Bloodline: A Novel

Bloodline: A Novel

by Warren Murphy


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Bloodline: a gritty historical novel about the Mafia in 1920s New York, from Edgar Award-winning author Warren Murphy.

The Falcones are an immigrant family living in New York City in 1920. Their patriarch, Tony, is a respected policeman. His sons, Tommy and Mario, both served in the Great War and are now upstanding citizens-a cop and a priest. But their cousin Nilo has a dark past, and he fled to America after causing several deaths in a fight in Italy.

Nilo soon falls in with Don Maranzano, a Mafia boss who comes from his hometown in Italy. Maranzano grooms Nilo as a "real estate broker," but after a few months, Nilo is offered the chance to do some serious work. He becomes a useful still-wrecker, assassin, and skilled criminal. The papers give him the name "Kid Trouble." Tommy and Mario try to turn a blind eye, but it's hard to hide his underworld affiliations.

As conflicts in the city begin to erupt into a violent war involving gangsters from all parts of the country, Tommy and Mario struggle to stay out of the dark world into which Nilo has dragged the family. But when things take a turn for the worse, the Mafia may be the only place for them to go.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250253798
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 12/06/2016
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 1,125,545
Product dimensions: 4.72(w) x 7.48(h) x 1.39(d)

About the Author

WARREN MURPHY was born in Jersey City, where he worked as a reporter and an editor. After the Korean war he drifted into politics, but soon turned to writing instead. His first novel, Created the Destroyer, was published in 1971. Now, with over 150 books and 50 million copies sold, the Destroyer is one of the bestselling series of all time. Recipient of a dozen national awards, Murphy has been called "a mentor and teacher to a whole generation of crime and thriller writers" by Encyclopedia Mysteriosa. Also a screenwriter, Murphy has written The Eiger Sanction (with Clint Eastwood), as well as Lethal Weapon 2. Murphy has served on the board of the Mystery Writers of America, and has also been a member of the Private Eye Writers of America, the International Association of Crime Writers, the American Crime Writers League, and the Screenwriters Guild. Warren Murphy passed away in September 2015.

Read an Excerpt


By Warren Murphy

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2015 Warren Murphy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-5846-6


May 1919

The sirocco was blowing hot and fierce out of the heart of the Sahara desert, hopping quickly across the short span of the Mediterranean that separated Africa from Sicily, up the face of the Sicilian mountains, down the other side, and on out into the Gulf of Castellammare.

Danilo Sesta stood in the bow of the tonnara boat and stared back over the purple and blue and peacock-green waters into the heart of the hot wind, back toward the town of Castellammare del Golfo.

He did not much care for work, rising early, laboring until after dark, forced into the company of loud and stupid men, but still, he thought life was good.

And someday it will be perfect.

The tunny were running well this spring, and even though he was just eighteen, he was making a man's wages. For now. But when the fishing season ended in the autumn, he would be the first to lose his job, and that would not be so good. Perhaps he would go to America. It was cold there, he had been told, and he would not have the sun and the heat that he loved. But there would be work. He would grow rich, as did all who went to America.

And then when he was old — forty or so — he would come back to Castellammare del Golfo and build himself a fine villa and stock it with many fine things to eat — he was always hungry — and many beautiful women: women of every color and sort, but all of them very, very bellissima.

"Hey, Nilo." A voice behind him spoke his nickname.

Nilo turned around and smiled. "What, Fredo?" he asked.

Fredo motioned him to come closer. He was perhaps a dozen years older than Nilo, a short, sturdily built man who looked like one of the Saracen lords who had ruled this island so many hundreds of years before.

"We've work to do," Fredo said.

He was looking down into the mattanza, the "chamber of death" as it was called, the small room made of fishing nets and hung in the sea between the two boats of the tonnara.

Nilo was puzzled. He moved closer to the older man. They were not supposed to be fishing this day, not collecting the tunny or spigola or dolphins or swordfish or sharks that had swum into the chamber, there to be speared and hauled aboard either of the tonnara boats.

