Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires
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Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires

3.9 52
by Selwyn Raab

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For half a century, the American Mafia outwitted, outmaneuvered, and outgunned the FBI and other police agencies, wreaking unparalleled damage on America’s social fabric and business enterprises while emerging as the nation’s most formidable crime empire. The vanguard of this criminal juggernaut is still led by the Mafia’s most potent and largest


For half a century, the American Mafia outwitted, outmaneuvered, and outgunned the FBI and other police agencies, wreaking unparalleled damage on America’s social fabric and business enterprises while emerging as the nation’s most formidable crime empire. The vanguard of this criminal juggernaut is still led by the Mafia’s most potent and largest borgatas: New York’s Five Families.

Selwyn Raab's Five Families is the vivid story of the rise and fall of New York’s premier dons, from Lucky Luciano to Paul Castellano to John Gotti and others. This definitive history brings the reader right up to the possible resurgence of the Mafia as the FBI and local law-enforcement agencies turn their attention to homeland security and away from organized crime. Fully revised and updated, this paperback features a new preface.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Five Families is the finest Mafia history we're likely to see for a good long time.” —Bryan Burrough, The New York Times Book Review

“Raab . . . exudes the authority of a writer who has lived and breathed his subject.” —The Boston Globe

“Raab sets a new gold standard for organized crime nonfiction with his outstanding history.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Riveting history.” —People

“...enlightening chronicle of the rise of the five Mafia families...” —Entertainment Weekly

“Raab's meticulouly researched history is an engrossing initiation.” —The Baltimore Sun

“A classic piece of reporting by a man who knows the bloody, brutal, corrupt territory.” —Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes

“[Raab's] sprawling history offers sufficient anecdotes to fuel a half-dozen "Godfather" sequals and keep "The Sopranos" well stocked with mayhem for another decade.” —Kirkus Reviews

“So well written and encompassing.” —Detroit Free Press

“In this definitive account of the royal families of mobdom, Selwyn Raab not only tells us where the bodies are buried, he brings them back to life.” —Thomas Reppetto, author of American Mafia

“After an eight-decade run in which its executives built the most powerful criminal organization in U.S. history, the American Mafia began to unravel at the end of the 20th century. It did so in a convulsion of blood and treachery, fueled by out-of-control egos. Selwyn Raab was there, in the streets, the precinct houses, and the courtrooms to record that story. No one does it better.” —Tom Robbins, reporter, Village Voice

“In my more than fifty years as a reporter, there is no journalist whom I've respected more than Selwyn Raab at The New York Times in covering New York's criminal justice system. He was tireless and painstaking in investigating the investigators, sometimes helping to prove innocence, but equally fair and conscientious in cases that ended in conviction. His riveting book Five Families will be I'm sure the definitive history of the Mafia in New York for a long time to come. It is a model of what journalism can be.” —Nat Hentoff, columnist, Village Voice

“A well-researched, well-written historical account of the murderous, double-dealing and often-sophisticated gangsters who shot their way into American folklore and created a criminal empire that has fleeced Americans and confounded law enforcement for more than 100 years. Raab's work surpasses all the rest.” —Mafia expert Jerry Capeci; webmaster,; author, The Complete Idiot’s Guide To The Mafia

“While the introduction to Five Families says the Bonnano, Genovese, Luchesse, Colombo, and Gambino families were among the reigning giants of the underworld, what it doesn't say is that the book about them is by one of the reigning giants of journalism, Selwyn Raab.” —Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes and author of Tell Me A Story

Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo, and Lucchese: The names of the Mafia's Five Families are giant beacons of infamy, but most of us know them only through snapshots of gangland killings or snippets of memories from The Untouchables. Veteran New York Times crime reporter Selwyn Raab changes all that with this definitive history of the Mob's underworld empire. Five Families contains revelation after revelation: Raab describes, for instance, J. Edgar Hoover's strange refusal to investigate the Mob; explains how the character traits of John Gotti and other Mob bosses helped shaped their destinies; and exposes the connections between the September 11th tragedy and the recent resurgence of the Mafia. Top-flight investigative journalism.
Publishers Weekly
Former New York Times crime reporter Raab sets a new gold standard for organized crime nonfiction with his outstanding history of the Mafia in New York City. Combining the diligent research and analysis of a historian with the savvy of a beat journalist who has extensive inside sources, the author succeeds at an ambitious task by rendering the byzantine history of New York's five families-Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese-easily comprehensible to any lay reader. Of necessity, Raab also illuminates the Mafia's origin in 19th-century Sicily and its transition to this country. Throughout his survey of the mob's evolution-from simple protection rackets to pump-and-dump stock schemes-Raab renders the mobsters (including men less well known than John Gotti, but no less significant) as three-dimensional figures, without glossing over their vicious crimes and their impact on honest citizens. Law enforcement's varying responses as well as society's view of gangsters enrich the narrative, which merits comparison with the classic true-crime writing of Kurt Eichenwald. While Raab surprisingly gives short shrift to the 1980s pizza connection case, which revealed the growing influence of the Sicilian Mafia on America's heroin trade, he otherwise demonstrates mastery of his subject. This masterpiece stands an excellent chance of becoming a bestseller with crossover appeal beyond devoted watchers of The Sopranos. 24 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
One couldn't hope for a more exhaustive chronicle of the Cosa Nostra in America over the last 85 years. Investigative reporter Raab (the New York Times) had discovered a Mob presence in a surprising number of places while researching various articles over the years. He shows how completely the Mafia has wrapped its tentacles around the structure of this country, from Prohibition, which was instrumental in coalescing the random street gangs into disciplined families (the five in the title are the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese families) to recent scams involving cleanup of the World Trade Center site. Romanticized by the press, protected by the code of silence (omerta), and almost impossible to pin down, the families were finally taken down when the FBI took advantage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute, ten years on the books before it was used. Faced with long jail sentences, many top brass in Cosa Nostra finally broke silence to save their own skins. Raab reports with disciplined outrage, painting his subjects as the dangerous thugs they are. His repetitions, sometimes verbatim, of information and anecdotes, can be distracting, but this is a quibble. An informative and frightening account that belongs in all libraries.-Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A matter-of-fact, unsentimental portrait of the five leading mob gangs, "who prefer the warmer title of ‘families.' "Longtime crime reporter Raab (Mob Lawyer, 1994, etc.) began his career on the education beat, where he discovered that substandard physical-plant conditions in New York public schools could often be traced to mob-connected contractors. "The Mafia endangered thousands of children and escaped unscarred, with its loot untouched," he writes. The pattern holds through Raab's long history of the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese crime families: Horrific crimes can be traced directly to them, but most of the perpetrators have gone unpunished. The author observes that under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was disinclined to take on the mob, preferring the easier work of busting bank robbers and interstate car thieves. The five families returned the favor by not targeting law enforcement figures; Mafia ally Dutch Schultz was murdered after attempting to organize a hit on federal prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Raab describes the evolution of the gangs from secretive clans into quasi-paramilitary units under the leadership of Lucky Luciano, who structured them so that they could continue to function even if the leaders were imprisoned or killed. Luciano also created a board of directors for the Mafia that brought corporate efficiency to the enterprise. The mob declined in the 1980s, he writes, owing to a number of trends. One was the government's increased use of antiracketeering (RICO) laws as a prosecutorial tactic; another was the rise of a generation of mobsters who shunned their elders' orders to stay away from the drug trade and abandoned the old code of omerta, gladlyratting on each other in order to stay out of jail. After 9/11, most police units assigned to track the families were put on antiterrorism duty, "official logic having determined that the mob, a terminally ill enemy, required less attention." But the Mafia has played possum before, Raab concludes, and it will return. Swift-moving history with much news, even for well-read students of crime and punishment.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
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Product dimensions:
6.11(w) x 9.12(h) x 2.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Fiery Saint

“If I betray my friends and our family, I and my soul will burn in hell like this saint.”

As Tony Accetturo recited this grave oath, the holy picture in his hand perished in flames. A cluster of nodding, stone-faced men lined up to embrace him, kiss him on the cheek, and vigorously shake his hand, a collective gesture of solemn congratulations. For Accetturo, it was the most memorable moment of his life. The ceremony burnt into his soul; his prime ambition was fulfilled. He was now the newest member of an exclusive, secret coterie: he was a “made” man in the American Mafia.

Twenty years of faithful service, first as a stern loan-shark enforcer and later as a major “earner,” moneymaker, for important mobsters in New Jersey, had paid off bountifully for Accetturo. Earlier that afternoon, he intuitively grasped that this day would be significant. His orders were to rendezvous with Joe Abate, a reclusive figure who rarely met face-to-face with underlings, even though their lucrative extortion, gambling, and loan-sharking rackets enriched him. Abate, a sagacious capo in a borgata or brugard—Mafia slang for a criminal gang that is derived from the Sicilian word for a close-knit community or hamlet—supervised all operations in New Jersey for the Lucchese crime family.

Abate was waiting for Accetturo at a prearranged spot in the bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. As a capo or captain, Abate was the impresario for more than one hundred gangsters, who illegally harvested millions of dollars every year for themselves and, as a tithe, sent a portion of their earnings to the administration, the Lucchese family leaders across the Hudson River in New York. Already in his mid-seventies, Abate bore no resemblance to a pensioner. Tall, lean, almost ramrod erect, he greeted Accetturo with a perfunctory handshake and walked briskly from the bus terminal.

On that June afternoon in 1976, there was little conversation as Accetturo, almost forty years younger than his capo, quickened his pace to keep in step with the energetic older man. Accetturo, a strapping, muscular two hundred pounds on a five-feet eight-inch frame, knew from a bitter encounter with Abate never to initiate small talk with him. Among New Jersey mafiosi, Joe Abate was a feared presence, a veteran combatant with an exalted aura. He had been a gunslinger for Al Capone in Chicago when Capone was America’s most notorious gangster in the 1920s. And in Abate’s presence, it was prudent to answer his questions directly and to carry out his commands without hesitation.

Several blocks from the bus terminal, at a clothing factory in Manhattan’s Garment Center, Abate introduced Accetturo to a grim-faced man who would drive them to another location. He was Andimo “Tom” Pappadio, an important soldier responsible for handling the Lucchese’s extensive labor extortions, bookmaking, and loan-sharking rackets in the Garment Center. Like the brief walk to the Garment District, the thirty-minute drive was a silent trip until they pulled up in front of a simple frame house. Unfamiliar with much of New York, Accetturo thought they were in the Bronx, the borough just north of Manhattan.

Inside a drab living room, several men unknown to Accetturo were waiting and one of them introduced himself as Tony Corallo. Accetturo knew that in the insular planet of the Mafia, this unsmiling, short, stocky man in his sixties was widely recognized by another name, “Tony Ducks.” And he keenly understood what that name represented. Antonio Corallo, whose nickname originated from a lifetime of evading arrests and subpoenas, was the boss of the entire Lucchese family. The small group of men were gathered in the living room for one reason: a secret ceremony that would transform Accetturo into a “Man of Honor,” a full-fledged “made” man.

Tony Accetturo was aware that “the books,” membership rosters in New York’s five Mafia families, had been closed for twenty years. Recently, whispers abounded that the rolls finally were being reopened for deserving people. Accetturo had agonized over his future, eager to end his long apprenticeship with coveted membership as a “soldier.”

“Making your bones,” the Mafia euphemism for passing its entrance examination, requires participating in a violent crime—often murder—or becoming a big earner for the family. Accetturo was confident that he had made his bones with high marks in both categories.

Accetturo had heard older men drop hints about the ritual of getting made. He had a vague idea that it involved incantation of ancient oaths of loyalty, sworn over a gun, a knife, a saint’s picture, and validated by bloodletting through a cut trigger finger. Yet when his ceremony was over, Accetturo was surprised and slightly disappointed by its brevity.

