Salvatore Esposito, Anthony Albanese, and Christopher Cameron-the Columbus Avenue Boys-are somewhat related, as they share lineage back to before the turn of century. Having grown up together in a small community north of New York City, each became successful in his own right. Chris moved to Dallas to be a portfolio manager with a financial firm while Sal and Tony earn their living the hard way-by being enforcers and major earners for the mob.
Tony's grandfather, Pops Scala, tells them a horrific secret from the Scalamarri family past: twelve members of their family were massacred at the hands of Bugsy Siegel and his ruthless gang from Murder Inc. in 1935. Pops was the sole witness and lone survivor, and he was more than happy to pull the trigger and end Bugsy's murderous life.
Now fifty years later, Pops convinces the Columbus Avenue Boys they must leave the underworld life for good. Since one cannot just give two weeks' notice to the Gambino crime family, the three blood brothers devise a plan to infiltrate the inner workings of the Mafia in the 1990s to avenge the massacre in their family tree.
Columbus Avenue Boys chronicles the Scalamarri family tree throughout the twentieth century and presents a historical perspective of the life and struggles of an Italian immigrant family as well as that of America's organized crime.
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COLUMBUS AVENUE BOYSAvenging the Scalamarri Massacre
By David Carraturo
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 David Carraturo
All right reserved.
January 11, 1996
If you are dealt lemons, you make lemonade. Sal and Tony advanced higher than others in their crew because they always had that uncanny ability to simply never let a crisis go to waste. The TV weather guys called it the New York City area's worst storm in fifty years, but the two business partners had put their heads together a week before the first flake had even fallen to maximize the event. While many in their crew's money-making opportunities were limited, theirs were not.
Even though they had already received upfront payments from snow-plowing customers well before Christmas, an extra bonus was now warranted, especially if the owners of the residential and commercial buildings wanted their tenants to see the light of day before March. The two bruisers unofficially held the snow removal rights in the area, and there was very little chance of a brave upstart in a four-by-four and shiny new plow muscling onto their turf. It was not major-league baseball, and it was very unlikely that a scab would cross this picket line.
The veteran mobsters believed it was totally justified. With the unemployment rate under 6 percent, everybody had plenty of cash. All told, they ended up taking in an extra forty large over the three days of anticipation and panic before the storm, making a $19,000 profit after kicking up ten grand to their captain and surprising the worker bees (who did all the work) with a taste.
The storm did not disappoint. Twenty inches of the white stuff reportedly fell on the ground over the two-day period. Unless you had a plow attached to the front of your truck and removed snow for a living, life ground to a halt. Having been cooped up in their respective one-bedroom apartments with wives and infant sons for the entire time, the two men decided that a celebratory day trip to Connecticut was the perfect venue for a sunny but still bitterly cold Thursday.
Noting his arrival by pressing the buzzer to 2E2, Tony left the lobby of the Consulate and went back to the heated comfort of his Chevy Tahoe to wait for his buddy to come downstairs. He was laughing out loud with his eyes closed to one of Howard Stern's radio bits and did not mind Sal taking fifteen minutes to make his entrance.
"You doin' your hair all this time? Jee-sus Christ, it's takin' longer and longer to make yourself pretty." He shook his head in mock disgust as Sal slammed the door.
"Nah, first I had to change Mikey's diaper. Damn, that kid can poop." He raised the volume to better hear Howard. "Then Angie springs a honey- do bullshit list on me. So I had'a scramble to fold clothes and make the bed as she fed him some of that mothers' milk. She pulls this last-minute crap on me all the time when we go to Foxwoods. I swear I love her, but sometimes ..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Sometimes a bag of lime, a shovel, and a long drive to the country's the best marriage counseling."
Before they drove off, Sal looked up to his wife on the second floor. Mikey was propped up and waving good-bye to his daddy from the bedroom window. "I think I'll keep her. She never stays mad too long anyway." He finished the good-bye by mouthing "I love you" and blowing her a kiss.