Indeed, there were only four of them out on the water: Nilo, Fredo, and, on the other boat, the two Selvini brothers, Paolo and Enzo. The others of the tonnara crew were all ashore, helping to celebrate the wedding of the fleet owner's daughter, and only the four of them had been left behind to clean up the boats and to protect the nets from vandals or thieves.

Nilo did not like the other three, but he had found them useful. They drank too much, and when they did, they were careless with their money and some of it found its way into Nilo's pockets. He justified this by thinking, As well into my pocket as into the purse of some waitress or prostitute.

"I did not think we were to do any fishing this day," Nilo told Fredo.

Fredo smiled at the boy and put his arm around him. Nilo was handsome, almost to the point of prettiness. He had large chocolate eyes with thick black lashes, pouting lips, and a slim boyish body. At night, several times when the boats had been at sea overnight, Fredo had lain down next to him, gently brushing the boy's back. Nilo had pretended to remain asleep, ignoring him, as if he had not noticed.

"That is not the kind of work I mean," Fredo said.

Nilo looked at him for a moment, then shrank back. He had the fleeting fear that Fredo knew Nilo had been stealing his money and that of the other crew members. He tried to tell himself that it was only his imagination.

"What do you mean?" Nilo asked. He tried to move sideways carefully to the rack where the great long gaffs that they used to haul in the fish were stowed.

Fredo laughed softly, almost shyly.

"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?" Fredo asked.

Nilo stopped. He said nothing.

"I dream of you all the time," Fredo said. "You and nothing else."

Nilo laughed and then spat into the sea.

"I thought you were a man, Fredo," he said. He was just out of arm's reach of the gaffing poles.

"I am a man, and as a man, I must have you."

Nilo felt a shiver run up and down his spine. Where were Paolo and Enzo? He needed help. Fredo was too big, too strong. There was no place to run to. No help could be expected from the wedding guests until late this night at the earliest. And despite the way he made his living, Nilo could not swim. The water had always frightened him.

Nilo called the names of the other two men. "Paolo! Enzo!"

Now it was Fredo's turn to laugh.

"It will do no good, little thief," he said. "They feel the same as I. And we have all paid in advance. With all the money you have lifted from our pockets."

The two brothers appeared just then in the corner of Nilo's vision, and he turned toward them, but with just a glance, he could see that what Fredo had said was true.

Nilo fought them to keep them from catching him. And he fought them while the brothers held him down while Fredo carefully, methodically violated him. He fought them when Paolo entered him, and he fought when Enzo did the same. By then he was bleeding terribly and he felt as though his flesh had been gashed open, just as he had gashed open so many of the fish that they had hauled in from the mattanza.

They let him lie there on the deck, unconscious, after that. Then, in the heat of the dying late afternoon, they came into him again and again and again, drinking and laughing and singing songs of the sea.

When the sun went down and darkness covered the waters and they were done with him, the three men threw Nilo into the sea, counting on the predators that always swam around the tonnara boats to finish him off.

* * *

It was spring again. Tommy Falcone knew that before he even opened his eyes. He could smell it on the air: a scent dense with lilacs and some other unidentified heavy, sweet flowers, an aroma that somehow managed even to gently, subtly overpower the sick, septic smell of the hospital all around him. Tommy could tell it, too, from the very texture of the air. It felt warm and moist, soft, pleasant, comforting. The worst was over.

He opened his eyes slowly. The operations were over, they had told him. No more going under the knife. His body would repair itself now, they said, and in a few short months — six at the outside — by Christmas, he would be well enough to go home. Tommy smiled to himself. He almost felt like singing. But he could not do that. It would disturb the other men on the ward, other men far sicker than he, many of them with no hope of ever really recovering, no hope of ever going home.

Tommy's eyes were open all the way. Then he remembered. He was not on the ward anymore. He looked around him. They had moved him the previous evening. He was in a private room, a room to himself. He stretched, felt a twinge of pain from the exertion, and laughed anyway. It was the first time in over a year that he had slept in a room by himself. God, he loved it. He loved life.

