Joe Bruno on the Mob – Book Review – The Valachi Papers

Peter Maas is certainly one of the best writers of his generation. However, this book tells about mob activities from the viewpoint of a supposed insider (Valachi), who was, in truth, an illiterate, minor Italian mob thug, not usually allowed in the same room with mob bosses like Lucky Luciano, or Frank Costello.

The most flagrant mistake mentioned in this book is Valachi’s contention that his Italian organized crime group was called “La Cosa Nostra (this thing of ours).” In fact, “la cosa nostra” was a term Italian- American mobsters loosely used in the lower case form, because the Italian mob in America doesn’t have an name except “Italian Mob,” or “Italian organized crime.” No matter what you read elsewhere, the Mafia exists only in Sicily, so when Italian mobsters get together in America, “this thing of ours” is the best they can come up with without confusing each other (we’re dealing with mobsters here, not Harvard professors).

That aside, “The Valachi Papers” is a four-star book, due to the skill of the writer rather than for the misinformation sometimes stated in its content.


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