Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

27 September 2021

October 2021 issue of Informer

Mafiosi of the West Coast

Our look at mobsters who set up shop on America's West Coast begins with excerpts from a fact-based crime noir by J. Michael Niotta PhD. These excerpts relate to the escape to California of New York gangsters - a young Jack Dragna and his cousin Ben Rizzotto - implicated in the 1914 murder of wealthy Manhattan poultryman Barnett Baff (PREVIEW). This is Dr. Niotta's first article in Informer. A brief biography of Baff is provided as a sidebar.

Dragna and Rizzotto also make appearances in Justin Cascio's study of the legendary “San Pedro Gang” and Corleone Mafia transplant Sam Streva (PREVIEW).

The San Francisco gangland murder of Nick DeJohn, found stuffed into the trunk of his car in 1947, and that killing's possible relationship with Chicago's so-called “Cheese War” are considered by Thomas Hunt (PREVIEW). The article is accompanied by a sidebar story on early Chicago shootings linked with the DeJohn family and by a collection of other car-involved murders of crime figures who settled in California.

Michael O'Haire reveals that San Francisco crime boss Francesco Lanza played important roles in the development of the Mafia in Colorado (PREVIEW). Lennert van 't Riet explores connections between the early San Francisco and New Orleans Mafia organizations, focusing on 1898 murder victim Francesco DiFranchi (PREVIEW).

In addition to the California-related material, we look into reports of another, “other Gentile family” (PREVIEW) and Jeffery King describes the career of Reinhold Engel, who led “one of the cleverest and most efficient” bank robbery gangs (PREVIEW).

In our “Just One More Thing” column, Thomas Hunt considers the rare appearance of law enforcement officers on United States postage stamps (PREVIEW). This issue also includes “Hundred Years Ago” notes on a crime boss desperate to leave the country and the murder of a St. Louis political boss, as well as a new book announcement for Rogues' Gallery about the Gilded Age revolution of policing in New York City. 

This issue is available in five formats: Print magazine, electronic PDF magazine, paperback book, EPUB-compatible e-book and Kindle-compatible e-book. Kindle e-books can be "preordered" immediately, but Kindle downloads will not be available until Sept. 29. The e-books and the electronic magazine are priced at $9.49 (USD). The print paperback retails for $14.95 (USD). The color-printed magazine retails for $25.50 (USD).

01 September 2021

NYC revolutions in policing and in crime

Press release:

Chilling and thought-provoking, John Oller's Rogues' Gallery (available September 21, 2021, in hardcover and ebook formats) is an epic saga of two revolutions playing out on the streets of New York City during the Gilded Age, each one dependent on the other.

For centuries, New York had been a haven of crime. A thief or murderer not caught in the act nearly always got away. But in the early 1870s, an Irish cop by the name of Thomas Byrnes developed new ways to catch criminals. Mug shots and daily line-ups helped witnesses point out culprits; the fames rogues' gallery allowed police to track repeat offenders; and the third-degree interrogation method induced recalcitrant cooks to confess. Byrnes worked cases methodically, interviewing witnesses, analyzing crime scenes, and developing theories that helped close the books on previously unsolvable crimes.

Yet as policing became ever more specialized and efficient, criminals found new ways to ply their trade. Robberies became bolder and more elaborate, murders grew more ruthless and macabre, and the street gangs of old transformed into hierarchical criminal enterprises, giving birth to organized crime, including the Mafia. As the decades unfolded, corrupt cops and clever criminals at times blurred together, giving way to waves of police reform at the hands of leaders like Theodore Roosevelt.

