The Chicago Syndicate: Book Recommendations
Showing posts with label Book Recommendations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Recommendations. Show all posts

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by Former @FBI Director James Comey

In his forthcoming book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration's policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Donald Trump Presidential campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

The Battle for Las Vegas Review Guide

Reviewed at:

New Book Reveals the Inside Story of the Law's Battle to Remove the Influence and Corruption of Organized Crime from Sin City's Streets and Casinos

Dennis Griffin's The Battle for Las Vegas (The Law vs. The Mob)

Monday, April 02, 2018

Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives

Actress and playwright Tina Alexis Allen’s audacious memoir unravels her privileged suburban Catholic upbringing that was shaped by her formidable father—a man whose strict religious devotion and dedication to his large family hid his true nature and a life defined by deep secrets and dangerous lies.

The youngest of thirteen children in a devout Catholic family, Tina Alexis Allen grew up in 1980s suburban Maryland in a house ruled by her stern father, Sir John, an imposing, British-born authoritarian who had been knighted by the Pope. Sir John supported his large family running a successful travel agency that specialized in religious tours to the Holy Land and the Vatican for pious Catholics.

But his daughter, Tina, was no sweet and innocent Catholic girl. A smart-mouthed high school basketball prodigy, she harbored a painful secret: she liked girls. When Tina was eighteen her father discovered the truth about her sexuality. Instead of dragging her to the family priest and lecturing her with tearful sermons about sin and damnation, her father shocked her with his honest response. He, too, was gay.

The secret they shared about their sexuality brought father and daughter closer, and the two became trusted confidants and partners in a relationship that eventually spiraled out of control. Tina and Sir John spent nights dancing in gay clubs together, experimenting with drugs, and casual sex—all while keeping the rest of their family in the dark.

Outside of their wild clandestine escapades, Sir John made Tina his heir apparent at the travel agency. Drawn deeper into the business, Tina soon became suspicious of her father’s frequent business trips, his multiple passports and cache of documents, and the briefcases full of cash that mysteriously appeared and quickly vanished. Digging deeper, she uncovered a disturbing facet beyond the stunning double-life of the father she thought she knew.

A riveting and cinematic true tale stranger and twistier than fiction, Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives, is an astonishing story of self-discovery, family, secrets, and the power of the truth to set us free.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Author @TinaAlexisAllen to Appear on #CrimeBeatRadio Tonight to Discuss "Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives"

Tina Alexis Allen, author of "Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives" will appear on Crime Beat Radio tonight.

Crime Beat is a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. Crime Beat presents fascinating topics that bring listeners closer to the dynamic underbelly of the world of crime. Guests have included ex-mobsters, undercover law enforcement agents, sports officials, informants, prisoners, drug dealers and investigative journalists, who have provided insights and fresh information about the world’s most fascinating subject: crime.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of @realDonaldTrump

The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the U.S. election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry. After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.

The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no "third-rate burglary." It was far more sophisticated and sinister -- a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won. And millions of Americans were left wondering, what the hell happened? This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump's strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle -- including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn -- and Russia.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, chronicles and explores this bizarre scandal, explains the stakes, and answers one of the biggest questions in American politics: How and why did a foreign government infiltrate the country's political process and gain influence in Washington?

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Roadmap to Hell: Sex, Drugs, and Guns on the Mafia Coast

From sex slaves to drug mules, The Daily Beast's Rome Bureau Chief uncovers a terrifying and intricate web of criminal activity right on Europe's doorstep. Caught between Camorra gunrunners selling to ISIS and Nigerian drug gangs along Italy's picturesque coast, each year thousands of refugees and migrants are lured into their underworld, forced to become sex slaves, drug mules, or weapon smugglers.

In this powerful expose, investigative journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau follows the weapons trail, meets the trafficked women trapped by black magic, the brave nuns who try to save them, and the Italian police who turn a blind eye as the most urgent issues facing Europe play out in broad daylight.

Roadmap to Hell: Sex, Drugs, and Guns on the Mafia Coast.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Minestrone for the Mobster's Soul: Life Lessons from the Movie Mafia

14 Life Lessons gathered from growing up on the west Side of Chicago in the 60's and 70's, utilizing Mob and Mafia movies. This is a self-help book for mob wannabes who can gather valuable insights into applying concepts such as loyalty, honor, respect and the law of omerta into their daily lives. Each chapter features a story followed by a lesson influenced by movie characters from our favorite films like THE GODFATHER, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, BRONX TALE, etc. Two cousins grow up fast as the they become "associates" of "the Outfit" in Chicago and learn what it takes to survive in this environment. The book concludes with a list of the top 100 mob movies of all time, complete with reviews.

Minestrone for the Mobster's Soul: Life Lessons from the Movie Mafia.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Mafia Wife: My Story of Love, Murder, and Madness

The seamy world of the Gambino crime family first took book form thanks to notorious turncoat Salvatore""Sammy the Bull"" Gravano, who told his story to Peter Maas for the 1997 Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia.

Linda Milito, the long-suffering wife of Sammy's partner Louie Milito (murdered in 1988 under Sammy's orders, Linda maintains, though Sammy""told the feds it was John Gotti's idea""), now tells her own tale of the mob life, as seen from the home front. Hers is not a glamorous account: she documents her husband's rise from a petty crook who robbed pay phones to a""straightened out"" tough who became a captain with the Gambinos.

The grinding monotony and terrible strife of her existence--struggling to make money legitimately while her husband languished in jail, trying to protect her son from bullies, coping with terrible physical abuse--is chilling. The image-conscious""wiseguys"" that formed her social circle (and who are rather hilariously obsessed with The Godfather) become pitiable figures, trapped in a cycle of murder and deceit.

On the whole, Milito manages to tell her story unflinchingly, without sounding self-pitying, even as she details her mental illness and her current abusive relationship. Collaborator Potterton does an excellent job of keeping the narrative running smoothly, organizing the tangle of names and connections, and maintaining Milito's honest and streetwise Brooklyn voice.

Mafia Wife: Revised Edition My Story of Love, Murder, and Madness.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit is a Revealing Portrait of #RFK from @HardballChris

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, is a revealing new portrait of Robert F. Kennedy that gets closer to the man than any book before, by bestselling author Chris Matthews, an esteemed Kennedy expert and anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball.

With his bestselling biography Jack Kennedy, Chris Matthews shared a new look of one of America’s most beloved Presidents and the patriotic spirit that defined him. Now, with Bobby Kennedy, Matthews returns with a gripping, in-depth, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the great figures of the American twentieth century.

Overlooked by his father, and overshadowed by his war-hero brother, Bobby Kennedy was the perpetual underdog. When he had the chance to become a naval officer like Jack, Bobby turned it down, choosing instead to join the Navy as a common sailor. It was a life changing experience that led him to connect with voters from all walks of life: young or old, black or white, rich or poor. They were the people who turned out for him in his 1968 campaign. RFK would prove himself to be the rarest of politicians—both a pragmatist who knew how to get the job done and an unwavering idealist who could inspire millions.

Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Matthews pulls back the curtain on the public and private worlds of Robert Francis Kennedy. He shines a light on all the important moments of his life, from his early years and his start in politics to his crucial role as attorney general in his brother’s administration and his tragic run for president. This definitive book brings Bobby Kennedy to life like never before and is destined to become a political classic.

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

At the height of Prohibition, Al Capone loomed large as Public Enemy Number One: his multimillion-dollar Chicago Outfit dominated organized crime, and law enforcement was powerless to stop him. But then came the fall: a legal noose tightened by the FBI, a conviction on tax evasion, a stint in Alcatraz. After his release, he returned to his family in Miami a much diminished man, living quietly until the ravages of his neurosyphilis took their final toll.

Our shared fascination with Capone endures in countless novels and movies, but the man behind the legend has remained a mystery. Now, through rigorous research and exclusive access to Capone’s family, National Book Award–winning biographer Deirdre Bair cuts through the mythology, uncovering a complex character who was flawed and cruel but also capable of nobility. At once intimate and iconoclastic, Al Capone gives us the definitive account of a quintessentially American figure.

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Price of Politics - See how and why Washington is not functioning

Based on 18 months of reporting, Bob Woodward's 17th book The Price of Politics, is an intimate, documented examination of how President Obama and the highest profile Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government’s fiscal condition over three and one half years.

Drawn from memos, contemporaneous meeting notes, emails, and in-depth interviews with the central players, The Price of Politics, addresses the key issue of the presidential and congressional campaigns: the condition of the American economy and how and why we got there. Providing verbatim, day-by-day, even hour-by-hour accounts, the book shows what really happened, what drove the debates, negotiations, and struggles that define, and will continue to define, the American future.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia - A Quality Work by @NateHendley

From the James gang to Nicky Barnes to John Gotti, the American gangster has become an iconic outsized American archetype, with the real criminals sometimes rivaling their fictional counterparts—like the Corleones and the Sopranos—for their ability to captivate the public and attain genuine folk antihero status.

A detailed compendium of American gangsters and gangs from the end of the Civil War to the present day.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, ranges from Western outlaws revered as Robin Hoods to the Depression’s flamboyant bootleggers and bank robbers to the late 20th century’s drug kingpins and “Dapper Dons.” It is the first comprehensive resource on the gangster’s historical evolution and unshakable grip on the American imagination.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, tells the stories of a number of famous gangsters and gangs—Jesse James and Billy the Kid, the Black Hand, Al Capone, Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels, the Mafia, Crips and Bloods, and more. Avoiding sensationalism, the straightforward entries include biographical portraits and historical background for each subject, as well as accounts of infamous robberies, killings, and other events, all well documented with both archival newspapers and extensive research into the files of the FBI. Readers will understand the families, the places, and the times that produced these monumental criminals, as well as the public mindset that often found them sympathetic and heroic.

Features

  • Comprises 50 alphabetically organized entries on American gangsters and gangs from the post-Civil War era to the present
  • Offers a wealth of primary sources, including newspaper articles dating back to the 1880s and FBI files obtained by the author
  • Includes photographs of prominent American gangsters and the aftermaths of their crimes
  • Presents a glossary of gangster slang, past and present
  • Provides a comprehensive index

Highlights

  • Spans the whole history of the gangster in the United States, from the post-Civil War era to the present
  • Features the insights and writing skills of an accomplished author of crime books
  • Makes the connection between gangsters from different eras
  • Dispels a number of misconceptions about gangsters and the destruction they cause

Nate Hendley is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. His published works include Greenwood's Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography, Crystal Meth: North America's #1 Drug Problem, Al Capone: Chicago's King of Crime, Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York, and Edwin Alonzo Boyd: Life and Crimes of Canada's Master Bank Robber.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Mob Fest '29: The True Story Behind the Birth of Organized Crime

Bill Tonelli arrives on the scene with his brilliantly subversive Byliner Mob Fest ’29: The True Story Behind the Birth of Organized Crime. Tonelli investigates the long-standing myth of the mob’s founding—a legendary week in May 1929 in which a who’s who of American crime (Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Frank Costello, among many others) were said to have assembled in Atlantic City, the hedonistic Playground of America, to make peace and divvy up the country’s illegal enterprises. But what really happened that criminally star-studded week on the Jersey Shore?

At this informal summit, mobster bosses allegedly gathered to invent the concept of “organized crime” in America. Prohibition had transformed all of them from two-bit thugs into underworld bigwigs, and they had a vested interest in keeping illicit booze flowing easily across state lines. In Atlantic City, these hoods played as hard as they worked—if indeed they worked at all. “As legend has it,” writes Tonelli, “as many as thirty top gangsters [enjoyed] wild parties and heroic feasts, with fancy ladies provided for any who hadn’t brought his own. In short, this was nothing like the office meetings you and I have been made to attend.”

How many of these accounts are actually true, and why do they vary wildly in their retelling? Did the mobsters really wheel around the Boardwalk in rolling chairs, smoking cigars and cutting deals? Did they threaten one another in swank conference rooms in the Ritz-Carlton? Did they force Al Capone, fresh from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, to turn himself in to the cops in order to take the heat off everyone else? And what about the infamous photo of Nucky Johnson—“the benevolent but undisputed king” of Atlantic City, better known as Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire—strolling the boards arm in arm with Capone? Was this a staged shoot caught by early paparazzi or a Prohibition-era Photoshop job designed to ignite conspiracy theories that would thrive for years to come?

