and people were down to eating the stucco powder from their walls. Sicily emptied not by any accident. My own Nonna and Nonno lived on mountain green weeds and leftover pasta water for half of their meals. Unlike these people who had fares, they never went back. After the American Civil War period up until about 1920 Sicily was the emptying internal for every horrendous reason. Cheapest labor went to building in the American South too. Many before 1900 came from Sicily. There is an entire branch of my husband and son's family (same exact name too) in New Orleans today. It's ironic that this particular family original BIG MAN patriarch died in violence at the Sicilian spot he was born.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my honest review. Russell Shorto is known for his books of narrative history and this time the subject is his own family. He delves into the past to see what he can discover about his grandfather, also Russell Shorto, who he was named after. His grandfather was known to be a small town mobster and it was after a meeting with his mother's cousin, Frankie, t Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my honest review. Russell Shorto is known for his books of narrative history and this time the subject is his own family. He delves into the past to see what he can discover about his grandfather, also Russell Shorto, who he was named after. His grandfather was known to be a small town mobster and it was after a meeting with his mother's cousin, Frankie, that Shorto decided there was a story to tell and it is quite a story. Supposedly his grandfather helped to run an operation that generated about $40,000,000 over a period of 15 years-the equivalent of about $370,000,000 today. There are also stories about his grandfather's personal life, photographs and drawings and, of course, there is a murder. The author's father, Tony, was his partner in researching the book and this book is his story as much as it is about Russell Shorto, the grandfather and Russell Shorto, the author. It is a well researched, touching story and I recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    Russell Shorto, the author, is not to be confused with his grandfather, Russell Shorto, the Smalltime Mafioso who was the No. 2 man in the small steel mill town of Johnstown between 1946 through 1960. This is the elder Shorto’s story. But more interesting, it is also the story of how and why the mafia evolved in Sicily and then moved around the world. Shortly after the American Civil War, Sicilians were starving at home. The US Southern states needed workers to replace their former slaves at cut- Russell Shorto, the author, is not to be confused with his grandfather, Russell Shorto, the Smalltime Mafioso who was the No. 2 man in the small steel mill town of Johnstown between 1946 through 1960. This is the elder Shorto’s story. But more interesting, it is also the story of how and why the mafia evolved in Sicily and then moved around the world. Shortly after the American Civil War, Sicilians were starving at home. The US Southern states needed workers to replace their former slaves at cut-rate prices. The Sicilians, who were always a practical lot, jumped on the chance to not watch their families slowly die. "More than 100,000 young Sicilian men went to Louisiana. They worked the sugarcane alongside black sharecroppers or took the places that former slaves had abandoned [...] They became objects of degradation and disdain to white Louisianans and far beyond. The eleven men who were hanged in the largest mass lynching in American history—in New Orleans in 1891—were not black but Italian." However, Shorto’s ancestors went a different route. His great-grandfather worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, which paid considerably better. $5 a day. Voyages from Sicily to America cost only $10 so it was easy for him to bring his lover to be with him in America. They soon had nine children including the elder Russell. With prohibition right around the corner, the Italian mafia was perched to make its move into money, power, and respect. Smalltime starts out really slow with the story of the elder Russell’s last few days working for the mob. A killing is foreshadowed and then there is look back into the history of the mafia and Sicily. Usually the opening story is enthralling and then you are forced to slog through the history. However, in this book, the history made for some intriguing and compelling reading. I found it much more interesting than the memoir. Perhaps this occurred because the author has written many narrative histories before. Regardless, if you want to read a “from the bottom to the top” immigration narrative filled with dreams and aspirations, you must read Smalltime. 4 stars! Thanks to W.W. Norton & Company and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for a review on Bookbrowse.com. Author Russell Shorto, whose oeuvre is narrative history, accomplishes three things with his latest work. First, he presents an engaging narrative history of a small town mob unit operating in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from World War II until the 1960s. The star of this story is another Russell Shorto: his grandfather, a second generation Italian immigrant. The story also focuses secondly, on the Italian -- spec I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for a review on Bookbrowse.com. Author Russell Shorto, whose oeuvre is narrative history, accomplishes three things with his latest work. First, he presents an engaging narrative history of a small town mob unit operating in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from World War II until the 1960s. The star of this story is another Russell Shorto: his grandfather, a second generation Italian immigrant. The story also focuses secondly, on the Italian -- specifically the Sicilian -- immigrant experience and its attempt to merge itself into US culture. Gambling and liquor apparently helped. Finally, Shorto presents a fraught family history. He explores the relationship of his father and his grandfather. and his grandfather's relationship with his grandmother, as they say, warts and all. The book is short, reads easily, and draws excellent and interesting characters. I enjoyed this one!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Patti Parker Markgraf

