In March of 1969 the literary world was changed forever by Mario Puzo’s book “The Godfather.” Gangster stories were not a completely new idea, but Puzo’s take on the story offered a glimpse at life on the inside of a New York City crime family. Readers were enthralled with the drama surrounding the legendary Don Vito Corleone and his sons. The book inspired what many would say is one of the greatest movies of all time, and its influence can be seen more recently in one of the most popular television series of all time. Here are a few mafia-related titles available at the library.
Readers interested in the history of the Sicilian mafia, particularly how it spread from Sicily into the United States, may want to check out “The Prince” by Vito Bruschini. This book follows Prince Ferdinando Licata, a wealthy landowner who is forced to leave Sicily for the United States after he kills another man. In his new home, he becomes embroiled in a turf war between rival gangs. This captivating tale depicts Licata’s turbulent climb up the ladder of organized crime over 3 decades, which includes a trip back to Sicily to assist in the fight against Fascism during World War II.
Dennis Lehane, who is no stranger to noir fiction, delves into the mob with “Live by Night.” This tale follows Joe Coughlin, the somewhat neglected son of one of Boston’s most distinguished police captains. Coughlin is Irish-American, but this doesn’t stop him from joining forces with the Italian Mob. Prohibition is in full swing, and Coughlin wants in on the profits gangsters are making through illegal gambling and bootlegging. Lehane’s novel follows Coughlin’s journey from low-level arsonist-for-pay in Boston, down to Florida where he eventually takes the lead in a rum-running operation.
“Gangsterland” by Tod Goldberg offers a more modern gangster tale and may appeal to readers who don’t mind a little humor mixed in with the murder. Set in the late 1990s, this novel finds hitman Sal Cupertine hiding out in Las Vegas after a hit job doesn’t go as planned. He’s reshaped through plastic surgery (and a little studying of the Talmud during his recovery time) into Rabbi David Cohen. The novel is a blend of crime thriller and humor as it explores how the hard core killer must adapt to life undercover as a holy man.
Many gangster novels like “The Godfather” offer a romanticized view of the mob. For many Italian-American immigrants in the early 20th Century, though, life under mob rule was quite terrifying. “Elizabeth Street” by Laurie Fabiano is a fictionalized story of the true experiences of Fabiano’s grandparents, who immigrated to America and managed to set up a successful business, only to be terrorized by the Mafia’s use of the Black Hand.