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Mafia Boss Totò Riina: Still Crazy After All These Years

Despite the Sicilian godfather’s threats, security is still a joke

by Carl Russo

Nino Di Matteo“WHEN HE GETS OUT, shoot him! Pom! Pam!” That’s Totò Riina reliving the killing of Salvatore Inzerillo, just one of many rivals whose assassination he ordered during his reign as the Sicilian Mafia’s supreme commander. This provocative sound bite comes from the latest batch of transcripts of conversations Riina had with boss Alberto Lorusso, secretly recorded in a prison cell a year ago.

As more excerpts of the Riina-Lorusso tapes are released to the public—their words fill thirteen hundred pages—it is clear that the capomafia’s homicidal impulse is as fresh as it was in 1992, when his campaign to exterminate the officials pursuing him culminated in the blowing up of top anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, followed by a series of bombings of Italian landmarks that claimed twenty-two lives.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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