    Review of Smalltime When I started reading this book, I was a bit distracted. After I read about 50 pages, I decided that I was missing integral, pertinent information and started again. I cannot say enough how very glad I did just that—started again. I really loved this book!! Rich in history I never knew (how much prejudice Italian immigrants—Sicilians in particular—faced coming to the US during the early 1900s), big personalities that I often loved and/or despised. What I loved most was the J Review of Smalltime When I started reading this book, I was a bit distracted. After I read about 50 pages, I decided that I was missing integral, pertinent information and started again. I cannot say enough how very glad I did just that—started again. I really loved this book!! Rich in history I never knew (how much prejudice Italian immigrants—Sicilians in particular—faced coming to the US during the early 1900s), big personalities that I often loved and/or despised. What I loved most was the Journey Russell and his father Tony took in the creation of this memoir. The “righting” of wrongs and the discovery of who they were despite and in spite of their roots. Thank you for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Finkelstein

    Russell Shorto wrote this sentence as a tribute to his father. He could have written it about all of our fathers: "Thank you for showing me how to do history, which, it suddenly occurs to me, is nothing if it doesn't involve a consideration of how human beings try to balance their inevitable failures and stay afloat amid currents that are destined to sink them." Russell Shorto wrote this sentence as a tribute to his father. He could have written it about all of our fathers: "Thank you for showing me how to do history, which, it suddenly occurs to me, is nothing if it doesn't involve a consideration of how human beings try to balance their inevitable failures and stay afloat amid currents that are destined to sink them."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Pacifico

    Big story about small town Very interesting story that paints a big picture about a small town. Well structured to give historical perspective but not read as a history book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Easy read disagreed with some of the "facts" Easy read disagreed with some of the "facts"