At a time when the early mob days are all the rage, Tonelli sifts the facts from the malarkey and in so doing shows that when it comes to the birth of organized crime, a good lie is hard to beat.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Born to the Mob: The True-Life Story of the Only Man to Work for All Five of New York's Mafia Families

Frankie Saggio reminisces about the era of true wise guys like his Uncle Philly -a contemporary of Al Capone. After all, it was Frankie's uncle who "taught him the value of a dollar and how to steal it from someone else." Uncle Philly was from a day when being in a mafia family meant being bound by blood and honor, not like modern day families whose only concern is money.

For Frankie, the only way to avoid the modern mob treachery is to avoid getting involved with any single mob family, working "freelance" for all five. Frankie can do this because he is one of the biggest earners in the business, pulling down millions and kicking a share upstairs to the bosses. Though he fights the decision, Frankie is tied by blood to the Bonanno family, Uncle Philly's family, and current home to Philly's murderer. Soon after joining the Bonannos, Frankie narrowly escapes an assassination attempt and is busted for a major scam. With little choice, and even less loyalty to the Bonannos, Frankie turns himself over to the Feds on the one condition that he will tell the feds everything, but will not squeal on his own relatives.

Born to the Mob: The True-Life Story of the Only Man to Work for All Five of New York's Mafia Families.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Author of "John F. Kennedy Assassination: A Mafia Conspiracy" Discusses His Theory

Jim Gatewood, author of "John F. Kennedy Assassination a Mafia Conspiracy," as well as several other books, was the guest speaker for the Kilgore Rotary Club on Wednesday.

Gatewood spoke about the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, and discussed Mafia history and other facts which cement his theory that the Mafia was behind the assassination, in conjunction with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

The Dallas historian gave historical facts about Mafia activity in Dallas, including details on the life of Benny Binion, now famous for opening the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas and a noted Dallas businessman around the time of the Depression.

Gatewood wove a tale which started back around the time of the Depression, and the path involved noted mobsters from New York, Dallas, Chicago and several other eastern U.S. cities, along with Texas historical figures such as Lone Wolf Gonzales and Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger who helped gun down Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana.

He tied all of that history together with a story about Oswald and his involvement in the Mafia and his association with Cuban Freedom Fighters who were mad because JFK had supposedly issued an order to have Fidel Castro killed.

According to Gatewood, Oswald waited on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository with a look-alike, a Cuban Freedom Fighter who would take the shot if Oswald would not. There were also Cuban Freedom Fighters along the motorcade route to signal the pair when it was time to be ready to fire.

Gatewood said law enforcement in Dallas County knew about an assassination attempt and had their own shooter on the top of the County Records Building to look for snipers. That shooter fired on Oswald's gun after two shots had been fired at Kennedy, causing Oswald's third shot to hit the curb and ricochet into the guard rail.

Oswald hit the president and Texas Gov. John Connally with his first two shots and, according to Gatewood, was firing at Jackie Kennedy with the third shot to make an impact on the shooting that would earn him kudos with the mob.

Oswald missed his ride in a car to the Highland Park Airport, but his look-alike was able to get on the plane.

Jack Ruby, a noted mob figure in Dallas, told Oswald if he missed his plane he should meet him at his apartment, which was near the rooming house where Oswald lived. But, before he could get there, he met Dallas police officer J.D. Tippett and shot him. Then, Oswald was captured at the Texas Theater and Ruby was sent by mobsters to gun him down on Sunday morning, which was seen by millions on national television.

Ruby remained quiet, pleaded guilty to murder of Oswald and died of cancer in prison.

Gatewood offered to discuss his theory with anyone who wanted, and he said he has all of the documentation anyone would want to back up his theory.

Thanks to Greg Collins in 2009.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco #NationalPastaDay

Nuovo Vesuvio. The "family" restaurant, redefined. Home to the finest in Napolitan' cuisine and Essex County's best kept secret. Now Artie Bucco, la cucina's master chef and your personal host, invites you to a special feast...with a little help from his friends, The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco. From arancini to zabaglione, from baccala to Quail Sinatra-style, Artie Bucco and his guests, the Sopranos and their associates, offer food lovers one hundred Avellinese-style recipes and valuable preparation tips. But that's not all!

