I mainly write spec fiction and fantasy; and when I write nonfiction, it’s usually about spec fiction and fantasy. Or comics. Or pop culture. Or children’s books. So while I’ve written about plenty of fictional villains, I’ve never had an opportunity to cover any real life ones…until now. My most recent project for Time, Inc., TIME-LIFE The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia, allowed me explore a cast of real-life good guys, bad guys, and even-worse guys.
Most people are familiar with the idea of the Mafia. There are the fictional versions, of course–the myriad of movies, shows, and books which seem to inspire an odd sort of cult worship in some circles. But then there’s the harsh reality behind those stories: The brutal violence. The drugs. The sites of gruesome hits we unwittingly pass every day en route to work. The ways in which the Mafia shaped local and national crime, and influenced local and national politics, with long-reaching effects that still persist today.
So while most folks know about the Mob in a vague, background, make-him-an-offer-he-can’t-gabagool-the-cannoli way, they don’t know many details about the real Mafia, its origins, or its major players. The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia will help in bridging that gap.
For this book, I wrote about a dozen bios for some of the Mafia’s major players. I also wrote about the Mob’s Cosa Nostra connections, the Five Families (then and now), and the most prevalent Mafia Myths. Even I learned a thing or two beyond my perception of the Mob as just another violent, misogynistic branch of the patriarchy. I mean, it is definitely all of those things, but in working on these pieces, I was fascinated and somewhat surprised to discover how (in most cases) these men and women catapulted from relatively benign beginnings into a violent, unpredictable world of organized crime; and, how once “in,” they quickly sacrificed so much of their humanity to keep their rackets going, to stay in the game, to stay alive. The human stories beneath the flashy media Mob mythology are captivating and tragic arcs of aspiration, greed, and hubris, worthy of Shakespeare. It’s understandable why–even while grim as f-ck–these stories inspire retelling after retelling.
If you’d like to read more, The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.
A quick note: Though he’s quoted aplenty in the Mafia Myths piece, I’d like to take a moment here to thank Geoff Schumacher of The Mob Museum in Las Vegas for being so generous with his time and expertise.
While we’re talking Las Vegas, people there are living a nightmare right now, so please consider donating to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund and/or Everytown for Gun Safety. (And if you disagree, please consider examining your soul.)