GANGBUSTERS by Ernest Volkman


The Destruction of America's Last Mafia Dynasty
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Former Newsday correspondent Volkman (Spies, 1994) returns to his home turf, the peccadilloes of America’s organized crime families. A recent story in the New York Times detailed the hard times that have befallen the Mafia, an organization now so bankrupt of leadership that its much-vaunted “Commission” hasn’t met in over five years. But there was a time, not so long ago, when these gangsters controlled vast segments of the American economy, both legal and illegal. As Volkman deftly details, under the inventive leadership of men like Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and the less-known Gaetano Lucchese, La Cosa Nostra managed to corrupt a variety of industries, including garbage hauling, concrete, New York’s garment center, and a variety of blue-collar labor unions. They were able to maintain their control of these businesses through a combination of cunning, intimidation, and violence, aided by the curruption of local law enforcement and the stupidity and political machinations of J. Edgar Hoover. With Hoover’s death and the remaking of the FBI, the development of new anti-racketeering laws by Congress, and the aging of the Mob’s leadership, these criminal enterprises became newly vulnerable. Gradually, thanks to hard-nosed police work by local and federal agencies and relentless prosecution by a handful of attorneys, chinks appeared in the Mafia’s wall of silence, chinks that would finally become great yawning gaps. Today the Mafia is virtually deceased, a handful of street gangs battling for nickels and dimes. Volkman tells the story of the rise and fall of the Lucchese family, one of the most successful and least publicized of the organized crime groups, with vigor and zest. The first third of the book, recounting the process of consolidation that led to the creation of the modern Mob, is a bit overly familiar, but the rest is a fast-moving tale, told with gusto. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 18th, 1998
ISBN: 0-571-19942-9
Page count: 318pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998