Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy's Three Mafias

Overview


MAFIA. CAMORRA. ’NDRANGHETA.

The Sicilian mafia, known as Cosa Nostra, is far from being Italy’s only dangerous criminal fraternity. The country hosts two other major mafias: the camorra from Naples; and, from the poor and isolated region of Calabria, the mysterious ’ndrangheta, which has now risen to become the most powerful mob group active today.

Since they emerged, the mafias have all corrupted Italy’s institutions, drastically curtailed ...

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Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy's Three Mafias

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Overview


MAFIA. CAMORRA. ’NDRANGHETA.

The Sicilian mafia, known as Cosa Nostra, is far from being Italy’s only dangerous criminal fraternity. The country hosts two other major mafias: the camorra from Naples; and, from the poor and isolated region of Calabria, the mysterious ’ndrangheta, which has now risen to become the most powerful mob group active today.

Since they emerged, the mafias have all corrupted Italy’s institutions, drastically curtailed the life-chances of its citizens, evaded justice, and set up their own self-interested meddling as an alternative to the courts. Yet each of these brotherhoods has its own methods, its own dark rituals, its own style of ferocity. Each is uniquely adapted to corrupt and exploit its own specific environment, as it collaborates with, learns from, and goes to war with the other mafias.

Today, the shadow of organized crime hangs over a country racked by debt, political paralysis, and widespread corruption. The ’ndrangheta controls much of Europe’s wholesale cocaine trade and, by some estimates, 3 percent of Italy’s total GDP. Blood Brotherhoods traces the origins of this national malaise back to Italy’s roots as a united country in the nineteenth century, and shows how political violence incubated underworld sects among the lemon groves of Palermo, the fetid slums of Naples, and the harsh mountain villages of Calabria.

Blood Brotherhoods is a book of breathtaking ambition, tracing for the first time the interlocking story of all three mafias from their origins to the present day. John Dickie is recognized in Italy as one of the foremost historians of organized crime. In these pages, he blends archival detective work, passionate narrative, and shrewd analysis to bring a unique criminal ecosystem—and the three terrifying criminal brotherhoods that have evolved within it—to life on the page.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Dickie’s absorbing history of the Italian mob makes The Godfather look like a fairy tale… These ‘men of honor’ and ‘lads with attitude’ created their own myths. Until Dickie’s revelatory book, most believed them.”—Kirkus starred review

"Dickie’s extremely well-researched book has an extensive list of (mostly Italian) sources and covers the history and geography of Italy and provides historical analysis. He writes clearly and cleverly.”—Library Journal

Library Journal
04/01/2014
This sweeping history of the mafias of Italy, focusing on Sicily's Cosa Nostra, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta, and Campania's Camorra, is meticulously laid out in chronological order beginning with the Camorra's origin in Naples's Castello del Carmine prison in the 1850s. London-based Dickie (Italian studies, Univ. Coll. London) packs this history with profiles of "Men of Honour" and their horrific crimes and the brave leaders who stood up to them. He reveals details of how these crime families are organized and how they have spread throughout the world and partnered with other criminal groups. He also describes these groups' continued expansion as new business opportunities arose—from construction to cigarettes to kidnapping to heroin. The various times in Italian history when anticrime forces tried to combat the everyday extortion techniques of the Mafia are also addressed, from Police Insp. Ermann Sangiorgi in the 1870s to modern times, when politicians are no longer off-limits for their mob ties. VERDICT Dickie's extremely well-researched book has an extensive list of (mostly Italian) sources and covers the history and geography of Italy and provides historical analysis. He writes clearly and cleverly, and his style helps readers keep track of the numerous names and places. For serious "mafiologists" and students of Italian history.—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Scarborough H.S. Lib., ME
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-19
Call them Camorra, 'Ndrangheta or Mafia: All of these "honored societies" emerged from the dirty politics of Italian unification. Dickie's (Italian Studies/Univ. College, London; Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and Their Food, 2007, etc.) absorbing history of the Italian mob makes The Godfather look like a fairy tale. Three independent organizations were born in the prisons of Southern Italy in the 19th century, and daily life among the prisoners served as the root of the societies, which were based on omertà—submission and a code of silence. The Camorra of Naples was a well-known, flashy group, while the Cosa Nostra, or Mafia, of Sicily proved to be much more mysterious. 'Ndragheta, the latecomer, sprang fully formed from Calabrian prisons, and they controlled illegal tobacco and protection, followed by post–World War II construction, kidnapping and their biggest prize, heroin. Even up until the mid-1980s, officials denied that there was one organization; it was just the Sicilian way of settling things outside of official channels. As the author writes, it wasn't just lawless; it was a research institute for perfecting criminal business models. Dickie's knowledge of the structure and procedures comes from years of research and a "slobland of documents and testimonies." The control of politics through intimidation, gifts and murder ensured that laws would be accommodating, and trials would often be thrown out due to lack of evidence. One particular boss spent his entire adult life running his organization from prison. The author doesn't even try to cover the American branches of these societies; Southern Italy is more than enough for one book, and it's a riveting one at that. The bestiality of their vengeful bombings, murders and mutilations makes for difficult reading, but it's the reality of the institution. These "men of honor" and "lads with attitude" created their own myths. Until Dickie's revelatory book, most believed them.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610394277
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 151,796
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 2.30 (d)

Meet the Author


John Dickie is professor of Italian Studies at University College London. In 2005 the President of the Italian Republic appointed him a Commendatore dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana. John has published widely in academic journals on various topics in Italian history and he has also written extensively for the press in the UK, Italy and other countries. Apart from Cosa Nostra, Delizia!, he is the author of two further books: Darkest Italy. The Nation and Stereotypes of the Mezzogiorno, 1860-1900 (New York, 1999) and (Rome, 2008) Una catastrofe patriottica. 1908: il terremoto di Messina. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Sarah Penny, and their two children.
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