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Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  1,372 ratings  ·  81 reviews
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 ...more
ebook, 784 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published August 25th 2005)
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Gere Lewis
A more accurate title would have been "New York: A History of Law Enforcement Tactics Used Against the Mafia in the 20th Century". There were too many important Mafia events that were glossed over or omitted for this to truly have been a book about the five families. The primary focus seemed to be on the response that state and federal governments had to the Mafia and the tactics that were used to combat them. It was an interesting read and certainly well researched, although the editor should b ...more
This book attempts to cover a wide period in the history of the New York Mafia - from the days of Prohibition, when the streets of the city were awash with illicit booze and the Mafia was coalescing into an organisation from the disparate rabble that it previously was, to the turn of the twenty first century, when many of the old values put in place by Lucky Luciano in the early thirties were being dismissed by a new brand of more selfish, individualistic mafioso.

It is probably the most comprehe
A poorly edited headache of a book with little to offer on top of its primary sources in the LCN non-fiction canon as to be a near-total waste of time. Somehow includes less material on the pre-Apalachin period than your average Wikipedia article, but packs in more sensational junk about John Gotti than the New York Post and all the books written by his family combined. Departures from its chronological organization are frequent, making an already long and complex history even harder to follow t ...more
Letto fino agli anni 80, poi il mio interesse è calato.
La prima metà di questo libro racconta la nascita dell’organizzazione criminale chimata Cosa Nostra grazie al genio di Lucky Luciano, che con le sue regole ferree è diventata la piaga degli Stati Uniti dagli anni venti agli anni ottanta, quando le forze dell’ordine hanno iniziato a prendere sul serio il fenomeno. Si raccontano anche gli albori siciliani che somigliano al banditismo sardo e di altri paesi vessati da continue conquiste. Una na
Tanya Faberson
Jul 12, 2012 Tanya Faberson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: analytical, district attorney types
Recommended to Tanya by: no one
So I am FINALLY done with this book. It was very good, but at times I felt like I was slogging through it. Considering how much I generally enjoy slog-worthy books (the denser the better), I'm not sure what my issue is with this one. First of all, it was well-written and the information was really interesting. Secondly, I learned a lot of details on mob history I didn't know. But that's it. I didn't look forward to reading it. I certainly didn't choose to read it over knitting or doing something ...more
A serviceable history of the Mafia.

It's comprehensive, but it glosses over the first fifty years or so. The book gets much stronger in its second half, which focuses on the past twenty years. Here, Raab takes on each of the five families in turn, and the figures finally come alive--from the flamboyant (John Gotti) to the sadistic (Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso).

Overall, though, the writing never rises above workmanlike, and the book really could have used one more thorough edit, both to cut its length
This is a good book about the Five Families in New York. It focuses on the past fifty years, so if you want a book that covers the 20's and 30's look elsewhere. The author argues that the FBI did not focus on the mafia until Hoover was out. He gives a lot of credit to the Kennedy's in the 60's, the FBI in the 70'-90s and Giuliani as police commissioner and mayor. He thinks 9/11 has undermined efforts as the focus has shifted towards counter terrorism.
Enjoyable, but at times, it was easy to get lost as to who is with what family, who whacked who, who was into what racket. Thankfully, the author included an appendix that at least lists the bosses and their families.

The book is fairly comprehensive as to law enforcement tactics and strategies used to bring down the leaders of the 5 families. The more modern the case, the more attention is paid to it. There is more information here about John Gotti, for example, than about Lucky Lucciano. This
You Wanna Know About the America Mafia? Look No Further … Capisce?

As I was totally immersed watching episodes of “Inside the American Mafia” on Netflix, I realized that Selwyn Raab’s interesting and invaluable commentary was what made the series so great. His authoritative knowledge and storytelling ability compelled me to order his book, FIVE FAMILIES, as I was watching the series. If there is one source I would recommend about understanding the “nuts and bolts” of Mafia in America, it would ce
Aug 15, 2007 Samantha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the American Mafia
Shelves: mafia
This is a GIANT book about the five major New York organized crime families from their history to the present.

It is a very well researched book and is extremely interesting. Most mafia books seem to focus on the Gambino crime family and more specifically on John Gotti since he is/was the most (in)famous crime boss since Al Capone.