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Nice book. The author writes the history of the American branch of his family, originally called the Sciotto's (hence Shorto) from Sicily. And especially his granddad and his dad and the relationships between them. And the story of Italians in the US, who were not totally welcome. And the story of black collar America in the fifties, the pre rustbelt days. I suppose it is called Smalltime, because the mobsters in this book don't traffick drugs or women, they just cheat with gambling and there is Nice book. The author writes the history of the American branch of his family, originally called the Sciotto's (hence Shorto) from Sicily. And especially his granddad and his dad and the relationships between them. And the story of Italians in the US, who were not totally welcome. And the story of black collar America in the fifties, the pre rustbelt days. I suppose it is called Smalltime, because the mobsters in this book don't traffick drugs or women, they just cheat with gambling and there is only one person that gets killed. It is an oral history, where the author Shorto talks with his dead and countless retired, ailing mobsters and family members, who -especially the mobsters - jump at the occasion to share their war stories. And it is also a story about family members who don't know how to relate to each other. Granddad Shorto is an womanizing alcoholic, who doesn't want his son to join the mob. Shorto's dad at first resents that, but then turns away from his dad, and author Shorto does not really understand his own dad, who after first being successful in business, preaching that "impossible" is not a word (he has his son cut it out from the family dictionary), after going bankrupt resigns to a life of acceptance and forgiveness. Until he finally understands at his father's deathbed. Schmalzy, but still convincing. Nice, both social history and family history. Not just a factual history, but an attempt to understand why family members don't accept each other and why they can't express their love.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Russel Shorto’s Smalltime, is a captivating and engaging family story of Russell Shorto’s relatives’ and friends’ deep involvement, even if involuntary at times, with the mob. The story stretches from the immigration of great-grandfather, who leaves Italy and his life and family to find a new one in Johnstown Pennsylvania, and progresses through the next generations and how they survived and strives with the help of the mob in small town America, but not without disappointments and hardships. Wh Russel Shorto’s Smalltime, is a captivating and engaging family story of Russell Shorto’s relatives’ and friends’ deep involvement, even if involuntary at times, with the mob. The story stretches from the immigration of great-grandfather, who leaves Italy and his life and family to find a new one in Johnstown Pennsylvania, and progresses through the next generations and how they survived and strives with the help of the mob in small town America, but not without disappointments and hardships. What makes the book so engrossing is the author’s research and reliance especially on his father, who a forms writing partnership with the author to explore family memories, and interviews not only with his family and friends, but with others who knew the author’s ancestors and their associates who were helped by the family though time and if they had any association with the mob. Amazingly the author admits to missing pieces of the story. A highly recommended memoir that is rich in detail but offers humor and is written in a pace that keeps the reader involved and discovering and appreciating the strength of the family. An interesting side note while looking biographical information on the author, I found an interesting interview in BookPage (https://tinyurl.com/frczrd8), in which Russell Shorto discusses eight true factors that led to the growth of the mob in America.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Krista theliterateporcupine

    This was not the best book to start in the middle of a reading slump... I felt like I had to force myself to finish it, even though the story is very interesting. Had I not been in a weird mood, this would have been fantastic. The Shorto family past has been talked about in hushed tones for decades. At the encouragement of a relative, however, Russell begins to research his family history and ask questions. What he presents the reader with is a rich history of his family, from his ancestor's immi This was not the best book to start in the middle of a reading slump... I felt like I had to force myself to finish it, even though the story is very interesting. Had I not been in a weird mood, this would have been fantastic. The Shorto family past has been talked about in hushed tones for decades. At the encouragement of a relative, however, Russell begins to research his family history and ask questions. What he presents the reader with is a rich history of his family, from his ancestor's immigration, to hustling in Johnstown, PA, to present day. In addition to writing this book, Shorto was able to form a bond with his father that he had never had before. I loved the beginning and end of this book. It was fascinating to read how a poor Italian immigrant family made it rich through small cons and hustles during the Prohibition. The middle of this book did drag for me, and it can get confusing at times to remember everyone's names. All in all, however, this is a solid and well-researched book on family history and the rise of the local Italian mobster. Informative, Precise, and Interesting, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in family histories and Italian-American immigrant stories.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Francis

