cover image Borgata: Rise of Empire

Borgata: Rise of Empire

Louis Ferrante. Pegasus, $29.95 (388p) ISBN 978-1-63936-601-9

Former mobster Ferrante (Mob Rules) supplies a fascinating inside look at the history of the Mafia, the first entry in a three-volume series charting the rise of Italian organized crime. Drawing a straight line from the bond between Italian feudal lords and serfs to the ties between 20th-century Mafia dons and “soldiers,” Ferrante convincingly examines how “men of honor” controlled labor in Sicily, and how, through mass immigration to the United States from 1880 to 1930, they brought those customs stateside. He notes that it was lawless New Orleans where the first American Mafia (or “borgata”) families made their mark, before prohibition facilitated the rise of East Coast families who allied with Jewish gangsters to distribute alcohol. While burning through bios of such infamous names as Dutch Schultz, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano, Ferrante exhumes some oft-overlooked tales, including that of the close partnership between the New York families and the Navy to protect Eastern shorelines during WWII. Ferrante’s familiarity with Mafia customs gives flesh and immediacy to what could otherwise be a rote historical tome, but he doesn’t draw his authority from affiliation alone: this is a well-researched history in its own right. True crime fans will be captivated. Agent: Tara Hiatt, Orion. (Jan.)