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Before the notorious Five Families who dominated U.S. organized crime for a bloody half century, there was the one-fingered criminal genius Giuseppe Morello–known as “The Clutch Hand”–and his lethal coterie of associates. In The First Family, historian, journalist, and New York Times bestselling author Mike Dash brings to life this little-known story, following the rise of Before the notorious Five Families who dominated U.S. organized crime for a bloody half century, there was the one-fingered criminal genius Giuseppe Morello–known as “The Clutch Hand”–and his lethal coterie of associates. In The First Family, historian, journalist, and New York Times bestselling author Mike Dash brings to life this little-known story, following the rise of the Mafia in America from the 1890s to the 1920s, from the lawless villages of Sicily to the streets of Little Italy. Using an impressive array of primary sources–hitherto untapped Secret Service archives, prison records, trial transcripts, and interviews with surviving family members–this is the first Mafia history that applies scholarly rigor to the story of the Morello syndicate and the birth of organized crime on these shores. Progressing from small-time scams to counterfeiting rings to even bigger criminal enterprises, Giuseppe Morello exerted ruthless control of Italian neighborhoods in New York, and through adroit coordination with other Sicilian crime families, his Clutch Hand soon reached far beyond the Hudson River. The men who battled Morello’s crews were themselves colorful and legendary figures, including William Flynn, a fearless Secret Service agent, and Lieutenant Detective Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino of the New York Police Department’s elite Italian Squad, whose pursuit of the brutal gangs ultimately cost him his life. Combining first-rate scholarship and pulse-quickening action, and set amid rustic Sicilian landscapes and the streets of old New York, The First Family is a groundbreaking account of the crucial period when the American criminal underworld exploded with violent fury across the nation.


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Before the notorious Five Families who dominated U.S. organized crime for a bloody half century, there was the one-fingered criminal genius Giuseppe Morello–known as “The Clutch Hand”–and his lethal coterie of associates. In The First Family, historian, journalist, and New York Times bestselling author Mike Dash brings to life this little-known story, following the rise of Before the notorious Five Families who dominated U.S. organized crime for a bloody half century, there was the one-fingered criminal genius Giuseppe Morello–known as “The Clutch Hand”–and his lethal coterie of associates. In The First Family, historian, journalist, and New York Times bestselling author Mike Dash brings to life this little-known story, following the rise of the Mafia in America from the 1890s to the 1920s, from the lawless villages of Sicily to the streets of Little Italy. Using an impressive array of primary sources–hitherto untapped Secret Service archives, prison records, trial transcripts, and interviews with surviving family members–this is the first Mafia history that applies scholarly rigor to the story of the Morello syndicate and the birth of organized crime on these shores. Progressing from small-time scams to counterfeiting rings to even bigger criminal enterprises, Giuseppe Morello exerted ruthless control of Italian neighborhoods in New York, and through adroit coordination with other Sicilian crime families, his Clutch Hand soon reached far beyond the Hudson River. The men who battled Morello’s crews were themselves colorful and legendary figures, including William Flynn, a fearless Secret Service agent, and Lieutenant Detective Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino of the New York Police Department’s elite Italian Squad, whose pursuit of the brutal gangs ultimately cost him his life. Combining first-rate scholarship and pulse-quickening action, and set amid rustic Sicilian landscapes and the streets of old New York, The First Family is a groundbreaking account of the crucial period when the American criminal underworld exploded with violent fury across the nation.

