Sunday, October 18, 2020

October 2020 issue of Informer

October 2020 Issue contents - Editorial

Editorial:

Mafia history and Nick 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.

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