Olsson's Book Bits

by Greta Olsson

The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff
Doubleday Large Print
Random House, 831 Pages
Copyright 2OO8
ISBN 978-O-7394-99O7-8

The author combines a murder mystery with historical fiction. He seems to have done as much research as Philippa Gregory, and that is a considerable amount.

The main point deals with polygamy in the Mormon Church, as told in Ann Eliza's biography. She was known nationally and helped stop what to her was a horrible practice among her fellow Mormons. Ebershoff claims he "often filled in where Ann Eliza skips and skips where she digresses". She married Brigham Young, but when she turned against him, lawyers claimed that she couldn't be his 19th wife because American law allows only one wife. They called her his harlot.

At first he agreed but later said that he did in fact marry her because God to1d him that the Mormons should populate the earth. After much criticism, he was finally willing to give her alimony.

The main problem in writing about this church is the problem pointed out in the preface to his 1925 biography of Brigham Young, in which M.R. Werner "states the case plainly: 'Mormon and anti-Mormon literature is frequently unreliable.'" Thus two people may give you two opposing sides to one event, and both may be erroneous, wrong, or deliberately lying.

Thus the book makes for fascinating reading. What numbered wife was Ann Eliza? 19th? Probably 27th or 28th. However there are claims that Young had over 1OO wives and Ann Eliza may have been 58th or 59th. In any case, she certainly turned against this husband and put an end to polygamy.

The Firsts broke away from that church to continue with plural wives. I understand that there are some groups even today who wish to practice polygamy and continue to do so. Ann Eliza claims that this practice leads to much unhappiness for the wives and children. I found her story fascinating.

Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss
by Philip Carlo
Hardcover, 1st edition, 343 pages
Copyright 2OO8
ISBN: 978-O-O6-142984-2

Philip Carlo, who wrote the powerful Ice man, about the notorious mafia contract killer, Richard Kuklinski, has done an equally excellent, gripping, crime biography about his former next door neighbor and childhood friend, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. The two families were great friends for many years, having Sunday dinners in the Carlo home. Philip's father may have been the only non-criminal friend that Anthony's father had. The mafia families usually worked and played among their own kind. Philip's power and insight may have come from his association with this mafia family.

Anthony Casso did not like his nickname, which he got from sometimes using a pipe as a murder weapon. Casso was highly intelligent, a great money-maker, and much respected for keeping his word. His honesty did him in. In exchange for becoming an informer and confessing to 72 charges against him supposedly for only six and a half years in prison, he dealt with dishonest government men who lied to him, their word meaning nothing. Read the book to find out what Casso really got.

This work is another A+++ true crime book.

Like Richard Kuklinski, Casso was truly devoted to his wife and family. These men are very complex, and with different influences, friends, and families in their early years might have become great winners, instead of such terrible losers. To a certain extent, one can't help liking both Richard and Anthony.

Mafia Dynasty
by John H. Davis
Paperback, 495 pages.
Copyright 1994
ISBN: O-O6-109184-7

This book shows the Gambinos' arrival in America from Sicily during the twenties, and their 3O years' bloody battle for control of New York's underworld "to emerge as the nation's most powerful crime family. Deals and deceptions to create a vast criminal empire".

Murder and betrayal were business as usual. The Gambinos got a stranglehold on New York's construction, garment, and waterfront industries. It talks about the blood oaths, shifting alliances, and deadly feuds in the 8O's and 9O's.

I found the book fascinating, but remained puzzled that in describing Castellan's death, John Davis did not mention Richard Kuklinski, described convincingly in The Ice man by Philip Carlo. Davis mentioned two mafia men as the possible killers. Davis has a long list of sources for his information, but seems to know nothing about Kuklinski.

Who is correct - Philip Carlo or John Davis? I'd vote for Carlo.

Return to Port Of Call Home Page
Return to February/March 2009 Table of Contents