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BRINGING DOWN THE MOB by Thomas A. Reppetto


The War Against the American Mafia

by Thomas A. Reppetto

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-8050-7802-9
Publisher: Henry Holt

Is Sopranos-style organized crime on the way out? Yes, says former Chicago PD detective commander Reppetto (American Mafia, 2003)—yes, but no.

For years, the FBI denied the existence of anything like the Mafia. Writers have speculated that Lucky Luciano or another mobster had incriminating material on the closeted J. Edgar Hoover, and though Reppetto dismisses that scenario, he does allow that the fight against organized crime came only when the Feds summoned enough gumption and manpower to wrest the battle from local and state authorities. Still, the author opens with a triumph of local initiative, when New York state troopers raided a farm in Apalachin in 1957 and nabbed the cream of the Mob, busily planning how to divvy the spoils of America. Though his account is full of monsters with colorful names like the Waiter, Little Cigar and the Camel, Reppetto demystifies the business and even makes its behavior and ways seem a normal part of the landscape: “In economic terms, a typical mob family was like a large law firm in which senior partners make a very good living off the work of the juniors and associates.” With senior partners like John Gotti and Sammy Gravano, though, job security was never to be taken for granted, especially once the Mafia and satrapies such as the Teamsters Union came under the microscope during the Kennedy era. (“It was all bullshit,” one mobster grumbled. “All those hearings. . . . I mean, what the fuck else generated all the publicity that made the Kennedys?”) Tough antiracketeering laws began to take their toll on the Mafia in the decades that followed, though Reppetto notes that since 9/11, not much attention has been paid to organized crime, which makes a very fine opening for a retooled, revised and repurposed 21st-century Mob.

Less nuanced—and, on the whole, less interesting—than George De Stefano’s An Offer We Can’t Refuse (2006).