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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia Paperback – September 29, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1403970428 ISBN-10: 1403970424 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; Reprint edition (September 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403970424
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403970428
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The inspiration of far too much pulpy entertainment, the Italian mobsters under John Dickie's miscroscope in Cosa Nostra have long cultivated outsiders' tendencies to romanticize their supposed honor and loyalty. But Dickie demonstrates definitively that the centuries-old mafia has never been more than an illegal business and shadow state pursuing 'power and money by cultivating the art of killing people.'"--The Washington Post
"His is the first truly definitive English-language study of this myth-laden subject, and it is a pleasure to read...his book is notable for shrewd judgments couched in language that is vibrantly memorable. His acquaintance with the island and his immersion in the wider modern Italian culture also allow him to convey the noxious atmo-sphere of corruption with flair."--Christopher Sylvester, The Sunday Times (London)

"A serious contribution to modern Italian history . . . it can be safely predicted that Dickie's book will be a sensation, not least because it has a dozen potential movies in it."--Clive James, Times Literary Supplement

"I couldn't put it down. His archival sleuthing is yoked to his powerful, often coruscating storytelling to create a chilling account of the mafia's sinister, horrific reality."--John Guy, The Sunday Times

"Absorbing . . . He succeeds in being both opinionated and precise and has performed a necessary work of rebranding."--Financial Times

"Riveting"--Sunday Telegraph

"Vibrant, muscular and highly readable."--Clare Longrigg, Guardian

"Lucid . . . grimly readable."--Daily Telegraph

"A brave work."--Mail on Sunday

"Highly readable . . . compelling. The narrative is entertaining and, at times, as chilling as the darkest crime fiction. It combines compelling horror with clear, rational analysis."--Glasgow Herald

"Cosa Nostra overflows with wonderful vignettes about mafia codes of conduct . . . engrossing."--John Naughton, 0 Word

"A fascinating book. Cosa Nostra combines scholarship with a rip-roaring read."--Sunday Herald

"Monumental and gripping."--Andrew Marr, BBC Radio 4's Start the Week

Book Description

The Italian-American mafia has its roots in a mysterious and powerful criminal network in Sicily. While the mythology of the mafia has been widely celebrated in American culture, the true origins of its rituals, laws, and methods have never actually been revealed. John Dickie uses startling new research to expose the secrets of the Sicilian mafia, providing a fascinating account that is more violent, frightening, and darkly comic than anything conceived in popular movies and novels. How did the Sicilian mafia begin? How did it achieve its powerful grip in Italy and America? How does it operate today? From the mafia's origins in the 1860s to its current tense relationship with the Berlusconi government, Cosa Nostra takes us to the inner sanctum where few have dared to go before. This is an important work of history and a revelation for anyone who ever wondered what it means to be "made" in the mob.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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The book is a pleasure to read.
Trace Gleeborn
The bibliography is very impressive as Mr. Dickie has read widely and deeply to produce this book with careful attention to details of persons and events.
The Historian
This well-researched and fascinating book covers the history of the Sicilian Mafia from it origins in the 1860's until the present day.
George Coppedge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Siriam on November 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
The praise given by critics and reviewers when this book was first published in 2004 are easily understood and justified when reading it in paperback format. While many earlier books have largely relied on a review of recent Sicilian history and events post WWII (Norman Lewis, Claire Sterling) or focussing on a very specific area (such as Alex Stille's "Excellent Cadavers" on the story of investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino), this is the first real recent effort I know of in English to write a full history of the Sicilian Mafia under its correct name of Cosa Nostra.

This is faciltated by the recent outpouring of Italian writings based on the vast amount of new information and evidence now available and which Dickie fully acknowledges in his book. In addition Dickie has also researched a number of historical sources and reports which have been largely ignored by previous English language writers.

What really places this book above the rest is:

Dickie has proven much better at covering the 19th century foundation of Cosa Nostra (and its earlier roots in Sicilian society) and then tracking this organisation's development of being a very tightly controlled killing machine exterminating any competition through the 20th century to date - the fact that nearly half of the book is devoted to the period before the end of WWII reflects this approach.

He has avoided the trap of spending too much time on the US Mafia with its more public image and history, instead only referring to it as it actually impacts and helps our understanding of the Sicilian society's history.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Victoria on October 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put this book down. Mr. Dickie is careful to steer away from sensationalism, but the book is fascinating as well as factual. The author dispels certain myths associated with the Mafia, and gives a clearer view of an organization that has long tried to remain unseen. There is a lot of interesting Italian history included, which I really enjoyed since I have been living in Italy for several years now. From its first known beginnings, to the present, this book explains the history, the methods and the mentality of the Mafia. It is chilling, but it's a must read for those interested in the subject--and for those who think they aren't.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Dalessandro on December 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Dickie's book on the history of the Sicilian Mafia is a landmark in investigative and historical journalism. The uncovering of the inner workings of an organization that, for obvious reasons, kept few or no written records is in itself a Herculean effort. There is nothing like it in the annals of journalism. It is far and away the most comprehensive portrait of organized crime ever written, but in addition to Mr. Dickie's brilliant and exhaustive research, his insights and writing style elevate the work to highest levels of journalism. The book opens with an extraordinary dissection of the assassination of the crusading Sicilian Magistrate, Giovanni Falcone, whose murder galvanized the Italian people, and the Pope himself, to finally stand up against the Mafia's two centuries of outrages. Then Mr. Dickie explains how Massenet's extraordinary opera, Cavalleria Rusticana -- used in both Raging Bull and The Godfather III -- helped created the myth of Sicilian Mafiosi as "Men of Honor", an aberrant term if ever there was one. A flawless, unflinching masterpiece of investigation and composition. Bravo, Mr. Dickie. James Dalessandro, author of "1906"
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George Coppedge on August 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This well-researched and fascinating book covers the history of the Sicilian Mafia from it origins in the 1860's until the present day. The author, John Dickie, obviously spent a lot of time researching an organization, which actually goes out of its way to remove all traces of its existence. The book exposes a lot of myths and corrects some common misconceptions about the Mafia, e.g. the Mafia started not in a poverty stricken area but actually in a prospering lemon-export region of Sicily. And thankfully the author presents two maps, one of western Sicily and one of Italy, right at the beginning so the reader can easily follow the geographical references throughout the text.

The text is separated into chronological segments in which the Mafia's rise is set into historical and political context. The author exposes how the Mafia operates - extorting storefront businesses, infiltrating wealthy commercial enterprises, buying politicians/judges/policemen, smuggling goods, and of course murdering. The author sets right a very important misconception, i.e. the Mafia only kill each other. That is wrong. The Mafia will threaten/intimidate/kill ANYONE (including honest citizens, women, and even small children) who stands in their way. Organized crime and the terrorism it creates, as the author points out again and again, can only thrive at the connivance of protecting officialdom (at times even including the US gov't) and the usual apathy of the citizenry.

The book introduces us to the Mafia's major figures throughout its history, such as Baron Turrisi Colonna, Cola Gentile, the Greco Family, Don Calo Vizzini, Salvatore Guiliano, Tomasso Buscetta, Lucciano Leggio, Toto Riina, Bernardo 'the Tractor' Provenzano, and many more.
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