There was a robe lying across the end of his bed. He put it on, limped to the window, and looked out. There was an immense green lawn that seemed to stretch on and on forever, spotted here and there by clumps of trees. Tommy laughed again. In his neighborhood in New York City, ten thousand people — maybe twenty thousand — would live in that amount of space, but here there was nothing except for a few robins tugging at their breakfast worms and a couple of squirrels playing a frenetic game of tail-chasing.

The feeding robins reminded him that he was hungry. For some reason, even that thought amused him, and he laughed again and began to think he had turned into an idiot who thought everything was funny. He wondered how soon breakfast would be served. He turned and walked carefully to the door. Walking was still a new experience to him. He had spent months in bed while his liver, his kidney, his stomach, and his hip bones were being carefully rebuilt, and even now, after all the surgeries had been deemed successful, he walked slowly and cautiously. He made it to the door and turned the knob. It did not open. He went back to the bed to sit down and ponder this bit of information.

He looked again toward the world beyond the window and noticed for the first time that the window had bars on it. For a moment, Tommy fought back a rapidly rising panic. Then the door opened.

A nurse came through carrying a breakfast tray. She was old and almost ugly, but she had a cheery manner and she showed her teeth when she smiled.

"Good morning, Tommy. It's a beautiful day out, isn't it? How are we feeling this morning?"

Tommy noticed that she had not bothered to close the door behind her.

"I'm fine," he said carefully.

"Is something wrong, Tommy?" the nurse asked. "You don't sound like yourself this morning. And look what I've brought you. Remember last night? I asked you what you'd like and here it is. Eggs. Pancakes. Bacon. Even orange juice. And lots of coffee."

"Thanks," Tommy said without enthusiasm. "That sounds good. Real good." He paused. "Is there some special reason why I'm in here?" he asked. "And why there are bars on the windows? And the door's locked?"

The old woman smiled at him reassuringly.

"Doctor will be in after breakfast," she said. "He'll answer all your questions for you then."

Then she was gone and Tommy heard the door click locked behind her. It was only after she had left that he realized she had forgotten to give him his shot.

He was tempted to call after her but decided not to. He would wait until the doctor came.

He tried to eat his breakfast. The nurse was right: it was all the things he liked, but nevertheless he had no appetite. He was feeling too restless to sit down and eat.

* * *

"Good morning, Tommy," the voice said. It had a slight southern drawl.

Tommy opened his eyes slowly. Had he fallen asleep? It did not seem likely and yet he must have.

He twisted around until he was sitting on the edge of his bed. The man perched on a chair next to the bed was dressed in the uniform of a U.S. Navy medical officer. It took Tommy a moment to get beyond the uniform, and then he noticed the man himself: he looked young, not much more than Tommy's own twenty years.

He nodded briskly at Tommy and said, "I'm Doctor Singer. We haven't met before."

"I don't feel so good, sir," Tommy said.

The doctor half-smiled.

"I've been reading your records," he said. "It says that you were a very brave man at Belleau Wood."

"I don't remember, sir. I just remember being scared. I guess all I did was what I had to do to stay alive. And not let my pals or the corps down."

"In my book, that adds up to brave."

"Thank you, sir," Tommy answered.

"Now you're going to have to be even more brave."


"We made a mistake," the doctor said. "We're going to try to correct it."

Tommy felt panic beginning to grab at him.

"I don't understand, sir."

Doctor Singer pulled the chair over to the side of Tommy's bed and sat near the younger man.

"I'm not going to feed you a lot of nonsense," he said. "We've given you too much morphine over too long a period of time."

Tommy's panic swelled. He could feel his temples pounding. Growing up on the streets of New York's Little Italy, he had seen enough of what morphine could do to be scared.

"Am I a drug addict?" he asked slowly.

Singer shook his head. "I wouldn't call it that. I prefer to call it a 'morphinist.'"

"What's that mean, sir?"

"It means that I don't think that you have the temperament to be a drug addict," Singer said. "It means that I think I can cure you."

"How, sir?"

The doctor hesitated.

