Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.
This review of “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City” is only 4 out of a possible 5 stars. But the review is so comprehensive (he or she is obviously a professional reviewer with 298 book reviews on Amazon.com), I feel this review bears reading.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rotten Core of the Big Apple, June 26, 2014
By Silver Screen Videos
This review is from: Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City (Kindle Edition)
“Joe Bruno probably knows as much as anyone alive about the various mobsters, killers, crooked politicians, and other assorted lowlifes who have inhabited the city of New York since the founding of this country, and he has compiled literally dozens of stories about these men (and a few women, as well) in a sometimes frustrating but mostly fascinating collection of meticulously researched anecdotes, “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps.”
Over the course of this book, Bruno looks at well known infamous characters like Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Bugsy Siegel; infamous events in the city’s history like the Draft Riots of 1863 and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factor Fire; and a plethora of lesser known but equally fascinating lowlifes, including the various street gangs that made life miserable for city residents over the years. Bruno’s research is painstakingly detailed, especially considering that some of the people and events he discusses predate the Civil War. He also has a knack for providing bizarre, memorable, and often gruesome details throughout the book, such as the bottle that Gallus Mag, an Amazonian female bouncer, kept above the bar where she worked that contained ears that she had literally bitten off of the heads of unruly customers.
“Gangsters” is organized into a series of short chapters, usually two to four pages in length, each devoted to a particular person, group, or incident, and arranged in alphabetical order by subject. Since Bruno is far better at telling colorful anecdotes than organizing a formal history text, this approach, even though it skips around a great deal, is actually fairly effective. In many cases, Bruno probably had little historical information available, so a short chapter provided ample space to tell the story. In addition, “Gangsters” contains lots of Bruno’s typical colorful slang (such as trying to “shoot someone into Swiss cheese”), including some Damon Runyanesque dialogue attributed to various characters. This colorful language is not nearly as distracting in a short chapter that reads like Bruno telling a story than it would be in a longer, more formal text on the same subject.
Still, “Gangsters” could have used a bit more extensive editing. There are a couple of factual errors (Bruno repeatedly refers to gangster “Mad Dog” Coll as Cole), but the book’s most serious flaw is its repetitiveness. Obviously, the lives of many major gang figures intersected over the years, so some repetition is unavoidable in a book like this. However, on several occasions, Bruno tells the same story multiple times, to increasingly lesser effect. On such story involves a bizarre encounter in which the aforementioned Mad Dog Coll was on his way to assassinate Lucky Luciano when Luciano’s own hired hit men told Coll that they had just killed Salvatore Maranzano, the man who hired Coll (allowing Coll to pocket the down payment he had collected for the Luciano hit that would never occur). Bruno tells this story in almost the exact same way three different times in the book, in chapters on Coll, Luciano, and Maranzano.
Despite the repetition, there’s a lot of fresh, often fascinating material in every chapter. Bruno’s style may take some getting used to, but there’s no question he knows his mobsters and loves sharing this information with readers. What is most striking about this book is that Bruno only scratches the surface in his discussion of organized (and often unorganized) crime in New York. To date, Bruno has written six volumes in his informal history series, and I have the feeling that he’s got even more stories to tell. Joe Bruno’s “Mobsters” should be an offer that those interested in true crime stories can’t refuse.”