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Five Great books with the MAFIA at their heart
9th November 2021
Mafia. That is always a noun that conjures up ‘family’ but families who excel at being above the law, who make it their business to deal in illegal and nefarious enterprises. “Cosa Nostra” is a familiar epithet and now the Ndrangheta, who originated in Southern Italy are widely considered the richest and powerful organisation in the world. Five great books with Mafia at their heart.
The term “mafia” was originally applied only to the Sicilian Mafia and originates in Sicily, but it has since expanded to encompass other organizations of similar methods and purpose, e.g., “the Russian Mafia,” “the Japanese Mafia,” or “Bills Mafia.” The term is applied informally by the press and public; the criminal organizations themselves have their own terms (e.g. the Sicilian Mafia and the related Italian-American Mafia refer to their organizations as “Cosa Nostra”; the “Japanese Mafia” calls itself “Gokudō” but is more commonly known as “Yakuza” by the public; and “Russian Mafia” groups often call themselves “Bratva”) — Wikipedia
There are human stories among all these tribes and some of the following books look at the ramifications – both practical and emotional – of being confined and born into a Mafia family.
The Family by Naomi Krupitsky
A captivating debut novel about the tangled fates of two best friends and daughters of the Italian mafia, and a coming-of-age story of twentieth-century Brooklyn itself.
Two daughters. Two families. One inescapable fate.
Sofia Colicchio is a free spirit, loud and untamed. Antonia Russo is thoughtful, ever observing the world around her. Best friends since birth, they live in the shadow of their fathers’ unspoken community: the Family. Sunday dinners gather them each week to feast, discuss business, and renew the intoxicating bond borne of blood and love.
But the disappearance of Antonia’s father drives a whisper-thin wedge between the girls as they grow into women, wives, mothers, and leaders. And as they push against the boundaries of society’s expectations and fight to preserve their complex but life-sustaining friendship, one fateful night their loyalty to each other and the Family will be tested.
Only one of them can pull the trigger before it’s too late.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The story of Don Vito Corleone, the head of a New York Mafia family, inspired some of the most successful movies ever. It is in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather that Corleone first appears. As Corleone’s desperate struggle to control the Mafia underworld unfolds, so does the story of his family. The novel is full of exquisitely detailed characters who, despite leading unconventional lifestyles within a notorious crime family, experience the triumphs and failures of the human condition. Filled with the requisite valor, love, and rancor of a great epic, The Godfather is the definitive gangster novel.
The Savage Shore by David Hewson
Roman police detective Nic Costa has been sent undercover to Italy’s beautiful, remote Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared mob, the ‘Ndrangheta, who has offered to turn state witness for reasons of his own.
Hoping to reel in the biggest prize the state police have seen in years, the infamous Butcher of Palermo, Costa and his team are aware the stakes are high. But the constant deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy where they are the outcasts, not the men in the hills, with their shotguns and rough justice, the detectives find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. As the tension rises, it’s clear the operation is not going to plan. Is Nic Costa getting too close to the enemy for comfort – and is there a traitor among them …?
Wise Guy by Nicholas Pileggi
Nicholas Pileggi’s vivid, unvarnished, journalistic chronicle of the life of Henry Hill–the working-class Brooklyn kid who knew from age twelve that “to be a wiseguy was to own the world,” who grew up to live the highs and lows of the mafia gangster’s life–has been hailed as “the best book ever written on organized crime” (Cosmopolitan).
This is the true-crime bestseller that was the basis for Martin Scorsese’s film masterpiece GoodFellas, which brought to life the violence, the excess, the families, the wives and girlfriends, the drugs, the payoffs, the paybacks, the jail time, and the Feds…with Henry Hill’s crackling narration drawn straight out of Wiseguy and overseeing all the unforgettable action. “Nonstop…absolutely engrossing” (The New York Times Book Review).
Read it and experience the secret life inside the mob–from one who’s lived it.
Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb
A journey into the heart of Sicily, using art, food, history and literature to shed light on southern Italy’s legacy of political corruption and violent crime. The book takes as its starting point the ongoing trial of seven-times Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.
Bella Mafia by Lynda La Plante
Don Roberto Luciano, boss of the Sicilian Mafia, agrees to be chief witness in the trial of Paul Carolla, who murdered Luciano’s firstborn son, Michael, 20 years ago. Despite round-the-clock protection, all the Luciano men are killed the night before a family wedding.
The don’s wife, Graziella, holds together what’s left of the family – daughters-in-law Theresa and Sophia, and Theresa’s daughter Rosa – while instructing their lawyer to sell off business holdings.
Eventually the women become involved in the business themselves, trying to recover money that’s disappeared into Carolla’s hands. Following a courtroom shootout, Carolla’s adopted son Luka, using his knowledge of organization politics and his mastery of murder, becomes the women’s partner and protector.
Once the Luciano women discover Luka’s secret, however, they implacably take revenge in the ruthless manner of their age-old code, and the strongest of them becomes the new head of the family, the bella mafiosa . . .
The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre (TR: Stephanie Smee)
WINNER: EUROPEAN CRIME FICTION PRIZE
WINNER: GRAND PRIX DE LITTÉRATURE POLICIÈRE
Meet Patience Portefeux – 53 years old, widowed mother of two, fluent Arabic speaker, upstanding French citizen… and soon to become The Godmother.
For 25 years she has toiled honestly, translating police wire-taps of north African drug gangs. She knows she’s just a footsoldier in a senseless politicians’ war against high-grade hashish, a tiny cog in the state machinery of racism and repression. But it’s always paid the bills – until now.
The scrimping French state pays its translators ‘off the books’, meaning there’ll be no pension to reward her long years of service. With her mother’s extortionate care home eating her savings, a lonely and impoverished old age lies ahead. So when Patience gets the chance to take possession of a vast stash of top-quality Moroccan Khardala, she doesn’t hesitate long. Exit the grey-suited civil servant. Enter The Godmother. Life in the banlieues will never be the same again.
One chance to crack the case. A million ways to lose.
Federal prosecutor Nora Carleton has spent years building a case against a powerful New York mobster. She finally has a star witness whose testimony will lock the defendant away for good.
But the courtroom is an unpredictable place. While the killing of a disgraced former governor appears unconnected to the trial, the fallout from his death means a guilty verdict hangs in the balance.
Desperate to stop the mobster walking free, Nora investigates the darker side of the city to find out how everything connects. The more she uncovers, the deeper the corruption runs. And Nora knows better than most that the truth is a fragile thing – especially in court.
Do you have favourite Mafia themed books? Let us know in the Comments below!
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