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Inside the Mafia’s Most Infamous Family

by John Follain

Pub Date: July 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-56690-6
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

The gang that could shoot straight—and bomb, maim, steal, cheat, bribe and otherwise wreak havoc—documented by a capable chronicler of organized crime in Italy.

Complementing Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah (2007), Rome-based Sunday Times correspondent Follain, by deromanticizing it straightaway, performs a valuable service in this account of the Sicilian Mafia’s Corleone clan. The name Corleone is strongly associated with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and the films it begat, but Marlon Brando’s quasi-chivalric padrino is far from the reality. As Follain notes, the Mafia—“ ‘men of honor’ as they like to call themselves”—began as hired goons for absentee landowners who helped oppress the ordinary people, and thus they have remained, parasites and leeches. The postwar Sicilian mob, strengthened by being installed in positions of political authority by the Allied occupation forces, institutionalized this parasitism. But, the author writes, it all unraveled when a state-appointed special judge, Giovanni Falcone, began to dismantle the mobsters’ power judicially—a campaign that, in May 1992, led to Falcone’s assassination, as well as the deaths of dozens of other judges, prosecutors and police officials. The Italian state cracked down hard, and the heads of the Corleone mob—including Luciano Leggio, Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano—went into hiding and were eventually ferreted out one by one. The government achieved this difficult feat, writes Follain, with the help of “supergrasses”—well-placed informants within the Mafia, such as the prominent “soldier” Giuseppe Marchese. Within a few months more than 250 had broken the “law of silence” and accepted witness protection and other measures to protect informants.

An important contribution to the documentation of how low the lowlife can get.