Monday, November 23, 2020

20% holiday discount on paperback edition

Holiday shopping for a crime history reader?

The special trade paperback edition of our latest Informer issue is for sale at a 20% discount during the 2020 holiday season. Nick Gentile, subject of the issue, was a pal to Lucky Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Al Capone, "Joe the Boss" Masseria and other memorable crime figures. His life story and bios of dozens of his associates are presented here in a 382-page book available through Amazon.com.

Gentile's story begins with the formative years of the U.S. Mafia and runs through the Prohibition Era gang wars and consolidation into the transatlantic narcotics rackets of the post-WWII years.

The special issue benefited from contributions of a dozen historians: Thomas Hunt, David Critchley, Steve Turner, Lennert van't Riet, Richard N. Warner, Justin Cascio, Sam Carlino, Michael O'Haire, Jon Black, Margaret Janco, Bill Feather, Christian Cipollini.

(This holiday discount is only available on the trade paperback version of the issue and only until December 24, 2020.)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

October 2020 issue of Informer

October 2020 Issue contents - Editorial

Editorial:

Mafia history and Gentile

The memoirs of Nicola Gentile contain a wealth of information on early Mafia history in the United States. But this treasure has been inaccessible for most Americans. Published twice in Italy – in 1963 and in 1993 – the book, Vita di Capomafia, has never been released in an English-language version. Copies of the Italian-language editions are rarely available for sale and nearly impossible to locate in U.S. libraries.


In this issue of Informer (our thirtieth), we strive to bring Nicola Gentile’s entire life story to the English-language reader. Building on extensive original research by a team of Mafia history experts and on U.S. government documents designed to extract meaning from the memoirs, we attempt to balance Gentile’s obviously self-serving and self-aggrandizing autobiographical work with verifiable history, to correct the misinformation and to fill in the wide gaps in his personal account.

We lead off with a detailed biography of the well-traveled Mafia leader, from his 1885 birth to his disappearance from history in the 1970s (Link).

Sidebar biographical articles deal with Gentile’s first criminal racket (Link), his murder of a man (or men) in Pittsburgh (Link), the young family he created and abandoned in western New York (Link), the 1930s narcotics case that convinced him to flee the U.S. (Link), the American spy he befriended in Italy (Link), the various printed forms of his life story (Link) and his Italian coauthor Felice Chilanti (Link).

Source material is also shared through a statement given by Gentile to a U.S. Customs agent in Italy (Link), a set of Gentile address books acquired by U.S. officials (Link) and a Gentile letter from Italy seized from its courier on the way into New York (Link).

David Critchley delves into the failure of U.S. authorities to promptly and fully exploit information provided by Gentile (Link). Richard N. Warner examines Gentile’s statements in an effort to detect an underlying moral code (Link). Thomas Hunt surveys the discrepancies, distortions and deceptions found in Gentile’s memoirs (Link).

We also provide biographies for dozens of individuals who played important or interesting roles in the Gentile life story (Link), a timeline of events relating to Gentile’s life and underworld career (Link) and a listing of Gentile-related addresses in the U.S. and Italy (Link).

Also in this issue:

  • Sam Carlino examines Gentile’s interactions with Colorado Mafiosi and explains the feuds and the Mafia “trial” that grew out of Pellegrino Scaglia’s murder (Link).
  • Michael O’Haire finds that figures from his own family history crossed paths with Nicola Gentile in Pueblo, Colorado (Link).
  • Jon Black discusses New York underworld leaders Giuseppe Masseria and Frankie Yale in an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released book, Secret Societies (Link).
  • Justin Cascio explores the early Los Angeles Mafia through the circumstances surrounding the 1906 murder of George Maisano (Link).
  • In The Warner Files, Richard N. Warner looks at the impact of COVID-19 on organized crime (Link).
  • Book announcements: Colorado’s Carlino Brothers, Secret Societies, The Italian Squad (Link).
  • Obituary: Martha Macheca Sheldon (Link).

