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The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld

3.07  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The Mad Ones chronicles the rise and fall of the Gallo brothers, a trio of reckless young gangsters whose revolution against New York City's Mafia was inspired by Crazy Joe Gallo's
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Weinstein Books (first published July 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.07  · 
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Bill Kerwin
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, biography

Tom Folsom is so concerned with making each sentence laconic, spare and chock full of hard-boiled imagery that the book often seems more like a collection of pictures and gestures than a narrative, as if the reader were looking at a '40's noir frame-by-frame with no film projector to bring it to life. The best sequences--like the night Joey gets whacked--have narrative power and movement, but there needs to be more chapters like these.

I'm all for brief biographies, but this one leaves out too
Aug 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
We purchased this book based on the Folsom's appearances on the daily show and fresh air. The author was a decent interview and book seemed interesting. However, my wife read it first and didn't like it. I took it on a work trip read it and also didn't like it. The mad ones is all packaging, there is no there there. It's like the author had his pitch and spiel down, they got a great graphic designer to do the cover, lots of blurbs for the jacket...and then didn't bother with the book.

I was so disappointed by this. I have to come right out and say that this is probably the worst book about organized crime I've ever read. It tries sooo hard to be cool, like the author is trying to channel Kerouac or something, which is stupid, as it just makes the book hard to read. There's no flow, until maybe the final three chapters. I wish the rest of it could have been written more like that, more concerned with the actual subject. I feel like I only write reviews for books that ...more
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it
As I get older, I try to take myself, and my reading tastes, less seriously. There was a time where I fancied myself a Very Important Book Reviewer that would choke the life out of anything I read in order to critique it with skill. Its silly, at least from my perspective. I love reading and I love writing reviews but theyre just that: reviews. Chronicling the things I read, if I liked them or not, and if I would recommend them. No more, no less.

The Mad Ones is a book I would have ripped in to
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Tom Folsom owes Jon Stewart some money.

Like many others who've reviewed this book, I picked up The Mad Ones on the basis of Folsom's appearance on The Daily Show. It was a good press junket interview and, for the five minutes he talked about it, he made it sound pretty great.

Anything sounds pretty great for five minutes.

Much like the movie trailer that gives away too much, Folsom's interview was filled with great anecdotes that, unfortunately, represented most of his book's substance. Once you
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was depressing, boring, and frustrating. Joe Gallo is completely unsympathetic--he comes off as a smart, but completely inept, gangster wannabe. He and his gang threatened, kidnapped, and killed hoping to make a big enough impression to be given some of the action by the New York "family". When that didn't work they started a self-destructive, pointless "war". Who cares about these guys? And his 15 minutes as part of the "gangster chic" trend was particularly depressing to read. Especially ...more
Nov 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
I've read many mob books and this is definitely the worst one I've read. Maybe because it was written very differently from the other ones I've read, maybe that's what the author was going for, but I don't think it worked. Tom seemed to be trying way too hard to add poetic flare to this book that it killed it and made it practically unreadable. It jumped around a lot and was hard to keep up with all the people he just threw in and out of the story and most of the time I was trying to figure out ...more
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Love the character, a beatnik gangster with movie star looks, and if you see the types of books I read, you will know I love character driven stories. Unfortunately, this book never quite delivers on the promise of what could be a great character profile. I am not sure what the author, Tom Folsom, had in mind with the manner in which he constructed his story, but I found myself getting a bit lost as he jumped from story, to tangent, to story again. I wanted to love this story, but I was simply ...more
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
2.5-3 stars. Here's hoping the movie is better than the book....
I was really into the book at first. The subject matter is fun (you know, as fun as documented killings and gang violence can be) and Joe is an interesting character, but the structure kind of ruined it for me. Maybe just this once, being a bit more ordinary and telling the story in the order it happened would have been the way to go. Also, maybe a little less side character woe and a little more Crazy Joe.

BUT if you like 50's,60s
Shannon Miller
Mar 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish. No fluidity to the story (was there a story) and just way too choppy.
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it

"The Mad Ones," suffers from the limited trajectory of its subject.

In the same way Joey Gallo's life never really took off, neither does this book.

"The Mad Ones" is a guilty pleasure read for those who like a good Mob yarn. It is also a great portrait of the era in which its anti-hero leaves his bloodstained mark.

Here is a tale about a low-grade, psychotic guy who sallied forth into Greenwich Village just as the sixties were taking off and willingly let some of its rebellious patina rub off
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: true-crime
The main issue that I have with this book is that the writing is all over the place. As others have said, the author seemed to be trying to replicate a "Beat" style of writing, which unfortunately confuses the reader. There were a few instances where events jumped from one another in a single paragraph. Fortunately for the book, the story of Joe Gallo is interesting enough that you'll want to continue reading to see the conclusion.
Jim Nirmaier
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun easy/breezy read about "Mad" Joey Gallo - a hipster low-level, but movie-star-handsome, tabloid-star gangster that was the inspiration for "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight". The 1971 low budget gangster film, based on Jimmy Breslin's novel, is best known now as one of Robert De Niro's earlier movies.
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book.
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was hesitant about picking this one up because of the mixed reviews it's been getting. I wanted to like it because of its novel approach to the Joey Gallo story, that is, equating the Gallos with other mavericks in the arts at the same time, especially the Beats and the abstract expressionists, etc.

