The Good Rat: A True Story

Jimmy Breslin, Author . Ecco $24.95 (270p) ISBN 978-0-06-085666-3

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.)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-84596-366-8
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