Without preamble, Tony Ducks rose from his chair in the living room, said, “Let’s get started,” and then bluntly told Accetturo that he was the “boss” of the family. Accetturo was handed a picture of a saint on a square piece of paper, told to burn it with a match, and to repeat the oath Corallo somberly intoned: “If I betray my friends and our family, I and my soul will burn in hell like this saint.”

Despite the abruptness and informality of the rite, Accetturo glowed inwardly with enthusiasm at its meaningfulness. “I was bursting with excitement. It was the greatest honor of my life. They set me apart from ordinary people. I was in a secret society that I was aching to be part of since I was a kid, from the time I was a teenager.”

Soon afterward, returning to his haunts in New Jersey, Accetturo learned from older made men, who could now talk openly with him because he had attained prized membership, the reason for the brusque initiation. Abate and other overseers in the Lucchese family thought so highly of his accomplishments and behavior that the trappings used to inculcate ordinary recruits were deemed unnecessary. He already knew the ground rules and was considered far superior and more knowledgeable of the Mafia’s code of conduct than most new soldiers. There was no question that he was suited for “the life.”

Over the next two decades, Accetturo would himself witness and learn from his underworld cronies how a more typical induction was performed by the American Mafia in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The ritual, modeled on secret practices with religious undertones begun by the Mafia in Sicily as far back as the nineteenth century, was intended to mark the vital passage from “wannabe,” an associate in the crime family, a mere striver without prestige, to a restricted rank with extraordinary dividends and extraordinary obligations.

While the liturgy was roughly similar throughout the country, in the New York area, the American Mafia’s acknowledged capital, a rigid formula prevailed among its five long-established gangs. The candidate had to be sponsored by the capo he would work for and personally cleared by the ultimate leader, the family representante, or boss. The final exam was the submission of the proposed soldier’s identity to the leaders of the other four borgatas for vetting to determine if there were any black marks or negative information against him. To maintain the fixed sizes and strength of the families and to prevent unauthorized expansions, a prospective member could only be added to replace a dead mafioso in his borgata.

Although probably surmising that his induction loomed, the recruit was never specifically told what was in store or the date he would be “straightened out,” promoted. On short notice he was instructed to “get dressed,” meaning wear a suit and tie, for an unspecified assignment. Made members picked up and escorted the initiate to the ordination. Driving to the site, a process known as “cleaning” or “dry cleaning,” was often employed to evade possible law-enforcement surveillance. The passengers might switch cars in public garages. They also drove aimlessly for as long as half an hour and then “squared blocks,” driving slowly with abrupt sharp turns, or reversed directions to shake investigators who might be tailing them on routine surveillance.

The special precautions were intended to conceal the meeting place from prying eyes, mainly because the family’s boss and other high-ranking leaders would be in attendance and protecting them from law-enforcement snoops was a paramount consideration.

Unlike the ceremony he conducted for Accetturo, at most inductions Tony Ducks Corallo officiated with greater pomp and formality. “Do you know why you are here?” he would ask at the outset, and the candidate was expected to reply untruthfully, “No.” This charade was enacted because the induction was presumed to be a closely guarded secret to prevent leaks to law-enforcement investigators and outsiders about the identities of the family’s leaders and its members.

Continuing, Tony Ducks explained, “You are going to be part of this family. Do you have any objections to that?”

Another member of the group circling the ceremonial table would then use a needle, knife, or safety pin to prick the candidate’s trigger finger, dropping blood over a picture of a saint. As the candidate held the bloody image aloft, someone put a match to it, and Tony Ducks directed the new member to repeat, “May I burn, may my soul burn like this paper, if I betray anyone in this family or anyone in this room.”

