Friday, April 26, 2013

April 2013 Issue of Informer


April 2013 Contents
Editorial

There is a degree of discomfort associated with directing attention to the crime history works of Herbert Asbury. In our modern Information Age, Asbury would be well suited to the role of negative example.

He related old underworld legends as they were presented in the sensationalized press, often refusing to challenge their truthfulness and sometimes sensationalizing them even further. While certainly not unknown today, these are unpardonable sins for the modern serious historian.

However, Asbury, who died fifty years ago, did not live to see this technological age, probably never imagined it. With the touch of a few keys on computers or “smart” devices, we now are able to access archives and databases around the world, to hunt down the tiniest facts and access a vast spectrum of interpretations on those facts. For Herbert Asbury, the raw material of history was contained in file drawers of yellowing newspaper clippings (the microfilming of document archives began in his lifetime). Still, even in his day, there were other resources, and he regularly was criticized for not verifying story details, for engaging in exaggeration and occasionally for committing outright errors.

Despite its weaknesses, Asbury’s work is deserving of our recognition for two major reasons. First, that work and its popularity helped to create and to define the field of true crime writing. Second, it served to entice many serious historians—those who read Asbury’s vivid accounts and needed to explore further—to enter the field. In that way, Asbury did advance the cause of factual underworld scholarship. For these reasons, it seems appropriate that we mark the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Asbury’s death with this issue’s lead feature. (Preview)

Also in this issue:

- Lennert van‘t Riet, David Critchley and Steve Turner conclude their Gunmen of the Castellammarese War series with Part 5, Salvatore “Sally Shields” Shillitani. (Preview)

- Bill Feather provides a Lucchese Family Membership Chart. (Preview)

- Edmond Valin exposes two Gambino Crime Family informants. (Preview)

- Richard Warner looks at the evolution of Mafia studies. (Preview)

- Thomas Hunt reviews Mafia Summit by Gil Reavill. (Preview)

- In the News. (Preview)

- 100 Years Ago. (Preview)

Issue has eighty pages, including cover.


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Asbury: 'Chronicler of Sin'


April 2013 Contents
Feature article

An informal biography of Herbert Asbury
America's 'Chief Chronicler of Sin'
By Thomas Hunt

"It has been fifty years since Herbert Asbury, journalist, editor and author, passed from this world at the age of seventy-three, leaving behind both a collection of regional crime histories that would fill a fair-sized bookshelf and a vast army of readers hungry for more. His works, published and republished over the years, often have been derided by the academics as 'popular' history. Asbury personally acknowledged the claim but clearly preferred the term 'informal history.'"

Twenty pages, including two and a half pages of notes and twelve photographs.



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Gunmen of the Castellammarese War - Part 5


April 2013 Contents
Feature Article

Gunmen of the Castellammarese War, Part Five 
A lifetime of tangling with the law:
Salvatore 'Sally Shields' Shillitani
By Lennert van‘t Riet, David Critchley and Steve Turner

Salvatore Shillitani
"The fifth and final chapter of our series Gunmen of the Castellammarese War features the life of Salvatore Shillitani, better known as 'Sally Shields.' More than the others mentioned in the series, Shillitani’s life after the Castellammare War was one of incarceration and bending to penitentiary rules. In the criminal world, he was a failure. How Shillitani enrolled in such a life is unclear, but one factor may have been the bad examples he received from relatives..."

Twenty-four pages, including four pages of notes and thirteen photographs.


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Lucchese Mafia Chart


April 2013 Contents
Mafia Membership Chart

Lucchese Crime Family
Membership Chart, 1910s-1940s
By Bill Feather

More than one hundred documented and suspected members of the Lucchese Crime Family active in the period of the 1910s through the 1940s.

Four pages.


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Identifying Underworld Informants: Two Gambino Informants


April 2013 Contents
Column

Identifying Underworld Informants
Two Gambino informants had very different fates
By Edmond Valin

Carmine Lombardozzi
"On July 11, 1963, two men wearing makeup disguises entered a Brooklyn florist shop and fired five bullets into its owner before escaping. Shot dead was forty-year-old Gambino Family soldier Alfredo 'Freddie the Sidge' Santantonio. It didn’t take investigators long to figure out why. Nearly eighteen months earlier, Santantonio and two criminal associates were sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to sell stolen bonds. But unlike his accomplices, Santantonio never saw the inside of a cell. When Colombo Family member and informant Gregory Scarpa was asked at the time about the murder, he told the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 'it was common talk in Brooklyn that [Santantonio] was killed because he was cooperating with the government.'”

Fourteen and a half pages, including six and a half pages of notes and two photographs.


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The Warner Files: God and the Mafia


April 2013 Contents
Column

The Warner Files
God and the Mafia
By Richard N. Warner

"In 1969, Gordon Hawkins published an influential article in The Public Interest called 'God and the Mafia.' The point of the article is that it takes a leap of faith to believe in organized crime, a similar amount of faith to what Hawkins believed is required to believe in God. In 1969 many scholars had doubts in the existence of organized crime (meaning the Mafia or Cosa Nostra) just as they had doubts in the existence of God..."

Two and a half pages, including one photograph.


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Book Review: 'Mafia Summit'


April 2013 Contents
Book review

Just One More Thing
Review: 'Mafia Summit'
By Thomas Hunt

"When a review copy of Gil Reavill’s new book, Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers, and the Meeting that Unmasked the Mob (Thomas Dunne Books), arrived not long ago, I immediately opened it – as is my general custom with underworld histories – to the back. I am always hopeful that a book related to Mafia history will be of long-term use, and the material in the final pages is crucial..."

Seven and a half pages, including one photograph.


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In the News


April 2013 Contents
Column

In the News

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Jefferson Casper was randomly selected in March to preside over the upcoming federal racketeering trial of 83-year-old James “Whitey” Bulger...

One half page.

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100 Years Ago


April 2013 Contents
Column

100 Years Ago

Amadeo Buonomo, believed to be a henchman of East Harlem gang leader Aniello “Zopo” Prisco, is shot at close range...

One half page.


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