30 review for The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia by Mike Dash is a very interesting and sometimes gruesome book but it is also packed full of history. This gives history of the Sicilian life and how and why they moved to America and who and how the American Mafia started here. It also gives great history of early American history of that time. Very, very interesting if you are a history buff like me. This gives great history on not only crime but life in g The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia by Mike Dash is a very interesting and sometimes gruesome book but it is also packed full of history. This gives history of the Sicilian life and how and why they moved to America and who and how the American Mafia started here. It also gives great history of early American history of that time. Very, very interesting if you are a history buff like me. This gives great history on not only crime but life in general, poverty, secret service, and more. I really got a lot out of this detailed book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    The author did a great job of researching the origins of the Mafia & this is a great read for anyone who liked The Godfather or The Valachi Papers, which I do (both books & movies). I found a lot of names & situations that I recognized. Dash has 2 agendas in this history. The first he states from the outset - people think the Mafia started in the 1920's, but it started a generation earlier & he wants to set the record straight. He's done an amazing amount of research to prove his point & does so. The author did a great job of researching the origins of the Mafia & this is a great read for anyone who liked The Godfather or The Valachi Papers, which I do (both books & movies). I found a lot of names & situations that I recognized. Dash has 2 agendas in this history. The first he states from the outset - people think the Mafia started in the 1920's, but it started a generation earlier & he wants to set the record straight. He's done an amazing amount of research to prove his point & does so. The second agenda is to show that there is nothing romantic about the Mafia. Yes, they came from Sicily, an island people beat into their poor soil by foreign overlords where criminal behavior was often a means of surviving, BUT they preyed on their own & their honor was non-existent. Money, expediency, & power were their prime motives. He shows this through facts, too. Unfortunately, the weight of all the characters & facts created a morass of them. Dash would pursue one line of reasoning, often taking it far afield in time and space, to good effect, but then he'd go back in logical steps & start over to pursue another, sometimes going sideways into yet another line halfway. Also, the nature of his facts made the narration somewhat uneven. We'd get a lot of information about some things, but just a bare outline & some conjecture on others. This isn't his fault. The information just wasn't there. I don't know how he could have handled it better & possibly the fault is mine since I couldn't hold all the names & dates in my head properly. The upshot was that I was kind of lost at times, though. It was interesting, but I don't want to listen to it again. Maybe this would have been better as a paper book that I could have flipped back through to make the connections. Anyway, it was well read & I do recommend it, but bring a notepad.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    The Mafia is one of those organizations that Hollywood and the media have turned into a household name. Its current public face is the fictional Tony Soprano. The closing years of the nineteenth century and the dawning of the twentieth were the halcyon days of Giuseppe Morello, who was known to cop and criminal alike as ‘the Clutch Hand’ because of a deformed arm. The nickname could just as well have derived from his talent for seizing any opportunity to make crime pay. Mike Dash has written an The Mafia is one of those organizations that Hollywood and the media have turned into a household name. Its current public face is the fictional Tony Soprano. The closing years of the nineteenth century and the dawning of the twentieth were the halcyon days of Giuseppe Morello, who was known to cop and criminal alike as ‘the Clutch Hand’ because of a deformed arm. The nickname could just as well have derived from his talent for seizing any opportunity to make crime pay. Mike Dash has written an engrossing account of Morello’s ascendancy from the dusty streets of his native Corleone, Sicily to the saloons and tenements of New York, where he became the much-feared boss of the Italian-dominated rackets. He counterfeited American and Canadian currency, masterminded insurance scams, and unleashed Black Hand terror on his frightened countrymen, all the while building and strengthening a gang that became the first organized crime family. Morello’s vicious rule encompassed some of the most sensational examples of mob violence in the city’s history, such as the Barrel Murder of 1903 and the Masseria-Maranzano war of Sicilian succession. The ageing Clutch Hand served as advisor to Joe ‘the Boss’ Masseria in the latter conflict, and was killed by Maranzano gunmen in August 1930. As with his previous books, Dash focuses on primary sources, such as the records of the U.S. Secret Service (which tracked Morello during his counterfeiting days) and the memoirs of its New York bureau chief, William Flynn, who pursued the Clutch Hand’s gang as doggedly as another legendary mob-buster, NYPD Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (whose war with the Mafia and brutal murder are both covered in detail). Chilling anecdotes mingle with archival evidence to tell a story that rivals the best crime fiction. The First Family is one of the finest accounts of the Mafia’s shady and bloody beginnings. Those who enjoyed this book are advised to also read Thomas Hunt and Martha Machecha Sheldon’s Deep Water, which is a similarly authoritative and original treatment of the 1890 assassination of New Orleans police chief David Hennessy, which was America’s first widely publicized Mafia hit.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    There have been many stories written concerning "The Mafia". Most of these books pick up the story of the Mafia around the 1920's to the present day. Mike Dash has put together the story of the Mafia from its very beginnings around 1890 thru 1920's. The story begins with the formation of lawless groups on the island of Sicily. These groups migrated to the United States for one of two reasons. The living conditions were so bad on Sicily that the United States looked like a paradise, or the Italian There have been many stories written concerning "The Mafia". Most of these books pick up the story of the Mafia around the 1920's to the present day. Mike Dash has put together the story of the Mafia from its very beginnings around 1890 thru 1920's. The story begins with the formation of lawless groups on the island of Sicily. These groups migrated to the United States for one of two reasons. The living conditions were so bad on Sicily that the United States looked like a paradise, or the Italian Police were getting close to an arrest and flight to the United States was the best option. The first "Don" or "a capo di tutti capi" was Giuseppe Morello. One would not believe in looking at Giuseppe that he personally committed two murders and ordered (at least) sixty more. Giuseppe had a deformed hand that gave him the nickname of "The Clutch Hand". The early crimes committed by the Mafia were small scams from the protection racket to counterfeiting. Dash also points out that these crimes were mostly committed against their fellow Italians. It was only in the later years of Morello's life that they became involved in bigger crimminal enterprises. The book, although it does concentrate on the Mafia, does tell they story of those who attempted to bring them to justice. There is the heartbreaking story of Joe Petrosimo who bravely fought the Mafia in New York for years, only to be killed by them in Sicily where he was putting together a list of Italian criminals that moved to the United States. Most of the book takes place in "Little Italy" in New York. However, to show the outreaching tentacles of the Mafia tells of their involvement in cities such as: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, and Kansas City. "The First Family" is an excellent read and deals with a little known part of our history and the history of the Mafia. Dash has used an array of primary souces to substantiate his story that he has indicated in his "notes" at the end of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robert Melnyk