After scattering the ashes of the saint’s holy picture, Corallo or one of his lieutenants warned the newly made man that henceforth the borgata’s needs—including committing murders—came before any other obligation in his life. The initiate no longer owed allegiance to God, country, wife, children, or close relatives, only to the crime family. Decrees from the boss, who ruled as the family’s “father,” must instantly be obeyed, even if it meant neglecting a dying child.

At the ceremony for Tommy Ricciardi, a longtime sidekick of Accetturo’s, Tony Ducks and his henchmen carefully enumerated the family and the Mafia’s inviolable rules and protocol. The foremost principle was omertà, the code of silence that forbade the slightest cooperation with law enforcement, or more ominously, informing, ratting on anyone in the underworld.

A new “button man,” or soldier, remained under the direct control of the capo who recommended his membership. All illegal activities the soldier engaged in and even his legal businesses were “put on record” or “registered” with the family through his capo so that the organization could profit from these projects and utilize them for planning crimes and deals. Booty from legal and illegal activities was shared with the soldier’s capo; a percentage, depending on the mood of the boss, was funneled to him as a sign of respect and was used also for the borgata’s needs and overhead costs.

In business or social matters, only a made man from the Lucchese family and other borgatas could be introduced to other mafiosi as an amico nostro, a friend of ours. Others associated or working with the Mob were referred to simply as “a friend,” or “my friend,” as a cautionary signal that the third man was not made and no Mafia secrets should be discussed in his presence.

And the awesome word “Mafia” was banished from the group’s vocabulary. Its use, even in private conversations, was forbidden because it could be considered incriminating evidence at trials if overheard by prosecution witnesses or detected by investigators through electronic eavesdropping. Instead, if an organizational name had to be mentioned, the more innocent sounding Cosa Nostra, Our Thing, or the initials C.N. were used.

Despite any knowledge the recruit might possess at the time of his initiation, he was nevertheless formally instructed about the composition and powers of the family hierarchy. At the summit, the boss set policies as to what crimes and rackets the family would engage in and appointed and removed capos and other high-ranking leaders.

Like an imperial caesar, the boss’s most terrifying arbitrary authority was deciding who lived and died. Murders inside the family for internal reasons or the elimination of anyone outside the borgata could be sanctioned only by him.

Usually present at induction ceremonies were the “underboss,” the second-in-command, who assisted in running the family’s day-to-day business, and the consigliere, the counselor and adviser on family matters and on relations and disputes with other Mafia groups.

At Lucchese inductions, the identities of the bosses of New York’s four other large Mafia families (Genovese, Gambino, Bonanno, and Colombo) and a smaller one (DeCavalcante) based in New Jersey were disclosed to the new soldier. This confidential information came with the admonition that if another family boss was encountered he should be accorded the utmost respect.

Finally, several New York families concluded their ceremony with a ticada, Italian for “tie-in” or a “tack-up.” To demonstrate the internal solidarity of their secret organization, all witnesses and the new member clasped hands to unite in what the boss declared “the unbreakable knot of brotherhood.”

Alphonso D’Arco’s big day in the Lucchese family was August 23, 1982. He was instructed to “get dressed, you’re going somewhere” by his capo, picked up at a street corner in Manhattan’s Little Italy section, and like Tony Accetturo driven to a modest home in the Bronx. Four other candidates sat in the parlor, waiting to be summoned into another room, a kitchen. When D’Arco’s turn came, he was introduced to Tony Ducks Corallo and other members of the administration seated around a table.

“Do you know why you’re here?” one of the men asked, and D’Arco dutifully replied, “No.”

“You’re going to be part of this family,” the man continued. “If you’re asked to kill somebody, would you do it?”

D’Arco nodded his assent and then his trigger finger was pricked and the saint’s picture burned. One of the men surrounding the table removed a towel that covered a gun and a knife lying on the table. “You live by the gun and the knife and you die by the gun and knife if you betray anyone in this room,” the speaker said somberly. Finally, D’Arco repeated a version of the Mafia’s holy oath: “If I betray my friends and my family, may my soul burn in hell like this saint.”

