MEN OF DISHONOR by Pino Arlacchi


The First Inside Account of the Sicilian Mafia
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 First-person confessions by Antonino Calderone of his years in the Sicilian underworld, as recorded by Arlacchi (Sociology/Univ. of Florence; The Mafia Business, 1986). Calderone began as a lowly ``soldier'' in Cosa Nostra (the inner elite of the Sicilian mafia), ``made'' by his uncle and other gangsters. The initiation ceremony he describes is stunning in its flamboyant machismo: bloodletting onto an image of the Virgin, followed by an oath of allegiance to mob regulations that run the gamut from protecting other ``men of honor'' and their families (woe to the mafioso who sleeps with another's wife: ``that man must die'') to refusing money earned from prostitution (``it's an unclean activity''). Money, surprisingly, was scarce- -Calderone describes mafia wives too poor to buy train tickets to visit their husbands in jail--until the jackpot of illegal drugs was struck in the 1970's. Mayhem, by contrast, was abundant, with Calderone's buddies shooting, stabbing, garrotting, and bombing one another like crazy while he worked his way up to be boss of Catania. Lest we get the wrong idea, he reminds us that these men of honor are not ``common criminals''; in fact, ``Mafiosi aren't irresponsible people.'' Civic projects included an attempted coup d'etat against the federal government in 1970 and Calderone's personal participation in seven murders (``What did I feel on those occasions? Nothing. My soul wasn't there''). Now reportedly repentant, Calderone lives abroad under a witness protection program. Loads of inside trivia (consiglieri are never lawyers; mafia wives are never told about the business because ``sooner or later they'll talk''). Basically, a monstrous peek at life inside a snake pit. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-04574-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993