    Fairly interesting book about the history of the Mafia in the United States. At times it was hard to keep track of all the characters and how they were inter-related, and I still do not take to the writing style of the author (this is the second book in a row I've read by him). But some of the stories related in the book are fascinating. One interesting "tidbit" I learned was that the beginnings of the Mafia can be traced to the city of Corleone in Sicily, and Corleone was the name of the family Fairly interesting book about the history of the Mafia in the United States. At times it was hard to keep track of all the characters and how they were inter-related, and I still do not take to the writing style of the author (this is the second book in a row I've read by him). But some of the stories related in the book are fascinating. One interesting "tidbit" I learned was that the beginnings of the Mafia can be traced to the city of Corleone in Sicily, and Corleone was the name of the family in "The Godfather."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    This book exceeded my expectations. It was very well researched and it brings some people who have always been depicted in a rather one dimensional way into sharper focus. People like Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo. You get a sense of their lives, thinking, motives and emotions. Dash also eliminates mob mythology, the myths that seem to recur in many earlier books, often presented as fact, when in fact they are suppositions, suspicions, deductions, or simply there to sensationalize. Thus we fi This book exceeded my expectations. It was very well researched and it brings some people who have always been depicted in a rather one dimensional way into sharper focus. People like Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo. You get a sense of their lives, thinking, motives and emotions. Dash also eliminates mob mythology, the myths that seem to recur in many earlier books, often presented as fact, when in fact they are suppositions, suspicions, deductions, or simply there to sensationalize. Thus we find (for one example) that there is no basis for placing Charles Luciano at the scene of the Masseria murder. No Ace of Spades in Masseria's hand. The book goes back much further than that, beginning in the late 1800s and the first wave of Italian immigration, particulary in New York and New Orleans.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    It's a shame they don't teach this book in school; more kids should know about Giuseppe "Clutch Hand" Morello and the notorious Barrel Murders. In this narrative rendition of well-researched facts Mike Dash how the difficult lives of Sicilian immigrants in New York were made worse by the same sorts of assholes that plagued them back in the old country. Organized crime before prohibition, Al Capone, and Las Vegas, was a different sort of beast: counterfeiting (the original focus of the Secret Serv It's a shame they don't teach this book in school; more kids should know about Giuseppe "Clutch Hand" Morello and the notorious Barrel Murders. In this narrative rendition of well-researched facts Mike Dash how the difficult lives of Sicilian immigrants in New York were made worse by the same sorts of assholes that plagued them back in the old country. Organized crime before prohibition, Al Capone, and Las Vegas, was a different sort of beast: counterfeiting (the original focus of the Secret Service), extortion, and corrupt building contracts were the primary sources of income. Back then both the criminals and the police were more primitive in their methods, but blood was just as red then as it is today. Civic epiphanies aside, some might say that the only miracle worth striving for is a city whose foundation is not infused with murder, and whose motor is not fueled by suffering. The pastoralists among you might wish for a return to the garden, for some arboreal communion. Hell no; we left that primordial clusterfuck for a reason.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    This was a pretty slow read, but I really enjoyed this book and can see myself going back to is as a reference in the future. I found it peculiar towards the end of the book, when I found myself almost rooting for the original boss of bosses "Clutch Hand" Morello. I even felt sorry for some of the impoverished endings that some of the bosses lived to see. All in all, Mike Dash did a wonderful job, and I would recommend this book to anybody interested in the first authoratative book on the less-k This was a pretty slow read, but I really enjoyed this book and can see myself going back to is as a reference in the future. I found it peculiar towards the end of the book, when I found myself almost rooting for the original boss of bosses "Clutch Hand" Morello. I even felt sorry for some of the impoverished endings that some of the bosses lived to see. All in all, Mike Dash did a wonderful job, and I would recommend this book to anybody interested in the first authoratative book on the less-known about history of American mafia!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marie E.