Later, when the ceremony for all of the recruits was completed, Ducks Corallo rose and asked everyone to attaccata, to tack or tie up by holding hands. “La fata di questa famiglia sono aperti,” Corallo announced, meaning the affairs of this family are open. He then lectured his new soldiers on basic principles, precepts etched in D’Arco’s memory.

“We were told not to deal in narcotics, counterfeit money, or stolen stocks and bonds, to respect the families or other members and not to fool around with other members’ wives or daughters. If any disputes arise that you and members cannot resolve, you must go to your captain. You do not put your hands on other family members. You are to maintain yourself with respect at all times. When your captain calls, no matter what time or day or night, you must respond immediately. This family comes before your own family. Above all, you do not discuss anything about this family with members of other families. If you do not abide by these rules, you will be killed.”

Another unbreakable rule was imposed by Corallo: police and other law-enforcement agents could never be “whacked,” killed.

“Whatever happened here tonight is never to be talked about,” Corallo warned. Instructing the group to once more tack up, he finished in Italian: “La fata di questa famiglia sono chiuso.” (“The affairs of this family are now closed.”)

The afternoon event ended on a nonalcoholic, sober note with coffee, simple snacks, and pastry offered the men before the old hands and freshly minted mobsters dispersed in small groups.

D’Arco would learn that Corallo banned involvement in narcotics and counterfeiting and stealing stocks and bonds because these were federal offenses and meant heavy prison time. Corallo, like other Mob leaders, had good reasons to prevent hits on law-enforcement personnel. Murdering a cop, an investigator, or a prosecutor would unleash the fury of the law against the Mob and make normal business hazardous. Furthermore, the rule was aimed at maintaining strict discipline and preventing rash, unauthorized acts by hotheaded troops.

The day after the induction ceremony, D’Arco was the guest of honor at a select dinner with other crew members, given by his capo. It was an occasion for him and the twenty-odd members of his crew to be introduced to one another as equals. D’Arco’s new companions laughingly explained to him what would have occurred if he had refused at the Bronx ceremony to accept membership in the borgata: He would have been killed on the spot. His refusal would have been proof that he was an agent or an informer trying to infiltrate the family.

In the early days of his membership, more Cosa Nostra customs and rules were passed on to him by older soldiers. Some shibboleths were strange, particularly those concerning grooming and wardrobe. New York’s Mob leaders frowned on soldiers growing mustaches or wearing fabrics containing the color red. Mustaches were considered ostentatious and red was looked upon as too flashy by the conservatively dressed hierarchs. Inexplicably, some Mob big shots also believed that red garments were favored by “rats,” squealers.

Although they were always under the thumb of a capo and the administration’s kingpins, there were enormous potential benefits for loyal, ambitious soldiers like Al D’Arco and Tony Accetturo. A made man automatically had greater respect, prestige, and money-making opportunities. For starters, he was entitled to a larger share of the loot from his criminal activities than had been doled out to him as a wannabe or an “associate,” someone who works or cooperates with the family. And the newcomer became eligible for a cut of the profits from other family-controlled rackets.

Another gift to a soldier was the authority to organize and exploit his own wannabes in illegal activities. Most associates aspired to become made men, but only those of Sicilian or Italian ancestry were eligible. At one time, nearly all the families would induct only men whose mother and father were Italian. Eventually, the requirement was eased: as long as the father’s roots were Italian an applicant was eligible. Regardless of his value to the borgata, an associate without Italian heritage—even if he served as a hit man committing murders on demand or was a major earner—could never gain admission. A non-Italian might be highly respected but would never be acknowledged as equal to the lowest-ranking mafioso.

Equally important, as long as a soldier complied with the Mafia’s code of conduct, the family’s financial and legal connections were available. If he got into a jam and was arrested, the family paid for expensive legal talent. If a made man wound up in prison, the borgata’s family administration or his capo were expected to support his wife and children.