    I guess the dark side of me finds a story based on the mob intriguing. It is for this reason that I selected an ARC from book browse for review. It was a revelation for me to read about Italians in America in the 1920’s and discrimination they experienced. Comparisons were made of Italians to blacks being enslaved. As I disagree with this comparison, simply because Italians were quickly accepted into society and assimilated quicker because of skin color, blacks were oppressed fo another 100 year I guess the dark side of me finds a story based on the mob intriguing. It is for this reason that I selected an ARC from book browse for review. It was a revelation for me to read about Italians in America in the 1920’s and discrimination they experienced. Comparisons were made of Italians to blacks being enslaved. As I disagree with this comparison, simply because Italians were quickly accepted into society and assimilated quicker because of skin color, blacks were oppressed fo another 100 years and counting . I am not discounting the fact that Italians were lynched also and suffered racism in America. I also learnt of the consequences of prohibition: it gave rise to pre mafia and organized crime. Russell Shorto’s Smalltime is however captivating about his grandfather and great uncle lives of slot machines and pinball, located in a factory town of Pennsylvania where a gambling empire runs the town. The story travels back to Sicily where the authors great grandfather came from and travels to America. An intriguing read of a mobster and his family sudden riches and the toll a lawless life takes on the family.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I've always equated the mob being in large cities, i.e. New York, parts of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Chicago, Vegas, Los Angeles to name a few but not in small places like Johnstown, PA. Of course those of us who love history and heard of Johnstown Pennsylvania immediately think of the flood that devastated that region after the dam broke following a ton of rain but not the mafia being there. But there they were reporting to the bigger guys in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Russ Shorto I've always equated the mob being in large cities, i.e. New York, parts of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Chicago, Vegas, Los Angeles to name a few but not in small places like Johnstown, PA. Of course those of us who love history and heard of Johnstown Pennsylvania immediately think of the flood that devastated that region after the dam broke following a ton of rain but not the mafia being there. But there they were reporting to the bigger guys in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Russ Shorto's grandfather may have been one of the big players in Johnstown but like the title of his book he was smalltime but this book isn't smalltime. Touching upon family relationships, the affairs his grandfather had that produced other children and the history of the mob in Johnstown made for a very good read. Russ Shorto starts with a murder and while that murder was never solved he does include some speculation on the part of a longtime compatriot of the family as to who did it. At the end of the day there are at least three people who know who did the deed...God, the person who got whacked and the person or persons who committed the deed. It's still fascinating reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    mark w sweeney

    Memory Lane I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting was my hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The characters were the fathers and mothers of kids I grew up with, went to school with and had many close friendships with. It was a great time and place to grow up. The book was well researched and painted an accurate picture of the way things were. The only thing I could find fault with was the mention of a .48, twice. Anybody familiar with handguns would know that is not a caliber that anyone wou Memory Lane I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting was my hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The characters were the fathers and mothers of kids I grew up with, went to school with and had many close friendships with. It was a great time and place to grow up. The book was well researched and painted an accurate picture of the way things were. The only thing I could find fault with was the mention of a .48, twice. Anybody familiar with handguns would know that is not a caliber that anyone would recognize. I'm guessing he meant either a .38 or .45. But that is a small mistake that can be quickly forgotten once you involve yourself in the father\son dynamics that drive the story. This relationship is woven in a way that is relatable and understandable to anyone who is committed to making sure their children have better lives than they did. The story shows a time when men struggled with displays of emotion and affection and how this effected behavior. Well done Russell Short.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    4-1/2 stars. Shorto gives the reader much more than expected from a book about the mob. This isn't The Godfather - it's about the smalltime local underbosses in Pennsylvania towns outside NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago and the like, one of whom happens to be Shorto's grandfather. The author allows the reader to accompany Shorto and his father (who was never a mob member) on their hunt for the history of his grandfather as a local boss, interviewing many relatives and contemporaries of the man, eager 4-1/2 stars. Shorto gives the reader much more than expected from a book about the mob. This isn't The Godfather - it's about the smalltime local underbosses in Pennsylvania towns outside NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago and the like, one of whom happens to be Shorto's grandfather. The author allows the reader to accompany Shorto and his father (who was never a mob member) on their hunt for the history of his grandfather as a local boss, interviewing many relatives and contemporaries of the man, eager to spill the beans. As he writes, he provides the reader with a social history of the Italian immigrant group that the more established "Americans" tried to bar from attaining the American Dream. The result? This group, undaunted, created their own version of the American success story, fashioned on how they saw the cutthroat businesses they worked for (mining) operated. It's a story that is fascinating in its telling.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tarifa

