I was expecting a biography of Santo Trafficante Jr. Consequently, I was a little disappointed when Deitche kept straying off to discuss Cuban gangste...moreI was expecting a biography of Santo Trafficante Jr. Consequently, I was a little disappointed when Deitche kept straying off to discuss Cuban gangsters, the Bay of Pigs, and JFK. However, the subtitle is The Criminal Underworld of SF Jr. In such a light, the book is more interesting. It builds on Cigar City Mafia and expands the loose connections that are otherwise to include in a basic biography.
There is a tendency to build up Trafficante. It is an understandable bias, Trafficante is the hero, or anti-hero, if the book. However, even with the hundreds of references, this reader is not convinced of the fundamental claims that Trafficante nurtured and molded the Cuban casino scene, international narcotics traffic, and Cuban organized crime in America. He may have been involved; but I feel Deitche overplayed his importance.
I would have preferred reading more about each of these aspects, and some other topics Deitche introduces, such as the Anti-Castro Cuban organizations that morphed into criminal gangs and syndicates. His explorations into the JFK Assassination were interesting; but assumed his readers were already familiar with other works implicating organized crime. A true examination of the criminal underworld at that time is truly the focus of the book; and yet Deitche seems to stop short of that goal, only teasing his audience on each topic and magnifying Trafficante's role. At some points, even Deitche distances himself and says 'maybe Trafficante did not...'
This may be due more to the editors at Barricade who seem to prefer tantalizing and more yellow journalism than rigorous analysis. The style of the book is very close to those of Patrick Downey and Paul Kavieff. All of these books are very readable, especially for casual interest readers. They constitute some of the only research on these topics. And this is one of the few books exploring the Cuban underworld, especially the Cuban-American underworld. It is worth reading.(less)
This was a very unusual book. Perhaps due to being a product of the Cold War mentality, this book strays away from normal adventure novels in several...moreThis was a very unusual book. Perhaps due to being a product of the Cold War mentality, this book strays away from normal adventure novels in several key ways. The most obvious dimension of this strange writing is the repeated failures and shortcomings of the hero. The Captain Pietro has some noble qualities; but he tends to have more failures than normal heroes. Directly, he is captured multiple times in the book by the villains and held in their power for lengthy (years) periods. Usually, it is left to others to rescue him with elaborate plots. Even though one time he does escape on his own. The other striking abnormality in this book is the fact that after he is rescued, he does not seek revenge on the villains. In fact, once rescued, the book essentially ends.
My initial reaction is that this makes it closer to historical accuracy. However, basic searching does not locate the captain or his small estate. The closest match is a similarly-named town too far south in Italy to be the location of the novel. The story is grounded in history. The Valori and Medici were fighting for control over Florence and Tuscany. Giovanni Medici, condottiero of the Black Bands, was a historical figure. However, he was not as chivalrous as Pugh describes him. As a condottieri, he changed sides in wars depending upon who was paying him. The true nature of this figure must rub off on one of his captains...the hero of the book.
Pietro does deal with various personal issues as well. Having risen through the ranks of the mercenary army as the son of a blacksmith, his successful acceptance into the lower nobility is the stuff of legends. Along the way he grapples with love, duty, and redemption. The love aspect is very historical in that he is torn between the bar wench he loves and a more suitable match in social class. Pugh expertly describes the logic of the era as the hero ponders his future bride. His duty revolves around service to Medici, Valori, and others who take charge of his life. The redemption pertains to him feeling guilty over his decisions. Betrayal, escape, theft, essentially everything that made him successful in Late Renaissance Italy. It is in such cases, that a careful reader can determine what life was really like in that era.
Overall, a fascinating tale....much better than the cover would suggest. There are some unusual adventures for the hero and a disappointing climax. However, the text is rich in incidental details that are very accurate for the era. (less)
Fans of the Godfather series will likely enjoy this novel. The writing style is similar to that of Puzo. The characters are very similar, save Luca Br...moreFans of the Godfather series will likely enjoy this novel. The writing style is similar to that of Puzo. The characters are very similar, save Luca Brasi, who is one of the key characters in the novel. The story is rather quick and moves along interspersing the gangland family with the personal family.