"For one thing, we've been steadily decreasing the amount of morphine we've been giving you. We've taken you down from nearly five grains a day about six weeks ago to just a little more than one grain a day now."

"That sounds good," Tommy said. "I hadn't noticed."

"That's another thing that makes me hopeful."

"What do we do next?" Tommy asked.

"We've already done it. As of this morning, we've taken you off all drugs altogether."

Tommy had heard before about what that meant, heard it on the streets of his neighborhood.

"Cold turkey from here on in?" he said.

"Yes," Doctor Singer answered. "The next couple of days might be pretty hard on you."

* * *

Nilo Sesta wanted to die. He wanted nothing more than release. Release from his pain. Release from his shame. He could not live anymore. He wasn't a man. Not after what had been done to him. He was not a man and he was worse than a woman.

Nilo let himself sink deep into the sea. It made no difference. The sea was warm and inviting. The Gulf of Castellammare would take him into its bosom, hold him there, not let anyone hurt him anymore, not let anyone shame him anymore.

Nilo sank until he could go no farther. He was too buoyant. His body was rejecting its watery grave. His body wanted to breathe fresh clean air. Nilo wanted to open his mouth and let his lungs fill with water and sink even deeper down into oblivion. He wanted to, but he could not make himself do it. He began rising, rising not because he wanted to but because of his body's own natural buoyancy.

Something brushed briefly against Nilo's leg, something big and wide and rough. The boy shuddered. Sinking peacefully to the bottom of the bay and dying gently was one thing, but being bitten and hacked and chewed to death bit by bit, piece by piece, by sharks or barracuda was something else again. Nilo kicked out at whatever had bumped into him and began frantically flailing his arms. He rose even faster than he had before. Once he began rising, his body took over from his mind: it had determined to live, regardless of what Nilo's brain had been planning. He kicked even harder.

Nilo broke the surface of the sea at first without even knowing it. He took in huge gulps of air before he realized that he was breathing again. His eyes feasted on the moon and stars, as he thought that they had never been more beautiful, that life had never been more precious.

He trod water unthinking for almost a minute before he remembered that he did not know how to swim, before he remembered that to fall into the sea was automatically to drown, to die. The thought panicked him, and he began flailing the water again frantically, desperate for rescue and yet not desperate enough to call out for help lest Fredo or the Selvini brothers hear him and turn back to finish the job they had begun.

In his flailing, Nilo turned in a complete circle, and as he started halfway around again, he noticed only a few meters away the dark silhouette of the two tonnara boats riding high in the water.

Nilo forced himself to calmness. He could not stop his fear, but he could control it, prevent it from becoming panic. He tried treading water again and found that it worked. He was able to remain upright, in place. The only problem now, he realized, was how to get to the boats to keep from drowning.

But if he went back to the boats, Nilo told himself, he would be delivering himself once more into the hands of his assailants, and that was certain death. He would have to, somehow, get to shore. But that too was impossible. The shore was a mile away at its nearest point. He could never reach it.

He felt panic rising in his throat like a swollen lump of flesh, and he fought to keep from retching. Perhaps, he told himself, if he could get to the side of one of the tonnara boats and somehow hold on until the rest of the fishing crew returned from the wedding celebration, then maybe he could be rescued.

Nilo forced the top part of his body to lean in the water, toward the boats, and then tried to use his hands and arms to move forward, just as he had seen swimmers do. The distance was not great, but it seemed to take an eternity to traverse.

When he finally reached Fredo's boat, he searched desperately for a safe handhold until he came upon the anchor line dangling overboard. He grabbed the coarse rope and held on with a fierce determination.

I am alive, God damn their souls. I am alive.

Time came and went. Minutes passed, then hours. Nilo could hear the sounds of drunken revelry from the three crewmen aboard the boat above his head, and while he waited, his determination just to survive grew and changed into an even more powerful desire for revenge.


Excerpted from Bloodline by Warren Murphy. Copyright © 2015 Warren Murphy. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Part One: Nilo,
Part Two: Tommy,
About the Author,
Also by Warren Murphy,

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