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Peter Maas has been the only interviewer allowed to see Joe Valachi, the Cosa Nostra's enemy #1. And since Valachi's written story (300,000 words) has been officially suppressed (to protect the guilty?) this will probably serve as the public record for those who couldn't follow the rather jumbled television testimony. Valachi talked after receiving the ""Kiss of Death""; he was unfairly (he says) marked by Vito Genovese who is still serving time but keeps his position as current overlord of the underworld. Valachi had been a loyal ""Family"" man since the rise to power in the '30's. He survived the Castellammarese War (Sicilians vs. Neopolitans), a bloodbath that left 60 bodies, and the later purges in which Luciano wiped out Maranzano, only to later get his in a chain of swallow the leader. The Mafia is now run by a commissione of 9 to 12 bosses across the country, which serves as controller or arbitration board for the 25-30 ""Families"" composed of up to 5,000 men. This explains the set-ups, the rules, the rituals and the brutal past. Along with the names (Joe Bananas to Albert Anastasia--particularly vicious) Mr. Valachi is himself quite a character. A lieutenant and official executor, he had his hand in every racket from numbers to racing; he's been knifed, shot and beaten up. He may well become a legitimately rich man with the help of the Papers, but there's one sure bet. . . he won't want to get out to spend it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1968
Publisher: Putnam