Our discussion of Gentile in this issue benefited from research, writing and editing contributions of underworld historians around the globe. We wish to express our appreciation to Steve Turner, David Critchley, Lennert van’t Riet, Margaret Janco, Bill Feather, Richard N. Warner, Sam Carlino, Michael O’Haire, Jon Black and Christian Cipollini.

A note about this issue's formats:

As we proofed the October 2020 issue, we encountered serious problems in the output from our usual printing service, MagCloud. MagCloud was unable to address these problems in a timely manner. In order to generate readable output in the print edition, we were forced to produce an electronic MagCloud PDF edition that did not have Informer's usual searchable text. We understand that some of our readers enjoy the ability to search our electronic issues (the Kindle e-book format still contains searchable text). We have added a searchable PDF version of this issue, as well as an EPUB-format e-book (for non-Kindle readers) through Google Play Books. While the contents of these various editions are essentially the same, layout differs between the magazine and book formats, and the magazine contains a few page-filler items not found in the book.

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Nicola Gentile biography

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

‘This was the life… This was my life’

Nicola Gentile: Chronicler of Mafia history

By Thomas Hunt, David Critchley, Steve Turner and Lennert van’t Riet


"Researchers into the early history of the Mafia in the United States have fairly little in the way of primary source material. Just three autobiographical works provide valuable insight into underworld activities during the Mafia’s formative years: A Man of Honor by Joseph Bonanno (1983), the unpublished manuscript The Real Thing by Joseph Valachi (1964) and Vita di Capomafia by Nicola Gentile with introduction and notes by Felice Chilanti (1963)... Gentile was about two decades older than his fellow chroniclers and was active in criminal rackets across the United States when they were still in diapers. While well acquainted with New York matters, Gentile spent his young adulthood in perpetual motion. It seemed he was everywhere – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans… – and had a hand in everything..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile's fabric racket

 October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

Gentile’s first criminal venture

Traveling salesman of phony linen

By Thomas Hunt


"Just three months of manual labor in the United States was sufficient to turn Nicola Gentile to a life of crime. Upon arrival in the United States, eighteen-year-old Gentile, a native of Siculiana, Sicily, went to work with his older brother Vincenzo on an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway construction job outside of Topeka, Kansas. The brothers and their coworkers were paid little for demanding labor – $1.25 for each day of dawn-to-dusk work. They and other crew members were accommodated in a railroad car that they had to maintain themselves..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Murder(s) in Pittsburgh

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

The man (or men?) gunned down by young Gentile

By Thomas Hunt, Margaret Janco and Steve Turner


"Nicola Gentile did not provide the name of the man he gunned down early in his underworld career on orders from Pittsburgh Mafia boss Gregorio Conti. In his book, Vita di Capomafia, he gave readers some clues, including the motivation for Conti’s order and the details of the killing, but those clues actually point to two different murder victims. According to Gentile, Conti targeted the man responsible for the earlier stabbing Salvatore 'the Banana King' Catanzaro. Catanzaro, he said, was a Termini Imerese native, a member of the Pittsburgh Mafia and a giant in the local produce industry. Gentile stated that the stabbing occurred two years before he settled in Pittsburgh. In the interim, Conti had tried importing some hired gunmen from New York for the job but merely got cheated out of his advance payments to them. The assignment was given to Gentile sometime after his arrival late in 1915..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile’s other family

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

A wife and children in Rochester, New York?

Gentile’s other family

By Thomas Hunt


"Genealogical records appear to have explained Gentile’s off-hand mention of Finger Lakes, New York, communities in his book, Vita di Capomafia: The mob big shot hay have had a wife and children in that area. The mention occurred early in Chapter 10, during a discussion of 1932 events that would lead to the murder of Pittsburgh Mafia boss John Bazzano. Gentile stated that he was leaving the Cleveland-Pittsburgh region, wanted to say goodbye to his friend Bazzano but could not find him. Bazzano apparently had been aware of the planned departure. Gentile considered the lack of a sendoff rude 'because I had done so much for this wretch. I had even proposed him as head of the Pittsburgh borgata. I could not understand his behavior.' But Gentile, as arranged, “left for Syracuse in New York State...”

