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BOUND BY HONOR by Bill Bonanno


A Mafioso's Story

by Bill Bonanno

Pub Date: May 25th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20388-8
Publisher: St. Martin's

The heir to legendary Mafia patriarch Joseph Bonanno describes the eclipse of a once-formidable criminal empire, with buffeting verbiage but only moderate amounts of candor. Bonanno begins with his 1956 wedding to a Profaci Family daughter, then goes on to detail the disastrous Appalachin conclave (which informed the general public of the Mob’s existence), the fraying of the “Commission” that had long maintained peace and order, and the betrayals and factional confusion that allegedly culminated in the assassination of President Kennedy. His first-person account of secret criminal history is badly undermined by poor editing. Flabby, repetitive writing and clichÇd phrases abound, as does vagueness regarding the realities of Mob criminality. Endless musings about long-dead codes of loyalty and respect annoy in contrast with the dearth of specific detail regarding Mob violence and business influence during this era . The book thus resembles a bowdlerized retelling of The Godfather, with very little of the gritty immediacy one finds in such studies as Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy. It’s not without merit, though; Bonanno profiles many major figures in the Five Families, clarifying both their ties to infamous predecessors such as Luciano and Anastasia, and their roles in the pyrrhic wars that, along with increased federal scrutiny in the decade following Kennedy’s death, essentially doomed the classical model of the American Mafia. The book’s best moments come near the end, when Bonanno convincingly portrays rogue FBI agents from the infamous CoIntelPro, whose efforts to “get the Mob” included bombings and witness intimidation, and who ultimately secured the author a long prison term resulting from a credit card “misunderstanding.” His jail experience yields one red-hot revelation: the confession of the alleged 11/22/63 triggerman, a Chicago Mob stalwart named Johnny Roselli. Given Bonanno’s knowledge of hidden Mafia history, one wishes his literary handlers had been less hasty in rushing a flawed book into the mob-opera marketplace. ($100,000 ad/promo; TV rights to Showtime; author tour)