Artie also brings you a cornucopia of precious Sopranos artifacts that includes photos from the old country; the first Bucco's Vesuvio's menu from 1926; AJ's school essay on "Why I Like Food"; Bobby Bacala's style tips for big eaters, and much, much more.

So share the big table with:


  • Tony Soprano, waste management executive "Most people soak a bagful of discount briquettes with lighter fluid and cook a pork chop until it's shoe leather and think they're Wolfgang Puck." Enjoy his tender Grilled Sausages sizzling with fennel or cheese. Warning: Piercing the skin is a fire hazard. 
  • Corrado "Junior" Soprano, Tony's uncle "Mama always cooked. No one died of too much cholesterol or some such crap." Savor his Pasta Fazool, a toothsome marriage of cannellini beans and ditalini pasta, or Giambott', a grand-operatic vegetable medley. 
  • Carmela Soprano, Tony's wife "If someone were sick, my inclination would be to send over a pastina and ricotta. It's healing food." Try her Baked Ziti, sinfully enriched with three cheeses, and her earthy 'Shcarole with Garlic. 
  • Peter Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri, associate of Tony Soprano "I have heard that Eskimos have fifty words for snow. We have five hundred words for food." Sink your teeth into his Eggs in Purgatory-eight eggs, bubbling tomato sauce, and an experience that's pure heaven. 


As Artie says, "Enjoy, with a thousand meals and a thousand laughs. Buon' appetito!"

The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fixed: How Goodfellas Bought Boston College Basketball #NCAA Throwback

Fixed: How Goodfellas Bought Boston College BasketballFixed: How Goodfellas Bought Boston College Basketball

Using extensive background research as well as interviews with the principal characters, Fixed provides the first in-depth reconstruction of the point-shaving scandal involving the 1978-1979 Boston College basketball team, from the genesis of the plot in the summer of 1978, through the uncovering of the scheme during an unrelated investigation in 1980, to the trial that captivated the sports world in the fall of 1981 and its aftermath. This multi-layered story of greed and betrayal combines sports, gambling, and the Mafia into an irresistible morality tale with a modern edge.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Frank Vincent's A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man

A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man.

These days, it’s harder than ever to know how to act like a real man. We’re not talking about the touchy-feely, ultra-sensitive, emotion-sharing, not-afraid-to-cry version of manhood that Oprah and Dr. Phil have been spouting for years. We’re talking about the though, smart, confident, charming, classy, all-around good fella that upholds the true ideal of what is known as “a man’s man.”

Now, renowned actor and true-life man’s man Frank Vincent, famed for his unforgettable tough-guy roles in such classic films as Raging Bull, Goodfellas and HBO’s The Sopranos, is going to show how any man can be all that he can be in love, work, play, and life. Everything you need to know is covered here, including, getting the best women by being the best man, dressing like a champ and taking on the world, winning big money and big respect in Las Vegas, selecting, smoking, and savoring a great cigar, and much more.

If you want to learn how to be a man’s man, you gotta learn from a man’s man. And with the great Frank Vincent vouching for you, you’ll be on your way to getting everything you ever wanted outta life.

A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

DUAL LIVES: from the Streets to the Studio - "Teacher of the Year" becomes Mob Artist

In DUAL LIVES: from the Streets to the Studio, renowned American artist and 3-time national award-winning “Teacher of the Year” Michael Bell has written an inspiring and brutally candid memoir that chronicles his meteoric rise to becoming one of the most highly decorated public school teachers in America, all the while, living out a storied and often controversial professional painting career as “Mob Artist” to America’s most infamous.

Go behind the scenes with his intriguing clientele on how these friendships also fueled his career—from John Gotti to Al Capone’s great-nephew, Dominic Capone to numerous actors from “the Sopranos”, “Goodfellas”, “A Bronx Tale”, and more. Then, take a roller coaster crusade through the ever-changing, volatile landscapes of the art world and a US public education system that has begun placing more of an emphasis on "data mining" than on "building relationships."

