The Butcher, Anatomy Of A Mafia Psychopath by Philip Carlo
Hard cover 298 pages
The book jacket for this work is comprised of two ugly mug shots splattered with red paint, obviously suggesting blood. I asked myself why I ever bought such a cheap, trashy book, and told myself to skim it and get rid of it. Boy, was I wrong. I hadn't noticed the author, Philip Carlo, my favorite for writing about the Mafia. Carlo grew up in the neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Coney Island, the stronghold for Mafia families. In fact, Carlo lived next door to one Mafia family, chummed with their son of similar age to his own, and whose families frequently shared dinners, almost weekly. Carlo never joined in any crime activities but chose instead to write about these people. He does so with much candor and intelligence.
His prologue starts with a description of Bensonhurst and Coney Island in the 160O's. "Between the years 1641 and 1645, before the area was an English settlement, the Dutch had a campaign to rid the area of its indigenous peoples. The Dutch remorselessly murdered them, beheaded them, dismembered them, and gleefully burned them alive at the stake."
Do they sound Mafia-like? Is there something in the air there to engender such behavior?
"Gravesend was strategically close to estuaries fed by the nearby Atlantic Ocean." (An excellent location for importing and exporting illegal stuff.) "... The forests of Gravesend were abundant in all manner of game, moose, deer, beaver, wild pig, and a huge number of rabbits. (Nearby Coney Island is Dutch for 'Rabbit Island'.)"
It's important to realize that any group bent on many murders has a big problem in getting rid of the bodies, and the Mafia shared its knowledge of good, remote burying places in this area. The Butcher was especially clever in locating his own burial grounds for the victims of his brutality.
The Butcher's story (he's also called Tommy "Karate" Pitera) is so voluminous that I'll touch only on information on the jacket's flap. He "was not like other mafiosi. He was not only a capo in the notorious Bonanno family but also a devoted student of crime - a deadly martial artist who'd been trained in Japan as a teenager." One has to be impressed with the amount of reading and studying that he did, his ability to withstand pain, and his willingness to work very hard in order to become a top martial artist. "Highly skilled with knives and other lethal weapons, dressed entirely in black, Pitera murdered his way to become one of the premier assassins in New York City during the 198O's - he even killed at the behest of John Gotti.
"Word on the street was that he didn't just whack people, he made them disappear forever. In hushed whispers people spoke of Pitera's secret burial grounds and the grotesque things he did to his victim's bodies. If the Mafia had a Jeffery Dahmer, it was surely Tommy Pitera." It was no wonder that some of the toughest killers in the Mafia would either look away or walk away when they spotted Pitera.
The Want-ad Killer by Ann Rule
Paperback, 286 pages
As a young teacher, I had a mature, very poised, pretty teenager in a 10th grade English class, who already had a son, about two or three years old. Against the school rules she brought him to class one day and he was adorable. I had talked to the class about affirmations but warned not to word them in a negative way. "Drive safely" is far better than "Don't have an accident". If you say the second phrase 25 or 5O times a day, all the brain gets is "Have an accident".
The young mother admitted that her mother kept warning her against getting pregnant. So she got pregnant. Ann Rule's book talks about a mother who over-emphasized "Beware of strangers". She read news clippings about terrible things that could happen to young girls. She told her daughter not to answer a want-ad for a girl to work in a gas station. The daughter promised she wouldn't but she did and disappeared forever.
As a young person the mother dreamed of losing a dark-haired daughter, and therefore was overanxious about losing her daughter, even though she was blonde. The young teenager was killed.
I might be tempted to put this book, unpleasant as it is, into a teenager's hands and let her read for herself about one case. Then I'd say no more on the subject. If I'd repeat anything it would be something like "Be wise, be safe, and use good judgment. By all means seek adventure. Try everything once and behold the best. I love you and want to have you around for a good long time."
Deadly Mistress by Michael Fleeman
paperback 291 pages
The mistress wanted the wife dead, but when the killing was done, both the cheating husband and the wife were dead. A true story with several twists.
