Since watching The Irishman, I’ve had a yen for Mafia crime stories. I’ve always wanted to know more about the Gambino family since they were the most powerful of the five families during the time the mob ran everything. So I picked this lauded work up.
It gave me everything I need in the best way possible: being detailed without being tedious. It covers the families coming over from Italy and Sicily, how what we know to be the “mafia” came into existence and how the families formed out of old bootlegging wars. Much of the history parallels the history of the underworld in 20th century New York City.
Most of the second half of the book is devoted to John Gotti. I knew little about the man himself and nothing I learned really changed my perceptions but I got the bigger picture I wanted. Apparently, the government was coming down hard on the mob in the 80s with RICO, so whomever succeeded Paul Castellano probably would’ve gone down soon after anyway. Which doesn’t change the fact that John Gotti was a moron as a boss, a flashy braggart who basically painted a target on his back. It only goes to show the ineptness of the prosecution, both state and federal, that it took four tries to finally convict him of something.
Davis goes long several times on how the Mafia created a bad image for Italian-Americans. He doesn’t glorify the family or the life at all. He is a little lenient towards Gotti, claiming that the gangster was loyal to the code until his demise which, okay? At the same time, this is a well-rounded picture of how something that started as a protection racket grew into criminal dominance and was eventually reigned in by a combination of prosecutorial zeal and its own hubris. Crime doesn’t pay.