Vito Corleone is more of a supporting actor in a novel that focuses more on Sonny Corleone and Luca Brasi. Falco has an odd problem in that Sonny starts out as a clever, maybe brilliant, punk; but seems to become increasingly inept as the story progresses. Brasi starts off in a seemingly reversed role; but the violence seems to stay with him.
Literary devices about in the book. Falco tries to recreate the ambiance of the original trilogy; but the references to banquets, baseball, and broken English mixed with Italian makes these passages seem odd and out of place, as though the author knew they had to be included; but did not want to include them.
This goes into something else that should be apparent when writing fiction: background research. Basic research into the Mafia and organized crime should be included. Vague references to Al Capone being a super boss, inaccuracies in Mafia family hierarchies, and some basic generalizations about gangland violence of the era make this stand out as being too fictionalized. Granted, most Mafia fiction books suffer this problem, but the Mafia never tossed someone naked out of a window tied to a chair. This is more for Hollywood than history. The final discrepancy, more trivial than most, is that Vito's consigliere is named Genco in the novel; but Jake in the movies. For a major supporting actor in the book, one would expect Falco to get a detail like this for the novel.
Overall, it is an entertaining read. In terms of plausibility for the era, it is not too far-fetched, like most Mafia fiction. Lay audiences enthralled with the Godfather will enjoy the book. Scholars, both criminal and literary, may have more faults with it.(less)
Although artistically pleasant, the biggest problem with the book was a lack of substance. Published by an academic press, any reader would expect som...moreAlthough artistically pleasant, the biggest problem with the book was a lack of substance. Published by an academic press, any reader would expect some analysis on the cities, in addition to lovely pictures. Instead, there is a brief historical survey of each city that consists of a few paragraphs. Rome has just six paragraphs; Athens, five paragraphs. Very little can be summed up in so brief a description. There is also an annoying habit of the author to frequently reference architects, city planner, or some other official who was responsible for greatly reshaping a given city. In most cases the result is a paragraph or two about grandiose architecture which is usually not visible in the illustrations.
The introduction provides the only substance. This is a race through history with minimal insight into cities, much less any theories or generalizations. Also notably missing is an explanation of selections for the book. Overall, this book has little to offer except attractive illustrations. (less)
I preferred this book to the first in the series. The pace is more frantic and there are fewer dull moments of love. While Collins does progress the o...moreI preferred this book to the first in the series. The pace is more frantic and there are fewer dull moments of love. While Collins does progress the overall story forward with a brilliant twist in the middle of this book, it lacked the detail of the first and focused more on action. The cliff hanger forces the reader to go to Mockingjay better than most books in a series. However, as other reviewers have said, nothing is finished in this book except the Quarter Quell. The love aspect of the trilogy is hardly continued because Kat does not make any decisions and neither suitor really does anything to win her over. (less)
After Hunger Games and Catching Fire, this is a real disappointment. There is an attempt to follow the basic storyline set in the first two books; but...moreAfter Hunger Games and Catching Fire, this is a real disappointment. There is an attempt to follow the basic storyline set in the first two books; but it is very awkward and just does not feel right. The final stages of the war are difficult for the reader to envision and that is a problem that is not apparent in the first two books. After completing two excellent books, Collins seems to have decided that the story must end in a trilogy; and the result veers way off from the first two books.
To begin with, there is a deus ex machina feel to the book because of a new superpower that initiates change - it is not the districts or the heroine of the novels. After developing this new group, Collins returns to a running commentary on Kat's emotional ups and downs. Granted, this allows the reader to learn more about President Snow and his rivals; but at the cost of slowly moving the story along.
The macabre pace of the book is also much darker than the previous books. Audiences are used to slow; but grizzly deaths; for select people. This books has that and more. In a similar way, the Harry Potter books also became increasingly dark. The reader is left to wonder what happens to the female authors of successful fantasy novels. I do not recall such darkness growing in the Inheritance Books by Paolini or the Bartimeaus Books by Stroud.
