Has there been a film version?
Yes. With Charles Bronson as Joe Valachi. Supposedly, Valachi was also used as a basis for the character Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II.
Who are the important characters?
Joe Valachi – a soldier in the Cosa Nostra (American Mob) and a turncoat/informer
Vito Genovese – the boss of Valachi’s family, Valachi believes Genovese betrayed him
The Gap – one of Valachi’s trusted friends
Peter Maas – the author, a journalist who recorded Valachi’s story and details about the Cosa Nostra
What’s it about?
This is the personal story of Joe Valachi, much of it in his own words, about his rise and fall within the Cosa Nostra – the American Mafia. Valachi is considered one of the biggest traitors in the history of the mob, and through his testimony and brilliant memory of names, dates and events, the back of the Cosa Nostra was broken. The US Government found out more information concerning the layout of the Mafia, its leaders and schemes, and how and why exactly it was so good at staying under the radar.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Because it is the original mob story, and it is true.
Do you recommend I read this book?
If you’re a Mafia nut or a history buff, yeah. If you’re looking for something action-ey, you might want to look elsewhere.
Why did this book make your list?
Because I saw “Valachi” on the title when I saw it lying on a library table. I thought the word “Valachi” was similar to Wallachia – the birthplace of Count Vlad, aka Count Dracula. So, sad to say, I thought it was a vampire book. After I checked it out, I decided to read it anyway because I don’t know much about the mob and it sounded pretty interesting. For a blind, pick up and read, it wasn’t disappointing.
Has it won any awards?
“He goes on to say, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll get your share, and more. But we are holding onto the money right now because we have to go on the mattress again.’ In other words, he is telling me we have to go back to war. You see, during the Castellemmarese trouble we had to take mattresses with us as we were moving from one apartment to another. Sometimes we only had a minute’s notice, and so you needed a mattress to sleep on. That is our meaning of going on the mattress.” – p 88
It is unbelievable how brutal the mafia actually was/is (I don’t know if they still are…) You see movies about the mob being brutal, but you chalk some of that up to Hollywood. In actuality, I think H-town toned it down a bit. Also…I felt very silly because I thought that most of the facts in this book were new, since it was in a shiny new edition. Boy did I feel silly when I found out it came out in the 60’s.
Also, when this book first came out, Italian American Protection councils protested, saying it was derogatory and prejudiced against Italians. Well…duh.
This is the first non-fiction novel I’ve read for quite a while. And I actually was reading two at one time! Fancy that! But anywho, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. There were times it dragged a little and times I had to go back and re-read due to poor sentence structure (I hate that), but most of the dragging was due to government jargon and most of the poor grammer etc was quoted word for word from Valachi. So you can’t blame the guy, really. It had plenty of gore, and crime, and even a little bit of a romance thrown in. But just a little. I was pleased with the plot set up – finding out how the story came to be told before hearing the story itself. However, the one crucial detail that was missing was about how Valachi fared after spilling his guts to the US Government about his former boss and all his former cronies. I would have liked to know what happened.