Around the time he had gotten married fifteen months earlier, Sal had been presented with a very attractive offer by one of his regulars. He had jumped at the chance to live in a condominium in the secluded section of town for a 60 percent discount on the going rate of $1,000 a month. His new landlord had the misfortune of believing that after winning the first three games of the football season, the Giants would win at least one of the next seven. They did not, and more importantly, they also did not cover the point spread. On the hook for $8,800, the landlord worked out a deal where Sal could live in the one-bedroom, one-bath unit for as long as he pleased.
The four-building complex sat nestled along the Bronx River, adjacent to the Parkway Oval field, where they had played ball as kids. It was now completely covered in a blanket of snow. As they passed, he fondly reflected about the countless hours they had spent playing sports and hanging out on the bleachers with their good buddy Chris.
The three lifelong friends had spent almost every second together on and off the field. While their blood brother was now working for some financial firm in Texas, Sal and Tony never thought twice about leaving their place of birth.
Tony made a quick right and then a left turn out to the main business district before crossing over Columbus Avenue. "I hav'ta stop at your restaurant first. Pops wants to come with us."
After Tony's nonna had passed away, his seventy-seven-year-old grandfather had moved back from a retirement village in Port St. Lucie. Now, he spent most of his days playing briscola and drinking black coffee in Ressini's with his dwindling number of geriatric friends. Still spry for his age, many nights were also spent playing poker in the private room of the establishment.
Even at his advanced age, he was considered one the best card players in town. In the short time since he had been back, his eyes always lit up whenever he got wind of his grandson venturing to the casino. These legal gambling excursions located so close to home had not been an option before he and Teresa retired and moved to the Sunshine State.
As soon as he recognized his grandson's truck at the traffic light, he was out the door. Before they had even pulled to a stop, he was outside waiting, wearing a gray-checkered fedora hat with a matching overcoat. Tony was amazed by the old man's mobility and senses. Pops still had it, and he would know. As a child, with his father and mother working endless hours to make ends meet, he and his sister spent most of their formative years with their grandparents.
Whenever he looked at the old black-and-white Kodak Brownie pictures from when he was younger, Tony could not believe how much he looked and acted like his grandfather. They stood the same way, smiled identically, and commanded the same respect and attention. While he was now stooped over a bit, it was obvious that Pops had been a dominant presence back in the day. By simply shaking his thick, beefy hand, you could tell this man had lived an interesting life.
"You can't wait, can you?" The younger men laughed as Pops shut the door securely and buckled his seatbelt before answering.
"Well, you going to drive or what, Anthony? Turn that crap off and put on the news!" Then he closed his eyes and napped for the next two hours. They waited the five customary minutes before turning it back to the "King of All Media."
While the two wiseguys had both gambled large amounts in the past, they now had families to support. Tony and his wife, Victoria, were expecting their second baby in June, and Sal and Angela were gearing up to have another kid. With a portion of their snow plow profits, they gave them both $5,000 to pay household expenses for the month.
With $2,000 or so, they would gamble and then have a hearty meal with the old man. The remaining seven grand would be invested. Not the way their buddy Chris did at that investment company. Sal and Tony had a much better way to generate above-average returns. Prior to the trip, they had spread the word that they were liquid and would be available to help change the luck of anyone who happened to be at Foxwoods that day. If these degenerate gamblers paid the loan back before leaving the casino, there would be only a minimal fee. However, if the odds got the better of them, then another $2,000 of additional profit was expected to be generated if not repaid by the end of the following week.
It ended up being a very profitable day. Pops took advantage of sucker after sucker who believed he could outplay him in Texas Hold 'em. Early in the evening, Tony stopped by his poker table to see how he was faring and stood in silence, viewing a hand in play. Minutes later a surge of energy went through his veins as Pops raked in an armful of red five-dollar and green twenty-five-dollar chips. His diamond-suited flush had out-dueled a straight to the king.
