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The Good Rat: A True Story Hardcover – February 5, 2008
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
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.
Jimmy Breslin has an offer you can't refuse. Click here to listen to his message. [mp3]
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Top Customer Reviews
The reason the tough guys are not so powerful after all seems to be not only because they don't truly live by a code of honor, but also because they avoid work. Breslin is funny when he explains how the desire to avoid work is what they all have in common, and how they can't manage themselves without affiliations with others that perform serious work.
The "rat" in this story is Burton Kaplan, the most interesting character in my opinion. I liked the reader that provided the voice for Kaplan on this audiobook - he was magnificent. Kaplan didn't have to fear for his life so much, until just before he turned stool pidgeon, because his knowledge and work ethic were highly valued by the Mafia. I found this interesting. It showed brains and hard work are more likely to be life-preserving attributes than the practiced use of physical intimidation, even in organized crime.
The book gives the account of the trial of two former New York City policemen that operated as contract killers for the mob while in uniform. Those two are Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, two truly despicable characters. The stories of each murder committed by these two former police officers is interesting because it shows the Mafia as it is was at the time. Apparently mobsters don't need an enemy to plan a killing; they only need to suspect that their target might kill them first if they don't act urgently.
What I liked most about this book was that it demystified the Mafia more than other books I've read. It didn't seem glamorous at all - exactly the opposite. I wondered how anybody can enjoy life when friends are likely to become their murderers one day.