The argument was that Joey, the beatnik gangster changed The Mafia in fundamental ways. Unfortunately it's a poorly made argument and there is no substance to it, especially when you consider that
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Crazy Joe married a beatnik who was jazz legend Gerry Mulligan's former wife, listened to Miles Davis, argued that Sartre was better than Camus with Jerry Orbach's wife, and planned on becoming a writer after hitting the bricks(this last part kind of reminded me of Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road). He modeled himself after both Richard Widmark's character Tommy Udo in the classic 1949 film noir Kiss of Death and Machiavelli's The Prince. He was also an extortionist, hitman, and mobster-- ...more
Sep 24, 2009 rated it liked it
The Mad Ones recounts the story of the Gallo brothers, not Ernest and Julio, but Larry and Kid Blast and especially Crazy Joe Gallo, made men who were at the center of New York City's bloodiest gang wars from the late 1950s until the early 70s. In style and substance the book reminds me of a cross between Mario Puzo and Jack Kerouac. At a time when the subterraneans, the hipsters, all fancied themselves gangsters, Joe Gallo was a wannabee subterranean, hanging out in the Village when he wasn't ...more
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
A fast, fun read that replaces the cliched false nobility and honor associated with organized crime with that of and honest take on the deeds and misdeeds of this sub-culture.

Tom Folsom employs a non-linear narrative voice to present the reader as much of both sides of the story. Inter-woven into the book are police reports, LIFE Magazine articles, photos, and snippets of interviews with gangsters, lawyers, detectives, and, of course, JFK and RFK, each weighing in on the Gallos and the NYC mafia
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
The best things about "The Mad Ones" are the title and the book jacket. Both are cool. But despite an enthusiastic endorsement from John Stewart during an interview with the author of "The Daily Show," "The Mad Ones" was a huge disappointment. It's the story of Joey Gallo, a colorful gangster who read Camus, hung out in Greenwich Village and became a minor celeb before getting gunned down in the early 1970s. He inspired "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" and a Dylan song. He's a fascinating ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
All style and little substance, this true crime story's subject--Crazy Joe Gallo's war with the Mafia during the late 50s and early 60s--is given short shrift by Folsom. Interestingly, TJ English, author of The Westies, blurbs the back. I recommend his account of that violent Hell's Kitchen-based Irish gang over Folsom's account of the slightly less violent, though no less terrifying, Gallo gang. English knows that probing his characters' psychological depths is just as important as probing ...more
Robel Getaneh
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked this book! I enjoyed getting to know Joey and his henchmen and I felt like I was one of them throughout the book. I particularly liked the fact that Folsom also attempted to understand Joey on a deeper level so that he could understand the mafioso's reasoning for doing the things that he did. The story at times would jump around and that would throw me off the emotional high that I was on just a few paragraphs ago. I understand that this is a true crime novel and filling in the gaps is a ...more
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Employing a fast-paced, almost attention-deficit writing style, Folsom delivers a generally well researched and expertly crafted biography that allows readers to experience rather than merely observe the life of "Crazy Joey" Gallo and his siblings. The author jumpily connects real world incidents and fictional references, as he weaves compellingly through the rackets career of the Gallo brothers.

The book's dance-around style limits its usefulness as a Gallo reference work. However, The Mad Ones
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Composed of short, tight vignettes, Folsom shows another side of the mob in the 60s. Joe Gallo ate brunch with Jerry and Marta Orbach, devoured existential philosophy, and composed poetry. His attitude and antics bothered both Bobby Kennedy and the heads of the Commission. His death fueled the press surrounding the movie version of "The Godfather".

I read a review copy (which a library cataloged on a record for the full book), so I can't speak as to Folsom's research and missed the photos.
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
I actually listened to this book rather than reading it, which was a mistake. The author is playing a bit fast and loose with his prose, sort of riffing in a style reminiscent of the Beats Crazy Joe hung with in the village. If I'd been reading I could have retraced my steps and tracked down slippery names and salient facts, but I got lost in the audio book repeatedly and eventually gave up making sense of anything.

I drive a lot. Sometimes it's enough if the narrator has a nice voice.
Brenda Wegner
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. I didn't care about anyone in the book. I usually like stories about mobsters, but I just couldn't get into this.

I bought this because I saw Tom Folsom on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart seemed convinced that Folsom was going to make this into a movie. I think I might like it as a movie. The writing seems jerky and some visuals and a good soundtrack would probably make it much more interesting.
May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
The book is an impressionist masterpiece, recreating the feel of the times using an unusual writing style. The story sometimes jumps from one event to another, and does not deliver the history of its characters in a dry linear fashion. Some people will prefer a more straightforward approach, but I enjoyed the way the author used his style to provide impressions and not just information. Nice work!
Aug 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Great story, super-annoying writing style. It almost seems like Tom Folsom is trying to be hip in the way he jumps all over the place, but he only ends up making the narrative extremely convoluted. And I cringe when I read sentences like "The Gallos were trapped, desperate as the junkyard dogs that howled in Red Hook." ugh.

Like some of the other reviewers, I bought the book after seeing Folsom on the Daily Show, but it was a major disappointment.
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
I liked the book so I had a hard time deciding between 2 or 3 stars. The 2 feels a little low. I enjoyed the book, what was going on in New York in the 50's, 60's and 70's is amazing, but I felt there were alot of names and people thrown in, names I'm not familair with so it wasn't always clear to me who was who. Likely will read it again.
Jun 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book is insane. There is so much hyperbole and over the top crazy writing. I am not sure if it is so bad it's good or just bad. The story IS interesting but it is diffifult to stay focused while slogging through so many unecessary adjectives and clauses.

I'm stopping. I just can't go any further.
Doug Allen
Jun 19, 2009 rated it liked it
interesting story about the mob in new york, but written in a style that was a little hard to follow at times. i think this is largely because it was based so heavily in eyewitness accounts, and as any federal prosecutor probably knows, there's not a lot of people willing to go on record about the mob.
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