The young man, who obviously had had too much to drink, sarcastically yelled out a compliment: "Old man, you're kicking my ass."
Never one to miss having the last word, Pops looked up as he stacked his chips. "Son, I haven't even started kicking your ass yet."
Tony let out a huge belly laugh and kissed him on top of his head before returning to the craps table to meet up with his partner. Besides Pops' good fortune, Sal worked the dice like a maestro and had doubled his initial investment. While Tony also wanted to play the tables, he was too busy approving loans to "friends" and then lending more and more throughout the early evening.
With things going their way and yet another snowstorm bearing up the coast, they decided the prudent move would be to spend the night in safety. Their wives were not happy with this decision, but they had to look out for the old man. "Hey, do you expect us to drive Pops home in this treacherous weather?" Before they had left that morning, they had seen the advanced weather report. This precaution had been their plan all along.
Plan A was that if things were going well (which they were), they would enjoy a hearty steak and fine bottle of cabernet with their favorite person in the world and spend the night at Foxwoods. Plan B was to rush through a meal and not get home till well after midnight. Rest assured, they were sure to get woken up at dawn by the baby crying. Plan A seemed the better course of action.
In between, Sal lamented about how he could cook circles around the chef in this place, and both retold gambling adventures, proudly bragged about their baby boys, and then halfheartedly bitched about their supposedly hard-ass wives whom they loved so much. By the time the salads arrived, the floor had been turned over to Pops. He had captivated them since they were kids, and they never tired of his ability to give a life lesson. It seemed like he had been around forever, and he was the best source for stories of the good old days.
The truth of the matter was that Salvatore Esposito, Anthony Albanese, and Christopher Cameron—the Columbus Avenue Boys—were somewhat related, as they shared lineage back to before the turn of century. While their Italian blood had been diced and sliced over the past hundred years, they each laid claim to sharing relatives from Italy before their ancestors immigrated to America in the late 1800s. Because of this bond, they were proud of their self-anointed blue-blood, blue-collar heritage. Pops was one of the last of Tuckahoe's old breed. He had outlived most others from his generation, and they relished every moment spent with him.
Chapter TwoTHAT MCGOVERN'S A TERROR
April 8, 1892
Concetta Scalamarri looked up in amazement as her nearly month-long journey was almost over. The SS Cachemire was slowly making its way into New York Bay through the Verrazano Narrows. Separated by Staten Island and the borough of Brooklyn, the vessel steamed closer to her final destination.
In the distance, Concetta could see the right arm of the Statue of Liberty raised high in the morning sky, welcoming them to the New World. Slowly passing the breathtaking structure, she wept as she bent down and embraced her two children. It would not be long before they would see their father and her husband again. He would be very proud of how his children had grown in the two long years since he had seen them last.
The last letter she had mailed back to her beloved Antonio had ended with Al mio carissimo sposo, ti voglio tanto bene. Tuo figlio Pasquale e tua figlia Maria non vedono l'ora di abbraciarti. (My beautiful husband, I love you dearly. Your son, Pasquale, and daughter, Maria, cannot wait to see you again.)
Concetta was an attractive woman. Not yet thirty, standing five feet four inches, she was strongly built from working in the hilly farmlands of southern Italy. She wore a long light blue dress that was soiled and grimy after the twenty-nine-day voyage, and her shoulder-length dark brown hair was pulled back in a bun.
Antonio had sent his bella mia numerous letters enclosed with American dollars and wonderful stories about their soon-to-be life. He had worked hard, toiling as a laborer at a marble quarry and as a landscaper at a golf course. As always, he kept his promise and sent for them as quickly as he could.
The last joyous letter she had received in February included three steerage-compartment tickets on the Cachemire along with details for the forthcoming journey. Antonio had spoken with recently arrived paesani about their experience at Ellis Island. Concetta's husband of ten years had braced her for the hardship of the voyage and briefed her on what to be prepared for when they disembarked, whom to steer clear of, and whom to look for.