Rogues Gallery encompasses unforgettable characters such as:

  • Marm Mendelbaum, a matronly German-immigrant woman who paid off cops and politicians to protect her empire of fencing stolen goods.
  • "Clubber" Williams, a sadistic policeman who wielded a twenty-six-inch club against suspects, whether they were guilty or not.
  • Danny Driscoll, the murderous leader of the Irish Whyos Gang and perhaps the first crime boss of New York.
  • Big Tim Sullivan, the corrupt Tammany Hall politician who shielded the Whyos from the law.
  • The suave Italian Paul Kelly and the thuggish Jewish gang leader Monk Eastman, whose rival crews engaged in brawls and gunfights all over the Lower East Side.
  • Joe Petrosino, a Sicilian-born detective who brilliantly pursued early Mafioso and Black Hand extortionists until a fateful trup back to his native Italy.

With impeccable research that leaves no stone unturned, Oller dispels the many myths that have survived with these stories, while proving that truth is often stranger than fiction. Rogues Gallery is a colorful and captivating history in the bustling streets of Old New York, from the beginnings of big-city police work to the rise of the Mafia. With its extremes of plutocratic wealth, tenement property, and rising social unrest, the story of crime and punishment in New York's Gilded Age echoes for our own time.

John Oller is a retired Wall Street attorney, and author of critically acclaimed biographies of figures such as Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, Hollywood actress Jean Arthur, and Civil War socialite Kate Chase Sprague. He lives on New York's Upper West Side.

The principle text, maps and images of Rogue's Gallery consume about 400 pages. An additional 80-plus pages is used for endnotes and bibliography. The index runs 19 more pages. The book is being released through the Dutton imprint of Penguin Random House. As of this writing, preorder price on Amazon.com is $27.99 for hardcover and $16.99 for Kindle-compatible ebook.

29 November 2020

McKeever-McNeiley: Troublesome robbery gang

 Jeffery S. King, author of The Rise and Fall of the Dillinger Gang, The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd and Kill-Crazy Gang, here turns his attention to less well known Depression Era gangsters of the American Midwest, George McKeever and Francis McNeiley. Noting their physical (and professional) similarities to Pretty Boy Floyd and Floyd's bank robbery partner Adam Richetti, King persuasively argues that McKeever-McNeiley robberies and violence were mistakenly attributed to Floyd-Richetti, adding significantly to the Floyd-Richetti legend.

Built upon FBI files, court and prison records and other government documents, in addition to published book, newspaper and magazine sources, One of the Most Troublesome Robbery Gangs is a record of the murders and robberies committed by McKeever, McNeiley and their associates. The book establishes the often overlooked McKeever-McNeiley gang as one of the more successful and elusive outlaw bands of the period.

Along with the dramatic details of the McKeever and McNeiley careers, King provides broader context, exploring regional economic ills, the condition of penal institutions and the organization and techniques of police agencies in the era. King follows his subjects through their final arrests and to the ends of their lives - one expiring at the end of a rope in Missouri and the other surviving a lengthy prison sentence to pass away decades later.

King includes eighteen pages of photographs, extensive source citations and a select bibliography.

One of the Most Troublesome Robbery Gangs is an informative, entertaining and easy read. It is not without some technical flaws - there are a number of typographical errors in the text and some photos and captions are skewed on their pages - but these do not significantly detract from the book.


Disclosure: I have been acquainted with Jeffery S. King for about a decade. He has contributed several articles - on Baby Face Nelson, George McKeever and Tommy Carroll - and several advertisements to my Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement publication since 2011.

29 October 2019

Intimate family portrait, detailed Mafia history

[Disclaimer: The author provided me with several revisions of Colorado's Carlino Brothers before publication. I contributed edit suggestions and provided a foreword to the book.  - TH.]
 A decade ago, Mountain Mafia: Organized Crime in the Rockies by Alt and Wells first put the Colorado underworld on the map. Now, author Sam Carlino has provided the map with important connections between Denver and Pueblo Italian-American racketeers and national organized crime leaders.

https://amzn.to/2WmNdKR
His just-released book, Colorado's Carlino Brothers: A Bootlegging Empire (The History Press), is at once an intimate family portrait and a detailed Mafia history. The author deftly tracks the development of the regional crime family before and through the Prohibition Era, revealing its proper place in the national scene, while providing personal insight into his ancestors, who were members and leaders of the organization. The author's unique perspective helps to fully develop and humanize the book's primary subjects, brothers Pete (the author's grandfather) and Sam, and reveals the often painful impact of their career choices on their extended families.