    Intriguing Read Thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially since it captures an intriguing story about "small_time" organizations being run in my hometown of Johnstown, Pa. Mr. Shorto successfully paints a picture of the undercurrents of criminal activity by weaving his apparent sense of humor and nostalgic sensitivity through facts based on well researched archives, police records and government documents that corroborate most of the fascinating interviews he extols from his father, old associates Intriguing Read Thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially since it captures an intriguing story about "small_time" organizations being run in my hometown of Johnstown, Pa. Mr. Shorto successfully paints a picture of the undercurrents of criminal activity by weaving his apparent sense of humor and nostalgic sensitivity through facts based on well researched archives, police records and government documents that corroborate most of the fascinating interviews he extols from his father, old associates of his grandfather and other interesting characters that were in the know of these activities. Wherever you're from, this us an outstanding book that has historical implications of life in small towns across America where many ethnicities are intertwined through cultural loyalties and assimilating into working class communities. Congratulations to Russell Shorto for capturing the essence of this period of time in Johnstown, Pa and other like communities in America.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    SMALLTIME by Russell Shorto Lots of individual vignettes are interesting in this memoir. Many individuals and their stories make for a challenging read trying to keep them all straight. Shorto has written a detailed narrative genealogy of his father’s family in an attempt to discover who murdered Pippy and to discover the “real” person who was his grandfather. I found it difficult to maintain interest in the book as Shorto leapt from person to person and time frame to time frame. A listing of the SMALLTIME by Russell Shorto Lots of individual vignettes are interesting in this memoir. Many individuals and their stories make for a challenging read trying to keep them all straight. Shorto has written a detailed narrative genealogy of his father’s family in an attempt to discover who murdered Pippy and to discover the “real” person who was his grandfather. I found it difficult to maintain interest in the book as Shorto leapt from person to person and time frame to time frame. A listing of the numerous characters with their relationship to Shorto would have been helpful. I did learn a great deal about small time criminals and how the numbers racket and other “mob” games worked. I do not think my book groups would be interested in discussing this book, but some folks would find it fascinating as an individual read. 3 of 5 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    B

    This book got better and better as it went along. What an all encompassing family saga. Best part is it is all real - real people, real lives, choices, experiences, decisions, families, mistakes and on and on. Once I was into the book, say after the first 40 pages or so, I couldn't put it down. I can't believe this is the author's real family history, and to a huge extent, our nation's real history, lumps and all. Mr Shorto wove a real tale, and added his personal reactions in just the right way This book got better and better as it went along. What an all encompassing family saga. Best part is it is all real - real people, real lives, choices, experiences, decisions, families, mistakes and on and on. Once I was into the book, say after the first 40 pages or so, I couldn't put it down. I can't believe this is the author's real family history, and to a huge extent, our nation's real history, lumps and all. Mr Shorto wove a real tale, and added his personal reactions in just the right ways throughout. I heard Mr Shorto on NPR recently, and loved his interview and am glad I tracked down the book. I read the hardcover library edition. P19 - "The mob-Russ and Little Joe-provided a service; a public utility as many saw it." P19 - "Gambling was the real revenue strem. And just like staterun lotteries today, the mob offered customers a variety of ways to lose their money." P 89 - his family's spaghetti and meatballs recipe!!! P 161 - "Only thing true in the The Godfather was when he said the higher up you go, no matter what business, the bigger the thieves. Even in the Catholic Church. Especially in the Catholic Church." P 240 - "Thank you for showing me how to do history, which it suddenly occurs to me, is nothing if it doesn't involve a consideration of how human beings try to balance their inevitable failures and stay afloatt amid currents that are destined to sink them." FRANK SINATRA!! and C'e la Luna Mezz'o Mare

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bill O'driscoll

    Excellent social history mixed with family history as the acclaimed history writer explores the life of his grandfather, who was the right hand of Johnstown's top mobster of the mid-20th century, and his father -- the mobster's son. Fleshed out with plenty of documentation but also, most notably, personal interviews with aging associations of his grandfather and father. Shorto tells the story of one small-town mob, while acknowledging that most towns Johnstown's size had something similar, even Excellent social history mixed with family history as the acclaimed history writer explores the life of his grandfather, who was the right hand of Johnstown's top mobster of the mid-20th century, and his father -- the mobster's son. Fleshed out with plenty of documentation but also, most notably, personal interviews with aging associations of his grandfather and father. Shorto tells the story of one small-town mob, while acknowledging that most towns Johnstown's size had something similar, even as he unravels various mysteries surrounding his own relationship with his father (which have their roots in his father's relationship with his old man). Informative, diverting, and unexpectedly moving.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Johnson