This new federal facility had recently opened to accommodate the influx of mass immigration from Europe. When Antonio came to America, he was processed through the much smaller facility across Hudson Bay at the Castle Garden immigration depot in Lower Manhattan.
The preparation came in very handy. Many of the Cachemire's 833 passengers were detained due to sickness acquired on the transatlantic voyage. The Scalamarri family had survived by packing an ample amount of warm blankets, dried meats, and cheese.
Maria had dark brown eyes and even darker brown hair. She was a tall and gangly nine-year-old, but she was also alert and in good spirits. Pasquale, getting ready to turn seven, was the spitting image of his father. With thick dark brown hair and eyebrows, his face had a self-determined look. While standing only four feet tall, he maintained a stocky, self-assured build.
On April 10 their health was approved by the public service physician. Social, moral, and economic fitness was then established. Concetta was asked many questions, including name (on Antonio's arrival his lazy processor had shortened Scalamarri to Scala), occupation (farmer), and amount of money in her possession (while she hid eleven dollars in her undergarments, she disclosed four). The fact that her husband was gainfully employed and they had a place to live also quickened the processing.
Antonio arrived early and waited for close to sixteen hours. Upon noticing his beautiful bride looking for him outside the registry room, he rushed over and cried. Then he hugged and kissed her deeply. This was confirmation enough for the immigration inspector to release her and the children to his custody.
The Very Early Years
Antonio was the sixth of nine children born to Vito and Isabella Scalamarri in Mileto, a small farming village in the province of Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. This mountainous community was the country's southernmost city, occupying a hilly area descending toward the Ionian Sea.
His four older brothers had all ventured off to America between the years 1885 and 1887 to make a better life. In 1887 their father, Vito, had fallen ill and soon passed; he was sixty-seven. The family decided that as the youngest man in the family, Antonio would remain to tend to the farm. Besides his wife and children, he was also tasked to take care of their aging mother and three younger sisters until they wed.
By 1890, the Scalamarri sisters had all married and vowed to remain in Italy and take care of their mother. In America, Antonio's older brothers had all found work and had established roots in New York. There were many transportation projects underway across the entire region that needed hardworking immigrants to help with the construction. Three brothers—Rocco, Vito, and Giuseppe—were hired as laborers on the massive expansion of the subway line and worked for the rapid transit companies in Brooklyn and in the Bronx. One brother, Pasquale, had settled just north of the city. He found employment in the Tuckahoe Marble Quarry within the farming town of Eastchester in Westchester County. Pasquale had been the last to write Antonio about coming to America, so he decided to go to Eastchester upon his arrival.
The tall, rugged Antonio labored in the marble quarry alongside his brother. He also worked as a groundskeeper at the newly opened Saint Andrews Golf Club. After backbreaking work during the day, he would hitch a buggy ride or if need be, walk the seven miles. He helped construct the clubhouse and then assisted in manicuring the greens and fairways of the converted hilly pasture along the Hudson River. He slept when he could, but for those two years he was determined to save enough to send for his family. When Concetta finally arrived, they lived in a small tenement on Maynard Street, which was in close proximity to the quarry.
