Always overpay your taxes. That way you’ll get a refund… Meyer Lansky


Most crime histories focus on the criminal – almost to the point of adulation – and finally readers, and consumers of all types of media, need to realize that anything that making evil attractive is a form of blasphemy. To avoid as much of this trap as possible we have illustrated this review with pictures of the Mafia‘s nemesis in its early years – William Flynn, head of the United States Secret Service. Many think of the Secret Service as merely protecting the president. Equally important in its charter is protecting the currency from counterfeiting and as has so often been the case when witnesses had disappeared or other means of prosecution were not available it was the economic crimes that Flynn used to pursue Morello and his cohorts. This book is not only a good read but it is an important part of American history and well worth the read.

flynn01

The first family : terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American mafia New York : Random House, c 2009 Mike Dash Mafia United States History Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxx, 375 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps, geneal. table, ports. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [350]-357) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG    

Before the notorious Five Families dominated U.S. organized crime, there was the one-fingered criminal genius Giuseppe Morello and his lethal coterie. Dash brings to life this little-known story, following the rise of the Mafia in America from the 1890s to the 1920s, from the villages of Sicily to the streets of Little Italy. Using an array of primary sources — hitherto untapped Secret Service archives, prison records, and interviews with surviving family members — Dash has written a groundbreaking account of the crucial period when the criminal underworld exploded with fury across the nation.

‘Under Morello’s pillow we found four fully loaded revolvers; beneath Terranova’s, five. That’s bound to impress you. And two of Morello’s guns were loaded with buckshot – three or four pellets in each cartridge. One might compare Giuseppe to a one-man war, and I frequently wondered if he didn’t fear himself at times.’

flynn02

When William Flynn of the US Secret Service raided Giuseppe Morello’s Manhattan apartment on 15 November 1909, he was hunting for the men who had put $100,000 of forged currency into circulation. What he found was something far more terrifying: the first boss of bosses of the American Mafia, a ruthless gangster from the fabled stronghold of Corleone in Sicily who overcame the appalling deformities that earned him the nickname ‘The Clutch Hand’ and made himself the founding father of organised crime in the United States.

Backed by the murderous relatives who helped to run his criminal family, Morello built himself a substantial business empire, and had his own private burial ground on a farm upstate where as many as 60 of his enemies were secretly interred. Had it not been for Morello, New York may never have heard of ‘Men of Honour’, ruthless protection rackets or bizarre initiation rituals.

Mike Dash has exhumed the long-forgotten story of the Morello family from archives across the US and Italy. The First Family is a ground-breaking piece of history that explains how a ruthless, maimed Sicilian became the most influential crime lord in the United States.

flynn03

Comments Off

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments are closed.