For loyalty and service to the family in a violent, dangerous environment, there was yet another vital bequest: a life insurance policy. A made man could be killed only on the orders of his boss and only for a serious infraction of a Mafia rule. Others who worked for a borgata or who were involved in deals with mafiosi lacked comparable protection. They could be whacked or maimed at the whim of a made man if a conflict arose between them. A soldier had the added security of knowing that other criminals who suspected or were aware of his connections feared injuring or insulting him; the lethal retaliatory power of the organization was well known in the underworld.

Joining the Mafia in the mid and late twentieth century was arduous and hazardous, but there was no shortage of applicants; and for recruits like Tony Accetturo, full membership glittered as a prize with outstanding financial rewards.

Copyright © 2005, 2006 by Selwyn Raab. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

SELWYN RAAB was an investigative reporter for The New York Times, covering organized crime and criminal justice matters for twenty-five years. He is also the author of Justice in the Back Room and Mob Lawyer. He lives in New York.

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Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's pretty good, but the meat of the book could have taken up half the space. I get that Raab is enthused to write on such a perennially hot topic as the New York mob, BUT as a journalist he conjectures A LOT and his writing is pretty dry. Constantly estimating and tossing in stories (like the Kennedy assassination) that are dubious at best (seriously Ragano/Trafficante as a source?). And the verifiable stuff that most sources agree on suffers from his leaving things out that don't support his theses of New York's supremacy (he'll talk of Marcello and Traficante, who interacted with NYC mobsters, but Chicago has no importance past Capone, maybe it's because Chicago never answered to or felt compelled to ask New York's input). Seriously, Pistone, Capeci, Raab and others all write the same stuff. Gus Russo is guilty of being a little too friendly to his topic but at least its something new and presented a little differently. And even someone like Roemer who covered the Outfit and Bonanno knew on whom to lay his bets when push came to shove. New York could without a doubt support five families, but by no means did they run the country, nor were they the strongest. They may have disliked Capone, but later they emulated him (Bonanno, Gambino, Gotti) became too flashy and lookit them now. Colombo's all but gone, Luchese ain't too far behind, Bonanno is on its way out, Gambino got nailed again in 2005, and Genovese is the only fam chugging along. Resurgence should be dropped from the title. Likewise the fbi dropped Gambino and the Outfit from their website, only Genovese remains. Take it for what its worth, Raab is the only one who wrote a basic history of the five families to now in the same volume, for that he's commendable, but the same info can be got from rick porrello's mafia webpage. Save your money. Better yet read Russo's book on the Outfit or his coming book on Sidney Korshak, or his book on the Kennedy's, it's stuff that was new to me and I like the new light it showed on a lot of the same old stories. Who knows, give it a try.... Pileggi and Bill Roemer would probably agree.
HistoryBuffDP More than 1 year ago
I Highly Recommend this book for those who have interest in the Mafia. The book explains the origins and how the Mafia came to America. Five families also touches on the JFK assassination. In reading Five Families you can read real life events that seam familiar in Mario Puzo's The God Father. Five Families may be the definitive book on the Mafia's history to this date.
Anonymous 7 months ago
The most comprehensive book on the Mafia I have ever read . And I have read very many !!
Eonz More than 1 year ago
I have been looking for the real history of the 5 families, saw the author on t.v. And ordered this book. Very glad I did he puts together all of the history that anyone who reads can follow, even after just a few chapters I have learned so much! I highly recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be very entertaining and informative. It links together events that I remember but hadn't paid much attention to over the years. There are a fair amount of typos in the book, which is frustrating, but overall doesn't impact readability.
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This tells you the real deal about the Mafia,how it evolved and how law enforcement reduced it to a shadow of what it once was.Very complete history with all the five families and how they were related to one another.It is a long book but there is no filler material,the books length is necessary because of the depth and detail of the subject.One of the best true crime books I have read and I read alot of true crime.
PatMackPM More than 1 year ago
This was a good history of the story of the mafia. It had alot of details and interesting information. Sometimes fact is better than fiction.
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ira gabe More than 1 year ago
the players are familiar very hard to sought his research. well done
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