    From the beginning of this book I felt like Mr. Shorto was sitting in the room with me telling this story. I now have a greater understanding of the inner workings of "mob business". Mr. Shorto's relatives & associates along with their counterparts all over the country are the capillaries of the "organized families". The workings of small time crime bosses provide what's necessary for the bosses we hear about, the ones portrayed in movies & novels, to carry on their business. Also, there is a le From the beginning of this book I felt like Mr. Shorto was sitting in the room with me telling this story. I now have a greater understanding of the inner workings of "mob business". Mr. Shorto's relatives & associates along with their counterparts all over the country are the capillaries of the "organized families". The workings of small time crime bosses provide what's necessary for the bosses we hear about, the ones portrayed in movies & novels, to carry on their business. Also, there is a lesson on the arrival of Italians into America & how the mafia evolved. It's a very entertaining book & I look forward to reading Mr. Shorto's other works.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Johnett

    This is an interesting book to think about. I’ve read several reviews that spoke about the first half (which reads like a journalistic feature article about the family history) being so much better than the second half (which is more about the author’s father’s life specifically). While the whole book is interesting, I think it works best when the author lets down his guard a bit and we learn more about him and his father as real people. Shorto’s a skilled craftsman as a journalist but becomes a This is an interesting book to think about. I’ve read several reviews that spoke about the first half (which reads like a journalistic feature article about the family history) being so much better than the second half (which is more about the author’s father’s life specifically). While the whole book is interesting, I think it works best when the author lets down his guard a bit and we learn more about him and his father as real people. Shorto’s a skilled craftsman as a journalist but becomes a better author when he allows emotion into the story. Either way, a four-star read is a solid recommendation. — js

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A fascinating history, on a great topic not often addressed. It's full of both flavor and fact. A couple of questions were left unresolved or contradictory for me, about why the author's father lied about wanting to be in the mafia, and why, if the author's parents didn't want the grandfather in the author's life (the only memorable meeting being the bestowing of a heavy watch), the author's father complained that the grandfather didn't want to be involved in the lives of his grandchildren. The A fascinating history, on a great topic not often addressed. It's full of both flavor and fact. A couple of questions were left unresolved or contradictory for me, about why the author's father lied about wanting to be in the mafia, and why, if the author's parents didn't want the grandfather in the author's life (the only memorable meeting being the bestowing of a heavy watch), the author's father complained that the grandfather didn't want to be involved in the lives of his grandchildren. The question of who murdered someone is fine to be unresolved in a book about true crime (and it was here), but not questions of internal narrative consistency.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian Sandor

    Excellent story of the author's family and the role of his grandfather in the mob in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It is less a crime history (there is a good bit of it in this book) than a discovering of the history of his family. I was very interested in this book because my mother's family knew the Shortos and my mother had heard things when she was growing up in the same neighborhood. I was also not surprised when a distant relative's name popped up in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed both the hist Excellent story of the author's family and the role of his grandfather in the mob in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It is less a crime history (there is a good bit of it in this book) than a discovering of the history of his family. I was very interested in this book because my mother's family knew the Shortos and my mother had heard things when she was growing up in the same neighborhood. I was also not surprised when a distant relative's name popped up in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed both the history of an era of Johnstown I only heard bits and pieces of, but also the family saga. .

