Or, Papa was an Al Capone.
Roy DeMeo was not a nice man. A loan shark and auto thief, he graduated to contract murder in the 1970s, becoming a capo of the Gambino family and racking up a toll of more than 200 victims. Yet, in the eyes of his young son Albert, “No one could have asked for a better father than mine. . . . He could pick me up and throw me around as effortlessly as a cotton ball, and he often did. . . . I wasn’t exactly sure what my father did for a living, and I didn’t care. I just liked being with him.” Gradually, he acquired more than a few inklings of what his father did in fact do for a living: the expensive gifts and $100 bills at his first communion and the looks of fear on neighbors’ faces eventually tipped Albert off, and adolescence brought more than the usual amount of rejection of the previous generation’s mores. After his father died—“shot seven times in the face and hands,” a helpful policemen tells Albert’s mother—and his old crew moved in to divide the spoils, Albert began to look more closely into his father’s life, seeking some explanation for who murdered him and why. Pressured by federal agents to cooperate in their investigation and turn informant, hounded by mobsters fearful that he would do just that, 18-year-old Albert developed bleeding ulcers and a profound dislike for the Mafia. Some of what he reveals in this so-so memoir will be of interest to students of organized crime, but there are many better insider accounts available; and while writing it must have been a cathartic experience, the reader will not forgive such mawkish moments as when Albert puts on a pair of his father’s old shoes and concludes, “I had my own shoes to wear, my own journeys to take.”
Heartfelt and capably written, but a distinctly minor contribution to mob lit.