All my crime books are nonfiction unless I state otherwise. I find true crime much more interesting than fiction - with the exception of the entertainment value in the greats: A.C. Doyle, A. Christie, etc. This is a light treatment of marriage, betrayal, murder, and some surprises. Probably best of interest to the faint of heart.
This Family Of Mine by Victoria Gotti
Victoria Gotti, the highly intelligent, well-educated daughter of John Gotti, decided to "set the record straight" regarding her family, and is able to point out some outstandingly good points about her father. John Gotti was able to evoke a strong love from many, many people. Her memoir opens with a very big funeral for Gotti attended by a multitude who grieved at his passing. His generosity far exceeded normal expectations. He was a good family man, well loved by his children.
Victoria claims that she didn't accept criminal activities but rather turned to writing. She was formerly a columnist at the New York Post, executive editor of Star magazine, on-air correspondent for Extra, and star of the A&E reality television series Growing Up Gotti. She is the author of four previous books, including the award-winning, bestselling novel The Senator's Daughter, and the cookbook Hot Italian Dish.
Her attitude towards small crime is not the norm, rather like a kid who might say, "Yea, my dad smokes. I don't like it, but that's him." She brushes off small skirmishes as not important but reveals the terror the family feels if there is a threat of her dad's being arrested or killed. She reveals that being a Mafia princess is not as great as one would think. There was much money and glamor but too many questions of whom to trust. "Not many" seemed to be the answer.
Her father was probably the last great Mafia boss to hold to the old tradition of "the life" (the Mafia rules) before all. "'No matter what happens,' Dad would always say...'you have to honor this tradition.'" Her book is well written and interesting.
Their family never used the word "Mafia" but rather spoke about "The Life". Gotti always upheld the tradition, and he really had it in for anyone who broke his/her agreement with him. I began to like Gotti for this trait. I hate liars. I'm sure Gotti lied in courts and to protect himself. However, if he told you he'd do something for you, he did it. You could depend on him.
Call Her Miss Ross by J. Randy Taraborrelli
Hard Cover 56O Pages
This biography of Diana Ross starts with a quote from M. H. Auden:
"Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places"
I would judge this biography to be of someone who is not normal, who may be bipolar, someone who can be very sweet and caring one moment and so cold-hearted the next as to be cruel and destructive. Narcissiam and selfishness are underlined but one feels sorry for her illusion that being number one in Motown eventually will make her super happy.
One can admire Ross's determination and grit to climb to the top. She worked harder than anyone mentioned in that group, but she could use dirty methods to best her competition.
As a teen-ager she was probably much abused by her equally ambitious boss and lover, Barry Gordy. They never married. He may have been too much of a father figure for her. Also her hard drive may have been too much for him. She was willing to do anything to get ahead. One can learn from her biography, but it may point out more things not to do than to do. I think it may take a lack of intelligence and wisdom to become such a loner in order to be number one. Giving may be much wiser than taking, tricking, and doing-in others.
The Associate by John Grisham
Hard cover, Large print, 643 pages
Usually I find true crime far more interesting and education than fiction. However when the story teller is as gifted as John Grisham, the reader can expect a good read. Kyle McAvoy does very well at Yale, becoming editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal. But he has a dark secret that comes into the hands of the wrong people. Kyle is forced to take a job that he doesn't want, as an associate at the largest law firm in the world, "where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a dangerous scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed. Good plot, but not up to Phil Carlo and the Mafia. The faint of heart may much prefer Grisham to Carlo.
Married Lovers by Jackie Collins
Hard cover, large print, 785 pages
The author is "one of the world's top-selling writers, with more than 4OO million copies of her books sold in more than forty countries. Her twenty-five bestselling novels have never been out of print." Her winning formula seems to be shocking and sexy. Her style would fit into any modern movie magazine. Neither her plot nor language require much from her reader. An escape story that should get your mind off your troubles. It might be emotionally satisfying to see the bad guy get his comeuppance. It's as relaxing, never taxing your intelligence, as reading about Kort's playing with his cat. I loved that bit. And Kort is one of the super people in Intertel. Maybe I underestimate Jackie's powers, rather like Wakefield totally not seeing Kort's power.