Review: The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York ~ C. Alexander Hortis

the mobISBN ~ 978-1616149239
Publisher ~Prometheus Books
No. Of Pages ~382 pages
Links ~ Prometheus Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Informative, authoritative, and eye-opening, this is the first full-length book devoted exclusively to uncovering the hidden history of how the Mafia came to dominate organized crime in New York City during the 1930s through 1950s.  Based on exhaustive research of archives and secret files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, author and attorney C. Alexander Hortis draws on the deepest collection of primary sources, many newly discovered, of any history of the modern mob.

Shattering myths, Hortis reveals how Cosa Nostra actually obtained power at the inception.  The author goes beyond conventional who-shot-who mob stories, providing answers to fresh questions such as:

* Why did the Sicilian gangs come out on top of the criminal underworld?
* Can economics explain how the Mafia families operated?
* What was the Mafia’s real role in the drug trade?
* Why was Cosa Nostra involved in gay bars in New York since the 1930s?

Drawing on an unprecedented array of primary sources, The Mob and the City is the most thorough and authentic history of the Mafia’s rise to power in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

3 Thumbs-UpThis was a really hard book to give a rating to; from the content point of view this book would have been awarded a full 4 thumbs as it was obviously well researched, and very interesting reading.  It takes everything the reader thinks they know about the Mafia and puts it into context.  It dispels a lot of the myth and romanticism that surrounds this group of people and shows them for what they really were.  The Book itself seemed to be aimed at those who already have knowledge of the Underworld workings of the mafia, but this doesn’t take away from it being a very informative read for those who are dipping into Mafia history for the first time.

Although this book is written very much like a history text; it includes sociology, economics and geography with some very detailed tables, I couldn’t help but feel that this was just someone’s lecture notes that they had bound into a book.  There was an over use of the phrases ‘as you will see’ or ‘now let us look at’ that just made it feel as if this particular take on the subject of the Mafia was meant to be heard not read.  Throw in the overlong chapter subheadings which appear on every page, and you have a writing style that I could only rating as 2 thumbs, and that was being kind.

My initial reasoning behind picking this up was an interest in Early New York, particularly the Italian side of things, as I have Family members who lived in this era and area.  This book did shed a great deal of light on life in the time period covered by the book, but not enough to give the boost to the rating it so sorely needs.  In the end I decided to split the difference between the two above rating points and give it a three.

The book was informative, but extremely dull in places which was a shame given the amount of research that had gone into it.  Maybe with a stricter editor, who was willing to cut out a lot of the ‘lecture’ speak, this could have been a lot less tedious and grating.  I would recommend it to anyone that is interesting in this subject, but be warned it may not be what you are expecting.

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Review: Empire State (Empire State #1) ~ Adam Christopher

Empire State
It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State – a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York.

When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist.

 

3 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut novel for this Author, and despite what the cover may lead the reader to believe this book is about, once they start reading they will discover it is something more.  Unfortunately, despite this book having a lot going for it, it didn’t quite reach the spot with me.

The reason for its shortcomings for me, all lie with the characters; right from the beginning they seem to be lacking something.  The initial character we are introduced to is gone before the reader really has a chance to get to know him, he is replaced by the main protagonist, who is marginally more interesting, but not enough to make the reader connect with him or grab their attention fully.  Many of the characters that appear in the book are never written with any real depth and, even though this is explained about halfway through the book, the reader spends much of their time surrounded by shallow characters.  The characters have very little substance, not enough to carry a whole book, which is a shame in this particular novel.

Fortunately the setting of the book and the mystery contained in its pages were engrossing enough to keep me reading to the end.  The setting is a parallel universe and brings a very steampunk feel to the pseudo-New York 1930’s written there with robots, prohibition, super heroes, unseen enemies and robots.  This fictional universe is well written and the Author leaves it wide open to the reader’s imagination to explore and populate as they will.  The overall feeling that the reader will gain from the atmosphere created in the book may well remind them of a Philip K. Dick novel, but which one will depend on how they interpret this novel.

I would recommend this book to readers of the time travel and fantasy genres.

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