Third, the love aspect of Gale vs. Peeta is hardly resolved. The decision is made for her; not by her. This was a little discouraging and shows a deeper problem that Collins might not have worked through the storyline when she had to turn in the draft. This problem plagues the entire book as it just seems awkward when compared to the other two books, as though the reader is missing at least one other volume.
Finally, the climactic scene in the last battle is sort of left up to the reader to interpret. Who was responsible? How did it happen? Kat returns "home" and is never sure herself what happened. Once again, the reader is left to wonder if something was cut out from the books. This may be because the trilogy is written as a first-person narrative of Kat, so there is some license to leave things blank. However, the result is something like a cliff-hanger until the last few pages teleport the reader to ten years into the future. (less)
A light and cursory reading that mixes scholarship with sensationalism. When considering a topic as broad as secret societies, it is seemingly impossi...moreA light and cursory reading that mixes scholarship with sensationalism. When considering a topic as broad as secret societies, it is seemingly impossible to adequately cover all of them. The selected societies in this text are an odd mixture of religious groups, criminal bands, and social phenomena. Some readers may raise an eye brow that Sufis and Buddhists are included alongside the Illuminati and Rosicrucians.
The study of each group also takes unusual paths. The author focuses a lot on ceremony and degrees of initiation rather than the historical account of the societies. A chapter entitled "The High Priesthood of Thebes" is entirely devoted to initiation rites. This would be much more fascinating to the reader if they had some background as to this group. In a few places the author does better at balancing the orders of the societies with actual history. His chapters on the Tongs and Charcoal Burners of Italy show these groups to be more focused on crime than socio-political-religious leanings.
Overall, the chapters are too cursory, even with just examining just 24 societies. There are no references or further readings. This can be maddening when wanting to know more about the Charcoal Burners and their Medieval Sicilian counterparts, the Avengers; or even more information about the Guardian Angel or Peacock Angel devotees. This book does little more than spread a vague awareness of the topic. (less)
This is the best overview of Medieval Europe I have read. Hastings covers everything in a basic college-level course and more. Her focus is on culture...moreThis is the best overview of Medieval Europe I have read. Hastings covers everything in a basic college-level course and more. Her focus is on culture and society rather than politics and war. In fact, there is very little chronological discussion of events. Chapters focus on concepts like religion, agriculture, government, etc. With an easy to digest writing style that shows how those institutions changed 1000-1400. Each chapter is loosely subdivided by geography: Western Europe, Central Europe, and the East. Hastings does a remarkable job in her overview and analysis.(less)
This was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I was expecting another story of an absentee father mixed with tales of law enforcement depredations. I was ha...moreThis was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I was expecting another story of an absentee father mixed with tales of law enforcement depredations. I was half right. Police and FBI officials are often barking and salivating like half-starved pit bulls. I agree that some of them probably did enjoy harassing the wiseguy and his family; but on the whole, I suspect they are not as debased as DeMeo depicts them.
The surprising aspect of the story was the strong bond between Albert and his father. The prose was elegant and made for good drama. This is one of the few organized crime books by a family member that really shows a humane side to the wiseguys. It is also one of the few books by a family member wherein the author admits assisting his relative in the family business. Albert DeMeo stops short of confessing to any felony; but this book indicates how the culture rubs off on the family. (less)
This is an excellent book that uses many Medieval primary documents to reconstruct and analyze the robbery.
The author clearly seeks to prove that the...moreThis is an excellent book that uses many Medieval primary documents to reconstruct and analyze the robbery.
The author clearly seeks to prove that the citizenry of London played an abetting role and works to show of a long-standing rivalry between London and the kings of England. The background that Doherty presents on the leading figures, not only the convicted criminals, but the jailers and jurymen too, provide a fascinating look at how all of the characters were entwined socially before and after the robbery. (less)