I recently received a complimentary review copy of James Cockayne's book, Hidden Power: The Strategic Logic of Organized Crime (Oxford University Press).
Cockayne looks at organized crime in general - the American and Sicilian Mafia incarnations of organized crime in particular - in terms of strategic criminal exploitation of opportunities. He examines historic interactions between underworld and overworld, organized crime and government authority - conflict, corruption, cooperation. I cannot yet speak to how well he does all of this, but he seems to have done his homework and has a solid knowledge of the subject matter.
One of my random reading selections was disappointing. Looking over a discussion of prosecutor Thomas Dewey's mid-1930s assault on New York-based organized crime leaders, I immediately stumbled upon material pulled from the pages of The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, a book widely known to be unreliable. The passages, consisting of fraudulent quotes attributed by Last Testament to Luciano, define and rationalize U.S. Mafia policy against attacking government officials.
Cockayne actually discusses Last Testament in another location in his book, criticizing the work but also giving it more credit than it deserves. (He says the book was based upon notes taken during Last Testament coauthor Martin Gosch's interviews with Luciano, but there is no evidence that any Gosch-Luciano interviews actually occurred and no notes are known to exist.)
Recognizing his peril, Cockayne claims to have avoided using the source for "any point of analytical significance." Despite the author's insistence, the Mafia policy he draws from Last Testament seems to be not only a "point of analytical significance" but also important to his theme of strategic underworld-overworld relationships.
To be fair, Cockayne used a great many sources in his research. Most of those are very highly regarded. (I noticed that he even made use of some material by that eminent underworld historian Thomas Hunt.)
- James Cockayne website.
- James Cockayne on Twitter.
- Hidden Power on Amazon.com.
01 November 2016
Labels: Books, Dewey, Hidden Power, James Cockayne, Luciano, Mafia, Martin Gosch, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Thomas Hunt
Editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer. Publisher of American Mafia history website mafiahistory.us. Moderator of Mafia-related Yahoo discussion group. Author of Wrongly Executed? Coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime. Contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime. Writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.