A serviceable, well-researched examination of a little-known corner of the NYPD’s past.

History of a little-known unit within the New York Police Department made up of Italians who battled organized crime.

In the early 1900s, many members of the NYPD looked down on Italian immigrants, as journalist Moses documents at several points. However, Joseph Petrosino, the first commander of the Italian squad, analyzed the data and concluded that “97 percent of Italian immigrants were law-abiding and hardworking,” and their presence in criminal statistics was no greater than that of any other ethnic group. Appointed to the post by Theodore Roosevelt, then the commissioner of police for New York, Petrosino went up against the first glimmerings of the Mafia in the city. He was assassinated in Sicily, where he was on the hunt for mobsters, in 1909, succeeded by an Irish department head who expanded the squad and who learned along the way that Petrosino had been killed at the orders of a peripheral criminal the detective had shamed with a public beating. Still, Petrosino was enshrined as “the quintessential police officer and New Yorker.” Michael Fiaschetti, another Italian-born officer, eventually headed the squad, fighting the Black Hand and other criminal organizations while doing plenty of self-promotion, which, all the same, didn’t keep him from being demoted for roughing up a defense attorney. The Italian Squad was, as Moses notes, “mythologized” from the start, but Fiaschetti was a master of “inflating his reputation,” so the facts are not easy to come by. Though the narrative isn’t quite as riveting as a well-rendered crime procedural, the author does a solid job digging through the files to get at them, noting that while the squad ultimately didn’t make much of a dent in controlling organized crime—the Mafia flourished in the 1920s and ’30s—it did serve as “a bridge for an alienated immigrant community” that was all too often reluctant to help the police.

A serviceable, well-researched examination of a little-known corner of the NYPD’s past.

Pub Date: June 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781479814190

Page Count: 304

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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