    This book was really interesting and reads at some points like a novel, almost like Mario Puzo. You can see how fictional material like Puzo's derives from real life. I find it interesting how leaders are made in all walks of life, and with this book, you can see that certain qualities like determination and ruthlessness are needed for success.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Derrick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really enjoyed reading this one. It covered a period in mafia history I knew almost nothing about. I also liked all the little insights the author included from Joe Bonanno. I was surprised to learn that a "commission" existed in some form decades before the 1930s. Lots of information to process but well worth it in the end.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    Really enjoyed this book. I did not have much knowledge about the early days of the Mafia in America and much of what I know and have heard of the Mafia comes from fiction and Hollywood. However, this book discusses the very real saga of the Mafia in the early 20th century, and how the first real Mafia Boss make his impact in America. Guseippe Morello is not necessarily a household name now, but a century ago, he was as powerful a criminal as there was in the States. While he is not quite the re Really enjoyed this book. I did not have much knowledge about the early days of the Mafia in America and much of what I know and have heard of the Mafia comes from fiction and Hollywood. However, this book discusses the very real saga of the Mafia in the early 20th century, and how the first real Mafia Boss make his impact in America. Guseippe Morello is not necessarily a household name now, but a century ago, he was as powerful a criminal as there was in the States. While he is not quite the real-life personification of the Godfather, he was no less powerful or ruthless. What also struck me about this book is just how powerful the Mafia was in Sciliy and in some respect, how the Mafia has impacted Sciliy might be a vision of how the current drug bosses impact Mexico. Still, for anyone that likes history or even fictional novels about the mob, I would highly recommend this book

  12. 5 out of 5

    judy

    This is a remarkable and highly readable history of the Mafia's arrival on these shores. Think 1900 and forget all the Five Families --that's much, much later. The author, who is a historian, did an incredible job of actually building a narrative. There was even a heroic detective who relentlessly tracked down the bad guys. Why don't we think of the Mafia starting this early? Because it only existed in the Little Italy's of cities and preyed on its own. The first don/godfather or whatever you wa This is a remarkable and highly readable history of the Mafia's arrival on these shores. Think 1900 and forget all the Five Families --that's much, much later. The author, who is a historian, did an incredible job of actually building a narrative. There was even a heroic detective who relentlessly tracked down the bad guys. Why don't we think of the Mafia starting this early? Because it only existed in the Little Italy's of cities and preyed on its own. The first don/godfather or whatever you want to call him did come from Corleone and made sure his lieutenants did too. Incredibly thorough and well-researched. The author takes great care to let us know how and when all the players (cops too) died. What a treat not to be left hanging.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Shafel

