Twitter Feed


Bad Bambino: A Chat with a Sicilian-Englishman about His New Mafia Memoir

Author Francesco Scannella was groomed for a life in the Sicilian mob from age seven

by Carl Russo

Francesco ScannellaTHE ENGLISH GRAPHIC ARTIST Francesco Scannella has always felt the pull of a childhood spent in the land of his Sicilian immigrant parents. Sicilian Shadows, his newly published memoir of that period, reveals a fascinating dual citizenship of the mind. At a tender age, “Frank” was torn from the suburban idyll of 1960s Surrey and thrust into a Mafia backwater in Sicily’s blazing interior. All the passions, superstitions and ancient codes of the island were openly displayed in Mussomeli, Frank’s new home for several years, but mention of the Mafia was punishable.

Click to read more ...


San Francisco Giant: Irreverent Notes on ‘Helter Skelter’ Author Curt Gentry

The man behind the greatest true-crime book ever written is dead at the age of 83

by Carl Russo

Charles MansonTAKE YOUR OLD COPY of Helter Skelter off the shelf and look at the cover, and you’ll see something you might not have noticed before. Below the famous name of Manson Family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, you’ll see that of the book’s true author, Curt Gentry. I’d like to note the passing of this quiet giant of the North Beach literary scene with my fleeting memories of him.

As the obituaries point out (and the Chronicle’s will serve as well as any other), Curt succumbed to lung cancer on July 10, at the age of eighty-three. But his liver, like his heart, was made of gold.

Click to read more ...



Joe Petrosino: The Facts about the 1909 Mafia Murder that Stunned New York 

A braggart has just named one of the celebrated cop’s unknown killers

by Carl Russo

Joe PetrosinoMY FATHER’S UNCLE was named Paolo Palazzotto. He committed the first murder, the first murder, the first policeman killed in Palermo. My uncle killed him. Joe Petrosini, the American policeman who came here to investigate. He arrived from America, and he fucking came here to incarcerate and investigate the Mafia. So they killed him on behalf of Cascio Ferro.”

What sounds like someone ratting out his great-uncle is actually a grand boast by one Domenico Palazzotto to a fellow mobster, caught on police surveillance tape. “We’ve been mafioso for a hundred years!” he says, claiming that in 2009 his family celebrated the centennial of New York cop Joe Petrosino’s assassination, news of which was received as a national calamity in the United States in 1909.

Click to read more ...


Famiglia Territory: Stille vs. Dickie?

Is there a sibling rivalry over Blood Brothers?

by Carl Russo

John DickieAS AN AMERICAN, I find it hard to get amped up about World Cup 2014. But I have a fantasy bout going between two of my favorite Mafia experts. This weekend’s mob must-read is one great crime writer’s review of another’s book. Alexander Stille (Excellent Cadavers) takes a soft swipe at John Dickie (Cosa Nostra) over his latest book, Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy’s Three Mafias. In tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review, Stille writes,

Dickie, in his attempt to give coherence to so much material, makes overly grand claims about the essential unity of Italy’s various crime groups. If he had shortened his book by 20 percent, reduced the rhetorical temperature by 20 degrees and scaled back some of his more ambitious assertions, one would be left with an extremely valuable history of Italian organized crime.

Click to read more ...