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Drug racket experience was a sore spot

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

Drug racket experience was a sore spot for decades

By Thomas Hunt


"Nicola Gentile fled the U.S. in 1937 for his native Sicily in order to avoid prosecution for narcotics trafficking. It was a matter he brooded about for decades. Gentile, then an aide in Vincent Mangano’s New York crime family, had been doing well as a mid-1930s partner of a popular and well protected Manhattan gambling den. That changed when an agreement between Mangano and Vito Genovese caused Genovese rival Dominick 'Terry Burns' DiDato to be murdered at the entrance to the Sciacca Restaurant, 90 Elizabeth Street, used as a front for the operation. After the August 6, 1936, slaying and the attention from press and police it generated, the gamblers stayed away."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile’s pal, U.S. spy Mario Brod

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

Gentile’s pal, U.S. spy Mario Brod

By Thomas Hunt

"During World War II’s Allied invasion of Sicily, American civil affairs units followed closely behind the combat forces, working with local residents to reestablish necessary services in the communities liberated from Fascist and Nazi forces. Lieutenant Mario Brod, born in New York to Italian immigrant parents, played an important role in securing the early cooperation of the Sicilians, while also serving in a counter-intelligence capacity. Brod quickly won the friendship of Nicola Gentile and secretly maintained Gentile as an intelligence source for many years. Mario Emanuel Brod was born in New York City on October 4, 1909, the second child of Vittorio Emanuel and Rosa Brod. His parents had been in the United States since about 1906. His father was employed as a lace salesman..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile’s memoirs: Vita di Capomafia

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

Gentile’s memoirs: Vita di Capomafia

By Thomas Hunt


"Two editions of Vita di Capomafia by Nick Gentile were published in Italy, but additional versions of the Gentile recollections were written. While each provided much of the same core material, there were some noteworthy differences. In this article, we will look at the versions of Gentile’s memoirs, their structural differences and their common themes. Portions of Gentile’s life story first reached the public through a series of articles written by left wing Italian journalist Felice Chilanti and published simultaneously in the Paese Sera newspaper in Rome and the L’Ora newspaper in Palermo, Sicily, in the autumn of 1963. Eight articles under the headline, 'Un mese dentro la mafia' (A month inside the Mafia) were published, every two to three days, between September 14 and October 1..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile’s coauthor, Felice Chilanti

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

Gentile’s coauthor, Felice Chilanti

By Thomas Hunt

"The man who assisted Nicola Gentile in the completion of his autobiography and in getting the book published was a longtime leftist journalist who worked to expose organized crime influence and corruption within Italy. Felice Chilanti was born December 10, 1914, in the northern Italian community of Cenesalli, within Rovigo province. As a teen, he went to Rome and studied to be an accountant but became distracted by the promises of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist movement. Chilanti was drawn to the socialist ideals professed by the Fascists and became a press correspondent for Fascist Provincial Farmers Union..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Statement to Agent DiLucia

October 2020 Issue contents - Resource

Statement to Agent DiLucia

"U.S. Customs Agent Francis X. DiLucia interviewed Nicola Gentile at Naples, Italy, on March 5, 1940. Gentile provided information on Mafia hierarchy, interstate drug rings and, apart from his official statement, offered to assist police in resolving the murders of Dominick DiDato in New York and Dr. Giuseppe Romano in Cleveland. In a letter recording Gentile’s statement, Agent DiLucia indicated that Gentile had served for some time as an arbitrator of U.S. Mafia disputes, suggesting that Gentile communicate quite a bit of his underworld exploits to DiLucia. In exchange for his cooperation in pending narcotics cases and the murders, Gentile wanted to be permitted to return to the U.S. with all charges against him dropped, and he wanted to be provided $18,000 to cover the bail bonds forfeited when he left the country. Gentile’s statement to DiLucia follows..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile’s address books

October 2020 Issue contents - Resource

Gentile’s address books


"Two address books belonging to Nicola Gentile fell into the hands of law enforcement agents at some time during or following his 1937 narcotics arrest. One was larger, black book with 133 entries in it. The other was green and held fifty-two entries. The names and addresses included underworld contacts, as well as relatives and personal acquaintances, in locations across the country.  Well known crime figures, such as Vincent Mangano, Joseph Profaci, Joseph Traina, Frank Amato, Vincent Capizzi and Alfred Polizzi appeared in the books..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Gentile’s 1958 letter to Biondo