    Meticulously researched, Mike Dash's "The First Family" is a very comprehensive look at the roots of the Mafia in the US. Giuseppe "The Clutch Hand" Morello was a ruthless and merciless leader, with dealings in counterfeiting, extortion, and eventually Prohibition. I enjoyed the narrative style Dash used in telling the stories of Morello, his underlings, and their successors - it made the subjects and their actions very real for me and the timeline flow well. The family tree and Rogue's Gallery Meticulously researched, Mike Dash's "The First Family" is a very comprehensive look at the roots of the Mafia in the US. Giuseppe "The Clutch Hand" Morello was a ruthless and merciless leader, with dealings in counterfeiting, extortion, and eventually Prohibition. I enjoyed the narrative style Dash used in telling the stories of Morello, his underlings, and their successors - it made the subjects and their actions very real for me and the timeline flow well. The family tree and Rogue's Gallery sections were helpful in connecting names in the book too. Excellent read for those interested in Mafia and US American History!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aww!

    I found this book to be extrodinarily revealing about the initial family of organized crime: The American Mafia. I certainly took this book seriously from the first few pages to the thrilling end. The books gruesome but in-your-face cover certainly grabs my attention automatically. This book is exciting but definately not for the faint hearted. Happy reading!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    Well written, meticulously researched, but a bit dry. Took me much longer to work my way through than I expected.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Very, very detailed history of the very first, "First Family" of the Mafia. Fascinating.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a great read about the history of the Mafia, beginning with it's origins in Sicily. It documents the first crime families from the late 1800's to the history well know.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susannah

    Very interesting book, especially as it was based all on primary sources.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Dash traces the history of the Mafia in New York from its early beginning in Sicily to the 1890's through the 1930's. Dash's book is an authoritative piece, and debunks the myth that the rise of gangs and mafiosos started during Prohibition. The Morello family in particular is the focus of this book and the supposed originators of organized crime in the United States. The book details the lives of Guiseppe "the Clutch Hand" Morello, Ignazio "the Wolf" Lupo, Nicolo Terranova, and Joseph Perriano Dash traces the history of the Mafia in New York from its early beginning in Sicily to the 1890's through the 1930's. Dash's book is an authoritative piece, and debunks the myth that the rise of gangs and mafiosos started during Prohibition. The Morello family in particular is the focus of this book and the supposed originators of organized crime in the United States. The book details the lives of Guiseppe "the Clutch Hand" Morello, Ignazio "the Wolf" Lupo, Nicolo Terranova, and Joseph Perriano and their rather humble beginnings of counterfeiting and the Italian lottery to the more sinister crimes of racketeering (everything from ice to coal to artichokes), murder, and extortion. Dash is sure to include the biographies of the intrepid Secret Service agent Peter Flynn who helped bring the mobsters down and the unfortunate if at times bumbling NYPD detective Joseph Petrosino who met his fate in Sicily while trying to take on the Mafia. This book also covers the rise of the other Five Families and the Castellammarese War. While this is authoritative and a solid history of organized crime in New York and the United States, this book has a ton of moving parts and characters. The Sicilian characters with difficult names/nicknames were frequent and were just as quickly killed off leaving the reader a little lost sometimes about what was going on. The Epilogue is ridiculously long and actually detracts from the history in a lot of ways, detailing other mobsters and families that appeared later and only barely tied in to the Morello story. While it's nice to know the aftermath of several of the key players, there is a lot of unneeded fluff to, what I believe, impress upon the reader that Dash knows the history of all of the Mafia families and not just the Morello family syndicate. Thus, for the reasons of it being a bit of a jumbled mess at times and for the rather long ending that is at times questionably related, I can only give this book 3 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lew

    Very interesting book, and, I would like to believe, very factual (I didn't research the sources; I am deducing this from how well the story is presented). My issues with it are personal. There are so many characters (as there should be) and the majority are Italian names. I am older, and this was definitely a memory and pronunciation test. I think that due to the layout of the book (the beginning pages are lists of characters with a short text after each name), I freaked, thinking I needed to re Very interesting book, and, I would like to believe, very factual (I didn't research the sources; I am deducing this from how well the story is presented). My issues with it are personal. There are so many characters (as there should be) and the majority are Italian names. I am older, and this was definitely a memory and pronunciation test. I think that due to the layout of the book (the beginning pages are lists of characters with a short text after each name), I freaked, thinking I needed to remember what I was reading to enjoy the rest of the book. A new reader may want to skip the name lists and consult it after reading the book. I don't think it would take away from the enjoyment.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vincent II

