Cosa Nostra: An Illustrated History of the Mafia

Massimo Picozzi. Norton, $25 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-34196-6
Noted Italian criminologist Picozzi presents a stunning visual history of the Mafia from its Sicilian origins to its American incarnation. However, this is neither a celebration of the Mafia as portrayed in popular culture nor a nostalgic look at mob culture. The photographs Picozzi chooses—more than 200 black-and-white images—are often stark crime scene shots of bullet-ridden bodies, yet the author’s intent is not to titillate. Particularly arresting is the two-page spread depicting the life and death of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, an integral part of the takeover that ended Joe Masseria’s reign and the rise of Vito Genovese. Siegel went to Las Vegas to expand the Genovese empire, but his Flamingo Hotel project failed miserably and he was shot in 1947 at his Beverly Hills home. On facing pages, Picozzi contrasts the slick, suave-looking Siegel with his bloody corpse slumped over a sofa. While clear that his intention is not to write a complete history of Cosa Nostra, Picozzi’s text illuminates key events such as the initial immigrant wave of Italians to New York, the First and Second Mafia Wars, and Tommaso Buscetta’s testimony, which led to 300-plus Mafia arrests in 1987. Excellent minibiographies accompanying the photographs bolster a well-rounded primer on this always fascinating and evolving subject. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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