October 2020 Issue contents - Resource

Gentile’s 1958 letter to Biondo


"Eduardo Aronica, resident of 31-05 Thirty-fourth Avenue in Astoria, Queens, returned from a trip to Sicily on October 9, 1958. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics earlier had placed a 'stop' against Aronica, causing Customs agents to perform a thorough search of Aronica and his luggage as he reentered the U.S. They discovered he was carrying twenty-six pieces of jewelry, some of which were identified as having been stolen on December 8, 1943, from Cartier in New York. They also discovered an address book, including names and contact information for New York-area Mafiosi, and a personal letter written in Italian and signed by Nicola Gentile..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

The ethics of Nick Gentile

October 2020 Issue contents - Analysis

Analysis:

‘Strength is what matters’

The ethics of Nick Gentile

By Richard N. Warner


"Italian journalist Felice Chilanti was having difficulty relating to retired Mafioso Nick Gentile. 'Gentile and I had a hard time understanding each other,' Chilanti wrote. 'Gentile kept calling ‘justice’ judgments and executions which, as far as I was concerned, were crimes.' In Nick Gentile’s world, the concepts of right and wrong were pushed aside for a combination of a set of rules and the whims of whomever just happened to be the capo at the time..."

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Individuals from Gentile's life story

October 2020 Issue contents - Feature

The others

Significant figures in Gentile’s life story

"Through his lengthy career as a Mafioso in the United States and Italy, Nicola Gentile got to know many people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and on both sides of the law. In compiling his memoirs, he generally did not hesitate to name names. While some of the individuals featured in his recollections were well known through other sources, a good number came to history’s attention primarily through Gentile. We take a look here at several dozen individuals who contributed significantly to the Gentile life story, paying special attention to lesser known crime figures..."


In this issue, Informer provides biographical information for dozens of individuals, who contributed in interesting ways to his life story, including:
Frank Amato; Albert Anastasia; John "King" Angersola;  Alfonso Attardi; John Bazzano; Joseph Biondo; Fortunato Calabro; Salvatore Calderone; Vincenzo "James" Capizzi; Al Capone; Domenico Catalano; J.C. and Phillip Catalano; Salvatore Catanzaro; Charles "Cadillac Charlie" Cavallaro; Charles Colletti; Dr. Gaetano Conti; Gregorio Conti; Francesco "Three Fingers" Coppola; Antonino "Nino" Cucuzzella; Gaspare D'Amico; Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila; Rosario DeSimone; Salvatore "Sam" DiBella; Dominick "Terry Burns" DiDato; Vito DiGiorgio; Accursio DiMino; Archbishop Ernesto Filippi; Vito Genovese; Umberto Gibilaro; Vito Guardalabene; Leonid Kolosov; Calogero "Big Nose" LaGaipa; Orazio Leone; Salvatore "Lucky Luciano" Lucania; William Magee; Antonino "Mangano" Messina; Carlo, John "Johnny Mag" and Vincent Mangiaracina; Salvatore Maranzano; Luigi Marciante; Ferdinando "Fred" Mauro; Monroe Harrison Meader; Gaspare Messina; Frank "Ciccio" Milano; Joseph Natali; Giuseppe Parlapiano; Filippo Piazza; Valentino Piazza; Pietro Pirro; Aldo Charles Poletti; Saverio Pollaccia; Dr. Giuseppe Romano, Nicola Schiro; Giuseppe "Peppino" Siragusa; Joseph Talarico; Vincenzo "Big Vince" Troia; Gaetano Tropia; King Umberto II; Giovanni "Prince Johnny," James and Arthur Volpe; Andrew, Frank and Joseph Zappala.

Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format

Timeline

October 2020 Issue contents - Timeline

Timeline


Events related to the life and career of Nicola Gentile from the 1880s to the 1970s.


Preview/purchase this issue:

Magazine format

Book format