  25. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

    This was a fairly enjoyable personal story of the author’s father and his associates in a Pennsylvania working town. The title is quite apt – it’s less Goodfellas or The Godfather and more the somewhat depressing tale of the not-so-glory years of running numbers and pool halls / strip bars. It’s a space where the author pieces together the stories from the last survivors of the time where there was organized illicit activity that was not openly discussed and which he pieces together from a few o This was a fairly enjoyable personal story of the author’s father and his associates in a Pennsylvania working town. The title is quite apt – it’s less Goodfellas or The Godfather and more the somewhat depressing tale of the not-so-glory years of running numbers and pool halls / strip bars. It’s a space where the author pieces together the stories from the last survivors of the time where there was organized illicit activity that was not openly discussed and which he pieces together from a few old timers in their last days.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary Robideaux

    I love memoirs and I love small stories from history. This book covers both of those bases. Russell Shorto is a journalist and uses his investigative skills to delve into his own family. His grandfather was the local mob boss in Johnstown, PA in the mid-20th century. The story of racketeering writ small is very interesting, but along the way, the author begins to apply his probing to his own family. That story becomes even more interesting and convoluted than the one about the mob. It is told in I love memoirs and I love small stories from history. This book covers both of those bases. Russell Shorto is a journalist and uses his investigative skills to delve into his own family. His grandfather was the local mob boss in Johnstown, PA in the mid-20th century. The story of racketeering writ small is very interesting, but along the way, the author begins to apply his probing to his own family. That story becomes even more interesting and convoluted than the one about the mob. It is told in a style I would call "How I created this book." Good job

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joe Guydo

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading Smalltime. It is informative, introspective, entertaining and eye opening. Russell Shorto’s hometown of Johnstown Pennsylvania just happens to be my hometown. I know, or know of, many of the people, places and events in this well crafted memoir. Anyone, and everyone who is from Johnstown should read this book....regardless of your era. However, you don’t have to be a J-town native to appreciate a good piece of investigative writing. I think you will find the confirma I thoroughly enjoyed reading Smalltime. It is informative, introspective, entertaining and eye opening. Russell Shorto’s hometown of Johnstown Pennsylvania just happens to be my hometown. I know, or know of, many of the people, places and events in this well crafted memoir. Anyone, and everyone who is from Johnstown should read this book....regardless of your era. However, you don’t have to be a J-town native to appreciate a good piece of investigative writing. I think you will find the confirmation of the murmurings of The Mob presence in Johnstown as intriguing as I did.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A quick read, but well written, well crafted. Poignant observations of men in their 80s remembering their younger days. I liked the history--how the "mafia" (whose original meaning might be "place of refuge"?) made sense for people who were marginalized and had good reason to mistrust authority, and who weren't doing anything much different than the Astors/Rockefellers/etc. Johnstown, PA, as it used to be, came alive. There's even a footnote with a quick recipe for the family meatballs & sauce. A quick read, but well written, well crafted. Poignant observations of men in their 80s remembering their younger days. I liked the history--how the "mafia" (whose original meaning might be "place of refuge"?) made sense for people who were marginalized and had good reason to mistrust authority, and who weren't doing anything much different than the Astors/Rockefellers/etc. Johnstown, PA, as it used to be, came alive. There's even a footnote with a quick recipe for the family meatballs & sauce.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    An interesting family history of small town crime boss and his family. (I grew up in Cambria County. ) The author's father was a complicated man, to say the least. I totally enjoyed the history in Sicily before coming to America and the history of the Italians that settled in the area. It brought to light the prejudices in the early to mid 1900s toward Italians. (KKK ?). Shorto heavily researched this book. An interesting family history of small town crime boss and his family. (I grew up in Cambria County. ) The author's father was a complicated man, to say the least. I totally enjoyed the history in Sicily before coming to America and the history of the Italians that settled in the area. It brought to light the prejudices in the early to mid 1900s toward Italians. (KKK ?). Shorto heavily researched this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    timv

    A story about a mob owned gambling empire in one steel town post World War II up to 1960. It is run by the authors great uncle and grandfather. Another major portion of the work involves the author coming to grips with the behavior of his grandfather and the broken relationship between his father and grandfather. It is well researched and well written. Lots of spaghetti eating, smoking, drinking, and cheating.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.