Excerpted from COLUMBUS AVENUE BOYS by David Carraturo Copyright © 2012 by David Carraturo. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: La Famiglia Scalamarri....................xi
Chapter 1. Foxwoods....................1
Chapter 2. That McGovern's a Terror....................6
Chapter 3. Louisiana Superdome....................13
Chapter 4. A Beautiful Day to Get Married....................22
Chapter 5. The Green Hornet....................27
Chapter 6. Engulfed in Flames....................37
Chapter 7. Blood on His Hands....................45
Chapter 8. One Special Person....................54
Chapter 9. Venetian Table....................59
Chapter 10. Not Much Like Oklahoma....................67
Chapter 11. Hello, Mr. Esposito; Good Evening, Mr. Albanese....................79
Chapter 12. The Hollywood Reporter....................88
Chapter 13. Two Gorillas....................95
Chapter 14. Cat's Got Nine Lives....................108
Chapter 15. More Like a Younger Sister....................117
Chapter 16. Preferably a Grandmotherly Type....................126
Chapter 17. Saby's House....................135
Chapter 18. Three Families Blended....................148
Chapter 19. A Smoldering White Van....................161
Chapter 20. Power Walk....................169
Chapter 21. Fugazi....................178
Chapter 22. It All Depended On How You Played Your Hand....................189
Chapter 23. Decade and a Half....................197
Chapter 24. Top of the Box....................206
Preview: Cameron Nation (Prologue and Chapter 1)....................222
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Want to feel like you are getting the down and dirty on the lives of those effected by the mafia/ those whose families have ties and history? David Carraturo’s COLUMBUS AVENUE BOYS is the story of three lifelong friends, closer than true brothers who discover a long hidden secret within the mob that directly relates to their own families. In true mob fashion, Chris, Tony and Sal , young as they are, are determined to seek revenge for the devastation wrought by the Mafia decades in the past. But first they must get to the black heart of the mafia in the late twentieth century and get out alive. The fever of vengeance will bring Chris home from his successful career in Dallas, as Tony and Sal, now muscle for the mob plan the ultimate takedown and give one old man the opportunity to silence the hosts of the past he alone survived. This is their story, their history and their present as the Columbus Avenue Boys wage their own personal vendetta. Follow through time, from past to present and back again as David Carratura recounts the heinous massacre and the years of deceit in between. Feel as if you can see these characters come to life, as mobsters from long ago lay through your mind like an old back and white film of the brutality and mentality of the mob. Is there truly family loyalty or can it be bought by the highest bidder? Is blood thicken than the champagne of wealth and power? Is it possible for three young men to shred the foundation of an age-old organization based on coercion, power and control? Yes, the mob is central to this tale, yes, there is violence, but there is also friendship and love for family that runs as soul deep as the need to protect. Follow the dark twists and unexpected turns as David Carraturo brings hidden worlds to life on each page of this gripping and edgy novel. Learn just how far three blood brothers will go in the name of honor. I received this copy from David Carraturo in exchange for my honest review.
Carraturo novel tells the decades-long story of the mob-related Scalamarri family living through good and hard times. In 1947, mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was killed at his home. The identity of his assassin most likely resides somewhere in the lineage of the Scalamarri family, who lost 12 of its members in a fire—what came to be known as the Sunday Night Massacre. Vincent, thre surviving son who witnessed the murders, tells his story years later to his grandson, Tony, and friends, Sal and Chris, all descendants of the Scalamarris. Tony and Sal agree to sever all association they have with gangsters, and Chris, a successful financial advisor, works out a deal with a friend at the FBI, allowing the other men to act as informants. The plan goes awry when wise guys start getting whacked. The author’s novel is a prequel of sorts to his previous book (Cameron Nation, 2011), which featured Chris as the protagonist. The title of his latest is a little misleading: It’s a reference to the three friends, but the plot jumps around the family tree, whose branches are depicted throughout the novel with a helpful visual, considering the vast number of characters in the book. In fact, the backstory—Vincent’s involvement with World War II, his quest for retribution and his falling in love—is tighter and more interesting. The author aptly manages frequent leaps, sometimes with dark humor. As the two timelines converge, the novel picks up pace with stellar results: a Fed goes undercover and a seemingly insignificant character returns to chuck a wrench into the FBI’s scheme. Blending plot with real-world events and people—Watergate, George Raft and Frank Sinatra—adds a dash of authenticity to the epic. A mob story with the prerequisite hits, casinos and Italian food, but augmented by a strong sense of camaraderie. Kirkus Review 5/10/12