From Publishers Weekly
Breslin, renowned journalist and author of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
, revisits a familiar wise-guy milieu in this collection of stories and anecdotes about the mob. His writing, like the Mafia itself, breezily transitions from humorous to horrifying as he regales the reader with loosely connected tales of mistaken identity, crooked cops, snitches and murder. Unlike the Sopranos
and the many other touchstones of the American love affair with organized crime, for Breslin, there's good and there's evil, with little in between. As always, however, nicknames are half the fun, as Sammy The Bull Gravano, Tony Café and Gaspipe Casso take the stage in the Mafia hotspots of the five boroughs, including Greenpoint, in Brooklyn, and Ozone Park, in Queens, as Breslin delights with stories from the Mafia's heyday. Breslin's storytelling is set to the sweet background music of one of the mob's biggest canaries, Burton Kaplan, as he sings to a grand jury. The author's vernacular precision contrasts sharply with the plodding sterility of Kaplan's grand jury testimony, and as we find out, good guys can often tell ugly stories more authentically than the bad guys. The effect is tragicomic as Kaplan's testimony sounds the death knell for his associates. These stories unveil the strict code of conduct, often broken, of a dying breed. According to Kaplan, however, while illegal gambling and extortion may be waning industries, the myth of the American Mafia will never die. (Feb.)
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The Good Rule
demythologizes the all-but-glamorous life of organized crime. While Breslin focuses on the trial of the âMafia Cops,â a story also recounted in Guy Lawson and William Oldhamâs The Brotherhoods
(2006), Breslin, to criticsâ delight, uses the case to delve deep inside the Mafiaâs demise and the bloody, backstabbing stories within it. An unsentimental writer, Breslin sees the mob for what it isâ"a group of cold-blooded sheep, to which his inclusion of trial-transcript excerpts attests. Yet reviewers couldnât help but comment on the authorâs somewhat regretful tone, a funeral hymn for an era. Chronological confusion may trip up some readers, but overall, âFor true crime fans, The Good Rat
is the next standard-bearer; for Breslin fans new and old, itâs a mustâ (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
).Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.