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The Mafia books you'd NEVER recommend

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message 1: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (tphunt) | 38 comments We're probably turned off to different degrees by different things. But I'm interested to learn which Mafia books you've read that you would absolutely never recommend to someone who was searching for the truth about the underworld.

- Tom

message 2: by Rick (new)

Rick (rickmattix) | 28 comments First one that comes to mind here is a supposed autobiography called Mafia Kingpin by a guy named Sonny Gibson. Huge thick book of fictional nonsense.

The Lait and Mortimer "Confidential" series from the early '50s I'd recommend only for laughs (and mild ones at that as they're pretty tame today). There are lots of bad and/or obsolete Mafia books from that period but most do contain worthwhile information. The Monarch/Tower paperback "novelized biographies" of the early '60s are worthless and David Hanna's paperback series from the '70s are about as bad.

I've always thought Talese's Honor Thy Father boring but still consider it very worthwhile from an insider's view, especially when balanced against A Man of Honor.

message 3: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (tphunt) | 38 comments I think I would put on the "never recommend" list those books that mix fiction and non-fiction elements. I'm not really a fan of "new journalism" (the telling of actual events with reliance on fiction-writing techniques), but I recognize that some authors have successfully used the style to illuminate some real-world conditions. Unfortunately, most of those who use the technique are not masters of it (many who use it seem not to understand it).

War of the Godfathers by Roemer falls into this category. The publisher insists it is non-fiction, a bit of definition bending.

I would also warn against a book that goes by the titles, "Under the Clock" and "Crime Incorporated" by Balsamo and Carpozi. It seems this one started out as a new-journalism undocumented approach to the life story of a Balsamo ancestor and then - probably for marketing reasons - grew to include a recap of more current events that was written in an entirely different style.

I must confess to appreciating greatly another book that I recommend against. That is "Brothers in Blood" by Chandler. It's one of those books that can be said to be "original and factual," though the factual stuff isn't at all original and the original stuff...

This one comes across more as straight history than the previous two books mentioned. When I first read it, it seemed to me that the author was blazing new trails in organized crime research. Later, I was frustrated to find very few citations to support his ventures out onto historical limbs. Still later, I found plenty of evidence contradicting some of his positions. Still, I recognize that I owe a debt to Chandler. If he hadn't been so bold and interesting, I might never have had the urge to do my own investigation. (So give this one a good grade for Inspiration and a far lower mark for Information.)

- Tom

message 4: by Rick (new)

Rick (rickmattix) | 28 comments I agree on all these. Especially Balsamo and Carpozi, whose Under the Clock was an expanded version of their earlier book Always Kill a Brother. The undocumented approach plus Carpozi's writing style lead me to dismiss these to the fiction department. Balsamo has done some interesting research on Capone's early years in Brooklyn but it's not apparent from this.

I found Chandler's Brothers in Blood both fascinating and frustrating for the same reasons. Mafia by Fred J. Cook invokes similar mixed feelings, although there was little really new in it.

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