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Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and…
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Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most… (2005)

by Selwyn Raab

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Showing 4 of 4
The history of the mafia was interesting, but I stopped reading when it turned into conspiracy theory central. ( )
  erinster | Mar 29, 2013 |
Bonnano, Gambino, Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese. The Five Families.

They have infected public consciousness through media and academia – often being presented in a positive light. Investigative reporter Selwyn Raab covered organized crime for the New York Times for 25 years. His 2005 tome Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires chronicles the elusive and secretive American Mafia’s history in New York City. Raab brilliantly weaves his first drafts of Mafia history with other contemporary media accounts, FBI and court transcripts, interviews and secondary sources to form a cogent, well-written and gripping account that takes the reader inside the five powerful New York City borgatas.

The result of Raab’s tapestry is a raw, uncompromising and sometimes disturbing comprehensive history of the New York Cosa Nostra. The work refuses to sugarcoat the truth about the mob: “In real life, no mafiosi are good guys.”

Much of Five Families draws on materials related to years of post-Hoover FBI investigations, wiretaps and debriefing interviews with mobsters turned witnesses. Raab relates harrowing tales of secret nighttime FBI break-ins and buggings of popular mob hangouts. He expertly intertwines FBI wiretap transcripts and interviews to provide a full accounting of the FBI work during the 1980s and 1990s. While much of the text relies on FBI material, Raab convincingly brings the reader into the world of Cosa Nostra. Early on he compellingly narrates the ceremony surrounding mobster Tony Accetturo’s ascension to the status of “soldier” – a “made man”.

The book spends little time discussing what organized crime historian Howard Abadinsky calls “alluring myths about the Mafia”. At the same time it demonstrates just how culturally ingrained these myths are through adulatory remarks from FBI agents concerning certain individual mobsters. Raab does specifically mention The Godfather films, Prizzi’s Honor, Analyze This, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, and Bugsy as portraying “mobsters as high-living, lovable rogues”. He also singles out The Sopranos as “a prototype of show business’s vicarious flirtation with the Mafia.” By and large he uses the short segment dedicated to popular portrayals of the mob to bolster his over-arching emphasis of the cancerous nature of the American Mafia.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Five Families is found within one word of its subtitle, “resurgence”. Raab describes a shift in FBI priorities after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Following two decades of ingenious investigation and prosecution the Justice Department had the mob in its death throes. Coming into the new century the American Cosa Nostra was widely considered decapitated, in disarray, and a shadow of its former self. 9/11 changed the game and Raab shows considerable evidence that the Mafia is adapting, as it always has, and, indeed, thriving as the FBI pulls its boot back from the mob’s throat.

Five Families is a history book and as a history book it excels. Leaving social commentary, for the most part, to others, Raab takes the reader from the mob’s beginnings in Sicily to the mean streets of 1930s New York City and the rise of Lucky Luciano. He comprehensively covers the rise and fall of the important dons following on in Luciano’s tradition. John Gotti, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joe Massino, “Chin” Gigante and the bloody reign of “Gaspipe” Casso over the Lucchese are vividly depicted through Raab’s experienced pen. Combining meticulous research with professional experience Raab shatters the mythos surrounding Cosa Nostra and sears the reality of the Mafia into the permanence of the written word.
  IvoShandor | Mar 11, 2011 |
This was quite interesting I was surprised at the extent of the reach of the mafia, and the effect it has had on America in particular. If you like things like The Godfather you will enjoy this book. ( )
  trinibaby9 | Nov 24, 2009 |
Beginning with the Sicilian origins of the Mafia, Selwyn Raab explains how it spread from its New York origins to cities across America.

Raab, a newspaper and television reporter with more than 40 years experience covering organized crime paints a realistic portrait of the Mafia. Avoiding glamorization, the author, who spent more than 25 years as a reporter with The New York Times, exposes the Mafia as a serious threat to honest citizens.

"The collective goal of the five families of New York was the pillaging of the nation's richest city and region," he writes.

The five families--Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese--were responsible for corrupting labor unions to control waterfront commerce, garbage collection, the garment industry, and construction in New York. Later, they broadened their vistas to include the country, particularly Las Vegas, its most successful outside venture.

Since September 11, 2001, the author says, the F.B.I. has been focused mainly on external threats, the author notes. This gives it room to regain some lost turf by moving into new avenues of crime.

Exhaustive in its research and well-written, Five Families chronicles the tale of the rise and fall of New York’s premier dons: Lucky Luciano, Paul Castellano and John Gotti. To carry his tale, Raab interviewed prosecutors, law enforcement officers, Mafia members, informants, and "Mob lawyers." The result: anecdotes and inside information that reveal the true story of the Mafia and its influence.

A masterpiece, this book will be considered a model of what great journalism should and can be. ( )
  PointedPundit | Mar 23, 2008 |
Showing 4 of 4
''Five Families'' is the finest Mafia history we're likely to see for a good long while.
 
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312361815, Paperback)

The Mafia has long held a spot in the American imagination. Despite their earned reputation for brutality, the Mafia has been glorified in countless movies, books, and television shows. Not so in this book. Selwyn Raab makes no attempt to perpetuate myths about the Mafia; instead, he exposes them as a serious threat to honest citizens: "The collective goal of the five families of New York was the pillaging of the nation's richest city and region," he writes. These five families--Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese--were responsible for corrupting labor unions in order to control waterfront commerce, garbage collection, the garment industry, and construction in New York. They also ran illegal gambling operations, engaged in stock schemes, and initiated the widespread introduction of heroin (among other drugs) into cities of the East and Midwest in the 1950s, leading to "accelerated crime rates, law-enforcement corruption, and the erosion of inner-city neighborhoods in New York and throughout the United States." Five Families offers a comprehensive look at the inner workings of the various clans along with vivid profiles of the gangsters who led--and continue to maintain--this criminal empire.

Beginning with a brief history of the Sicilian origins of the Mafia, Raab exhaustively explains how the Mob took over New York before spreading to cities across America, particularly Las Vegas, their most successful outside venture. He also shows how the New York Mafia lost a great deal of power in the 1980s and '90s due to many significant busts and effective plea-bargaining. However, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the F.B.I. has been focused mainly on external threats, leaving the Mafia room to regain some lost turf by moving into new avenues of crime. An investigative reporter for 40 years, Raab interviewed dozens of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, Mafia members, informants, and "Mob lawyers," providing anecdotes and inside information that tell the true story of the Mafia and their influence over the past 80 years. --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:36 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A history of the mafia's infamous "Five Families" traces events within the Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo, and Lucchese clans; identifying their role in damaging American industries and their fierce rivalries with one another.

» see all 2 descriptions

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