The book deals in depth with the career and murder of early Pueblo Mafia leader Pellegrino Scaglia, the long and violent Carlino-D'Anna rivalry, the successful infiltration of the Carlino operation by an undercover federal agent and the Denver police raid that exposed a budding regional bootlegging syndicate. It explores Pete Carlino's travels to Mafia home cities in the Midwest and the East in a seemingly desperate effort to strengthen his position at home. And it chronicles the tragic and bloody ends of the Carlino faction leaders.

But its most momentous revelation concerns a link between Pete Carlino and the powerful but short-lived New York City-based Mafia boss of bosses, Salvatore Maranzano.

The author uses some circumstantial evidence and a long-forgotten ("missing link") news source to build a convincing case for a connection between the two old-school "Mustache Pete" Mafiosi. For researchers of underworld history, this heightens the importance of the often overlooked Colorado underworld. It also adds greatly to the significance of the nearly simultaneous murders of Maranzano and Carlino, occurring 1,800 miles apart on September 10, 1931, and may be viewed as supportive of the legendary "Night of Sicilian Vespers" purge of Maranzano loyalists.

From Colorado's Carlino Brothers
Carlino Bros. contains a wealth of photographs supporting its history text. These include family photos, gangland group shots, mug shots, news photos, scenics, document images and newspaper clippings.

The author's deep affection for the subjects of the work and his joy at having discovered their true stories - long-closeted skeletons and all - are evident in his selection of family images, in his commentary in the "Introduction," "Conclusion" and "Special Thanks" sections of the book, and certainly in his decision to share with the reader the often praised Carlino family recipe for spaghetti sauce.

Colorado's Carlino Brothers was released October 28, 2019, in 160-page paperback and Kindle editions.

18 September 2017

'Gangland Boston' due in October

Gangland Boston, due out in October 2017, is the newest book by Boston Globe crime reporter and author Emily Sweeney. (In 2012, Sweeney released an Images of America book entitled, Boston Organized Crime.)


From publisher Lyons Press: "Organized criminals have haunted Greater Boston’s history, lurking just around the corner or inside that nondescript building. Packed with photos, sidebars, and maps, Gangland Bostonreveals the secrets of these places, showing how the Italian mafia and Irish gangs rose to power, how the Winter Hill gang ascended to prominence, and how James “Whitey” Bulger became the region’s most feared crime boss. These are the places where deals were made, people were killed, and bodies were unearthed. From South Boston to the North End, Chinatown, Downtown, and Charlestown; Somerville, Brookline, and more . . . come and see where mobsters lived, worked, ate, played, and died."

The book will be available in paperback through Amazon.com.

Signed copies can be ordered now through Sweeney's website: www.bostonorganizedcrime.com/

26 June 2017

Summer 2017 issue of Informer

Informer - Aug 2017
Informer - Aug 2017 - AVAILABLE NOW
in print and electronic editions

IN THIS ISSUE:
- Excerpt from Dock Boss by Neil G. Clark, scheduled for release this summer by Barricade Books. It is the story of Eddie McGrath and the mobsters who controlled New York City's West Side waterfront.
- Lennert Van`t Riet and David Critchley provide a groundbreaking history of Frank Zito's little-known but influential Springfield, Illinois, Mafia organization.
- Justin Cascio explores the career and family connections of the "Capitano," Angelo Di Carlo, who held key underworld positions on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Edmond Valin digs through government records to discover the identity of Bonanno Family informant, "Willie the Tilemaker" Dara.
- Bill Feather provides details on the founding of twenty-nine United States Mafia organizations.
- Richard Warner reviews books on an axe-wielding killer, the origins of street gangs and revered New York law enforcement officer Joseph Petrosino.
- In The Warner Files, Richard Warner outlines recent changes in the Chicago Outfit.

30 December 2016

One week left in giveaway

There is just one more week to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution

The giveaway promotion is being run by Goodreads.com and is open to U.S. residents only. Three signed paperback copies of the book will be randomly awarded on Jan. 5, 2017 - the anniversary of Charles Sberna's execution in Sing Sing Prison. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries.

For more information or to enter, visit Goodreads.

To learn more about the Sberna case, visit the Wrongly Executed? website.

15 December 2016

Chance to win a copy of 'Wrongly Executed?'

Three author-signed trade paperback copies of Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution will be awarded through a promotional drawing on Goodreads.com. No purchase is necessary to enter. Entries will be accepted until Jan. 5, 2017, the anniversary of Charles Sberna's meeting with the Sing Sing Prison electric chair. Details are available on the Goodreads.com website.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wrongly Executed? - The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sbe... by Thomas Hunt
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01 November 2016

Organized crime's 'strategic logic'

I recently received a complimentary review copy of James Cockayne's book, Hidden Power: The Strategic Logic of Organized Crime (Oxford University Press). 

It is a fairly imposing book, weighing in at 324 pages of tight type, plus another 151 pages of source notes, bibliography and index. I have so far done little more than acquaint myself with the book's approach and read some random passages. So this is closer to a preview than a review.

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.

22 October 2016

'Wrongly Executed?' You decide


I have been finishing up a manuscript relating to the 1939 electric-chair execution of convicted cop-killer Charles Sberna. Sberna's name is frequently mentioned by opponents of capital punishment as an example of a wrongful execution. 

I first wrote an article on the subject years back for the On the Spot Journal published by the late Rick "Mad Dog" Mattix, and I have been accumulating additional information since that time. 

My original article (a version can be found on my American Mafia history website) touched on the trial evidence and Sberna's criminal background. It argued that the evidence of Sberna's involvement with two other men in the killing of Officer John H.A. Wilson appeared inconclusive but that it would be a misuse of the word "innocent" ever to apply it to Sberna, who was a habitual wrongdoer. 

The data acquired since then - trial testimony and evidence, legal appeals, witness statements and tons of background material - has done little to clear up the questions. But it has produced an exciting story, involving domestic terrorism, organized crime, corrupt politicians and crusading prosecutors.

Sberna and codefendant Salvatore Gati were brought to trial before authorities arrested a third suspect in the killing. At trial, Gati took the witness stand to admit his own guilt and to insist that Sberna was not present at the time and place of the crime. He refused to provide identifications for his two accomplices, but stated that Sberna was not one of them. When Sberna testified on his own behalf, he provided names of known criminals Gati reportedly revealed as his accomplices. 

A jury decided that Sberna and Gati were both guilty and that neither should not be shown mercy. An appeals court upheld the verdict. A generally liberal-minded governor refused to commute or even to delay Sberna's trip to the electric chair. The warden and chaplain of Sing Sing Prison grew convinced that Sberna had no part in the killing of Officer Wilson, but they had no authority to interfere with the execution. 

Over time, prosecutors spoke of their suspicion that one or both of the men named by Sberna were, in fact, involved in the killing of officer Wilson, but neither man was ever charged. With Sberna and Gati already dead, it appears it did not suit the interests of justice to reveal that there still remained two suspects for a three-man crime. 

There are many reasons to be concerned about the Sberna case. And it is tempting, from our perspective almost eight decades later, to condemn involved groups or individuals. But each was a product of his era and his environment. And each deserves to be judged within his unique context. 

I have called the book, Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution. After completing the great fun of researching and writing the book, I will soon begin the laborious chore of trying to find a publisher for it.

- Thomas Hunt