However, this book focuses on each family - its origins, its hierarchy, the in-fighting, and its downfall. The only thing that I found a bit difficult was remembering w
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This was a really great history of the NYC mafia families starting around the prohibition era through the present. There were a lot of details I wasn't aware of before reading this book. I'm pretty sure that since this book came out, anyone who has written a movie or TV show about the mafia has read it.
Gary Quien
An extensive and detailed history of la Cosa Nostra in America, with a multitude of guys named Anthony and not always easy to keep track of the many characters, even with the always included nicknames. The five major crime families are centered in New York but the account begins with the first known event, in New Orleans in the late 19th century when the "Black Hand"--Sicilian criminals who preyed on other immigrants--shot and killed police inspector David Hennessey. Outraged locals broke the a ...more
This was a tremendous history of the mafia in the US. Well, in NY anyway. If you have an interest in this sort of thing, I heartily recommend this. Although sizable, it's a fast and fascinating read. Exceptionally well written and researched.
This is an excellent book about the five most powerful Mafia families. I loved it, but one does get drained by the accounts of violence throughout. There is a lot of great history, but it is so interwoven into the grizzly details that are inescapable. Also mingled in are some of the more humorous stories about the nonviolent pursuits and capers of the top men, made men, and lesser thugs working for crime families. I liked that it gave an overview of each family's roots, its leaders, the successi ...more
Gerry Connolly
Five Families is Selwyn Raab's definitive tome on the Mafia's history in New York. A grisly,fascinating story of massive corruption that pervaded (and still pervades) myriad aspects of life in the Northeast corridor. ...more
Dave Scrip
Definitive History. A comprehensive history of the five mafia families in New York City. Well written by Raab. A lengthy page turner written in narrative form.
Thorough history. A few things stood out: a) As a business enterprise, the familes operated on an economical scale apparently bigger than any US corporation, yet this was denied by the FBI, especially by J.Edgar Hoover, who revused to involve much FBI resources into investigating the NY Commission until Kennedy forced him to b) lower level people need to be effective criminal entrepeneurs, because they need to be kicking some money up the line. The historical/journalistic level of detail is inte ...more
Kim Gates
If you're interested in the history of Cosa Nostra in America, this book is essential reading.
If you want to know everything there is to know about the Mob/Mafia/Cosa Nostra, then read this book. It is extremely well-researched and leaves NOTHING out. When I finished this book, I knew everything--the history of Cosa Nostra in Italy, how it came to the United States, the separate families, the law enforcement officials who investigated them...EVERYTHING. It's fascinating and, until the author goes crazy with the details, a page-turner. I highly recommend it. It's very long long (708 pages ...more
The most definitive, comprehensive and historically accurate work about the Mob in NYC. The quintessential "annotated" Godfather. I highly recommend this book as a basic source which informs about each of the NY families. Many books and author's have delved into the specifically different and nefarious exploits of the "Mob", Five Families is a compilation of those histories; from the early origins of the Mafia families "Golden Era", through their eminent decline....and now with focus on homelan ...more
This book is, in my understanding, the paramount history of the New York five families. I read it because I became really interested in the workings of the mafia while working for the U.S. Attorney's Office this summer and watching the trial of Vinny "Gorgeous" Basciano. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the mafia, including as a sort of reference book. Though it held my attention almost to the end and for such a history was tremendously well written, my one complaint is that at about ...more
Edmund Smith
Good history of organized crime in NYC.
Jul 18, 2007 Jeremiah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the history of organized crime in America.
So far, this is has been a very good read and one of the best books I've read on the American mafia and it's beginnings, history and current role in America. Fan of The Soprano's, Goodfellas, The Godfather movies, Bugsy, etc.? Then this is the book for you.

There are a lot of characters and names, so it can get confusing at times. But, this book does paint a vivid picture of the inner-workings of the mafia (the things they do that you don't hear about.)

Overall, extremely fascinating and educati
This book was no good. The reason I started reading it was because I have started watching "Boardwalk Empire" and wanted to know some more things. However, there was too much dry information in this book. I probably could have stopped reading it after the first few chapters, but at least it fulfilled one of my reading challenge requirements.

There were also a lot of typos in the eBook. That was annoying.

*Read for the PopSugar Reading Challenge:

#1: Book with more than 500 pages
Very informative picture of the New York Mafia from the time of Lucky Luciano until about 2004. Many chapters seemed a bit long and it took a while to read, but it was worth it. A lot of reviews posted elsewhere complained about the large amount of coverage of John Gotti. I think the amount was appropriate. John Gotti was the premier don of our time. He was a media super star so of course he would be covered a lot, plus his influence reshaped many mafia policies.
This has been my bedside reading for the past several weeks. If you're a fan of true-crime Mafia books, this is one of the most comprehensive books about LCN that you'll find. Never sensationalist, Raab chronicles the rise and fall of the Mob in the US, the formation of "The Commission," and the internecine struggles that finally fractured and nearly dismantled the Five Families. (I say nearly, because if you think they're gone, think again.)

Fascinating book.
Another book club selection, which I unfortunately couldn't make it all the way through.

What was most interesting to me is not as much which Don killed which other Don, but more of the social, political and economic factors that aided the rise of the Mafia in America, such as Prohibition and the ascent of Fascism in Italy. It was also interesting to read how J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI for years ignored and downplayed the threat of the Mafia.
Charles Williams
Editing could be better, but a very well detailed look into the mafia.
Peter Gammell
Fantastic ground zero reading for anyone interested in the American Mafia. There are so many true-crimes books on the mob that it is difficult to even get started. Selwyn Raab is a former crime writer for the New York Times and this book goes through the entire history of the Mafia in New York and sorts the Godfather from the Goodfellas.
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