On Stands Now! TIME-LIFE The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia

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.)

 

On Stands Now! Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Star Trek

8b31be10f9d4Super excited to have written two pieces and a list (I think the young people call it a “listicle”) for this special edition of Entertainment Weekly, Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Star Trek. My favorite of the three pieces–if I had to pick–is “Who’s Your Captain,” in which I rank captains based on who would make the best wingman (or woman), road trip buddy, life partner, etc. Any job that requires you to re-watch your favorite Star Trek episodes is a fairly wondrous thing. So I reeeeeally enjoyed researching and writing these pieces, as well as being a small part of the bigger 50th anniversary celebration.

I could write for weeks about how Star Trek was ahead of its time in so many important ways. But other deadlines loom. So instead, I’ll leave you with this quote, often attributed to  Gene Roddenberry. I couldn’t find a solid source for this one, but thought it was an appropriate sentiment for this horrific week and very in-line with Star Trek‘s remarkable legacy.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
Gene Roddenberry, (maybe)

Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Star Trek is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.

Out Today: The Star-Spangled Banner

Happy Flag Day! In a bit of publishing synchronicity (that I’m certain was no accident), The Star-Spangled Banner is out today. It’s a Level 4 Reader in Grosset & Dunlap’s Smithsonian series. A bit about the book from their site:

The original Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry, Baltimore, in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words that would become the national anthem of the United States, is the showpiece of the Smithsonian! In this lively nonfiction book, young readers will read about the story behind the flag, the song, and how the Smithsonian cares for this most precious national treasure.

 
Researching this book was a tremendous amount of fun–I learned so much about the flag, the anthem, and the extraordinary efforts the Smithsonian Institute has made to restore and preserve the Star-Spangled Banner. Did you know that Francis Scott Key was a lawyer? Or that the Star-Spangled Banner was bigger than the house in which it was sewn?  Or that almost 200 square feet of the flag were lost to snippets cut for souvenirs? There are so many fascinating facts in the flag’s story–I hope that kids (and those reading with them) will enjoy learning about the Star-Spangled Banner as much as I did.

You can buy the The Star-Spangled Banner here:
Northshire
IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon