A capably told history of how the Mob lost control of the island empire.



Or, how are you going to keep the syndicate in Sicily and Little Italy once the wiseguys see the bright lights of Havana?

Crime writer English (Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish-American Gangster, 2005, etc.) unfolds a story whose main outline will be familiar to any fan of The Godfather: Part II, but whose twists and turns no screenplay could keep up with. That story opens at the close of World War II, when Cuba was ruled by yet another in a line of dictators and mob boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano was, in theory, being deported to his native Italy after long imprisonment for various crimes committed in the United States, including extortion and tax evasion. Meyer Lansky, another prime suspect in the annals of American crime, knew otherwise. “Luciano was in Cuba,” writes English, “and the Mob was on the move.” Cuba was to become an offshore base for a new kind of organized crime, one that Lansky and Luciano had been working on for years, appealing as always to personal vice but with a sleeker veneer. Prefiguring Las Vegas, Havana became a headquarters for a kind of color-blind sex and music tourism. Jim Crow prevailed at home, but Jews and Italians could mix easily while listening to the dulcet tones of Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis in the Cuban capital, “one of the hippest ‘scenes’ in the world.” (The popular singer and movie star Carmen Miranda is implicated, too, if only by association.) With the tourism came other business. As English notes, U.S. business investment in Cuba was $142 million at the beginning of the 1950s, and $952 million at the end of the decade, money that propped up the Batista regime—thus giving Fidel Castro yet another reason not to like Americans, or Italians, for that matter.

A capably told history of how the Mob lost control of the island empire.

Pub Date: June 3, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-114771-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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