    One of the best books on the subject. The author took painstaking lengths to uncover information that, to my knowledge, isn’t available anywhere else. As an example, he collaborated with record holders in Sicily to discover Giuseppe Morello’s birthdate, which was beforehand unknown to both his family and American law enforcement. This book is an example of exemplary research and journalism, but it really does read as entertaining as a novel. “The First Family” was a consent resource for me as I One of the best books on the subject. The author took painstaking lengths to uncover information that, to my knowledge, isn’t available anywhere else. As an example, he collaborated with record holders in Sicily to discover Giuseppe Morello’s birthdate, which was beforehand unknown to both his family and American law enforcement. This book is an example of exemplary research and journalism, but it really does read as entertaining as a novel. “The First Family” was a consent resource for me as I was researching my next book, and I will continue to use it in the future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    It was hard to keep track of certain people in the book, partly because they had such similar names, and partly because there was such little introduction to characters. I also felt like the last few chapters were very rushed. I did really enjoy how thoroughly the detectives were written about, I felt like they got the introductions and details that were lacking in some others. The book was full of interesting information that I had no idea about so I came away feeling like I learned something.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Commodore

    Well researched and well-written. Things I found interesting: • newspaper quotes from the turn of the 20th century characterizing Sicilians as uniformly nefarious brown criminals (sounds familiar) • you can dress it up in as much gold-toned cinema as you like, but Mafiosi preyed on chiefly their own community and there’s nothing noble about it • the author succeeds in making “this mafia boss was killed, his killer replaced him, his killer was then killed, and then that guy also died horribly soon Well researched and well-written. Things I found interesting: • newspaper quotes from the turn of the 20th century characterizing Sicilians as uniformly nefarious brown criminals (sounds familiar) • you can dress it up in as much gold-toned cinema as you like, but Mafiosi preyed on chiefly their own community and there’s nothing noble about it • the author succeeds in making “this mafia boss was killed, his killer replaced him, his killer was then killed, and then that guy also died horribly soon thereafter” actually engaging

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    This narrative history of the birth of the American branch of the Mafia during the years between 1892 and 1930 reveals the rise of a criminal organization that made its way from the lawless villages of Sicily to the streets of Little Italy in New York, and eventually seeped it way across America. The leader behind this criminal empire: Giuseppe "The Clutch Hand" Morello, and his horde of brutal and ruthless, sworn in the blood, followers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Thomas

    History of initial Mafia activities in the US, told a little too much like a novel - some details he presents from the late 1800's can't possibly be based on fact. However, there is no question that organized crime was indeed introduced by Sicilian Italians, and it was interesting that New Orleans was a significant early major center for criminal activity.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Scott Lord

    Good history of the start of the Mafia in America Very interesting history of the start of the Mafia at the turn of the century. I could see where The Godfather and movies like Goodfellas got there inspiration. Found it interesting that the first groups that organized came from Corleone a town in Sicily. Worth the read

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Meola

    I read this after we watched the Godfather and I wanted to learn more of the history of the mafia. It got a little long and laborious at times (extremely well researched) but gave a real feel for the first American mobsters, where they came from, their rise and fall, etc. Lots of first-hand accounts and some almost unbelievable true stories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    FDR

    A disappointingly verbose book. It's very well-researched - the maps, rogue's gallery and footnotes are great - but it has a very descriptive narrative with too many sensory details. I put it away after a few days.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan Olesen

    Absolutely fascinating to read. You totally see how Mario Puzo found his details - I swear some of them are word for word in The Godfather. The last paragraph is so ironic (and stupid me didn't write it down).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom Dailey

    A book about the birth of the American Mafia by one of my favorite writers. One of those books that paints turn of the century New York as a squalid, fetid, crime ridden purgatory and also as the most exciting city on the planet.

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