This is the ultimate story of overcoming extreme adversity and being a true champion for today’s youth from someone still in the trenches, still at the top of his game. And, in the education arena, Bell has done the unprecedented. His students have earned tens of millions in scholarships; 7 back-to-back NAEA Rising Star Awards in art—an award presented to just one student artist in the entire nation annually; and 8 Scholastic Art National Medalists 3 years straight.

Bell also discusses the impact of his family life on his art—on the tragic stillbirth of his sister; on his lifelong relationship with his Grandmother, Violet, a self-taught artist from Lyndhurst, New Jersey; on his inspiring son, Carmen, (“Lil' C”), and his battles with Autism while on his quest to become a Golden Gloves boxing champion. Then there's Bell's notorious cousin Vinnie, who was part of the longest double-murder trial in the history of the State of New Jersey. Learn how Bell, himself, went from being a troubled youth once facing twenty-years-to-life to saving one of his own students from a similar fate nearly two decades later.

DUAL LIVES: from the Streets to the Studio, is passionately written, and just as courageously vulnerable as the compelling narratives found within Bell’s paintings. So, ride shotgun alongside Michael Bell throughout his meteoric rise across two very different worlds—from the streets to the studio.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Examining the Crimes of the Calabrese Family #FamilySecrets

Why are we so fascinated by the mob? Well, there's violence: garroting, shooting, stabbing; the thrill of men hunting men. Money: While most of us sweat for our daily bread, gangsters take what they want. The unknown: Gangster stories give us special knowledge of dark, hidden places in the city and in the human heart.

That last point is important, because half the fun is pulling back the veil. The author strips away the pretenses and pleasantries of daily life and reveals how the world really is. Which is to say that force reigns supreme, not intelligence or character or merit. But part of the popularity of gangster lit is the assumption that the veil is only ever half-raised. Mob stories feed our most paranoid fears by implying that so much more remains to be told. Because we really can't see the subject whole, never know the limits of the mob's influence, we can imagine it as all-powerful, with cops, politicians and businessmen bought and paid for. Authors let us in on the secrets, but the thrilling question always remains, just how big is this menace?

That is one of the reasons that Chicago Tribune reporter Jeff Coen's "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" is so refreshing. He never reaches beyond his story, sticks close to his evidence, lets the carefully gathered wiretaps and eyewitness testimony and reporter's notes do the talking. Like Nicholas Pileggi's classic "Wiseguy," on which the film "GoodFellas" was based, Coen keeps it at street level, focusing on his distinct cast of characters, the gangsters and their victims, the federal agents, local cops and attorneys who played out the drama.

During the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Frank Calabrese Sr. operated a lucrative loan-sharking business on Chicago's South Side. He had ties to higher-ups in the "Outfit," as the Chicago mob is known, men like Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, and James "Jimmy Light" Marcello. Calabrese was not a nice man. In the late '90s, his son, Frank Jr., musing on his father's abusiveness, decided to turn state's evidence against the old man. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, young Frank's uncle Nick (Frank Sr.'s brother) also decided to cooperate with the feds.

With that the Outfit's cover unraveled, and the case finally came to trial in 2007. Coen gives us fine-grained pictures of the loan-sharking and extortion, and, above all, at least 18 killings.

Nick Calabrese, a reluctant hit man, committed multiple murders at brother Frank's behest. Nick told the feds that his sibling would willingly kill him had he failed to carry out a hit. Frank Calabrese himself specialized in garroting his victims, then cutting their throats to make sure they were dead. Coen gives us gruesome accounts of the murders and burials in corn fields and at construction sites.

"Family Secrets" isn't for everyone. It is a complex narrative of a long case that resulted in several convictions. The devil is in the details, there are a lot of them, and they thoroughly de-romanticize the mob.

This is a well-written and researched book, but its subject might disappoint some readers. Unlike the East Coast mob, Coen tells us, "Chicago had been unified for much of the century, since the days of the infamous boss Al Capone. ..." That statement is true but a bit deceptive. This late 20th Century crew seems a little pathetic. They're not exactly the gang that couldn't shoot straight, but they're certainly not Capone's Outfit either. When we pull back the veil, we get a strange blend of Don Corleone and the Three Stooges.

Thanks to Elliott Gorn, who teaches history at Brown University. He is author of "Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One," published this year by Oxford University Press.

Crime Family Index