“Like an old school Mafia novel….”

The Associated Press tweeted the other day about a mass arrest and indictment of mafia guys in Philadelphia:

“An old school novel.” We understand what Mr. Rodriguez is alluding to there. The mob has been “immortalized” in modern literature, perhaps most (in)famously in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

While I know there is certainly ample material around enabling authors to produce such tales, and they may be well-written and readers may enjoy them, personally the genre is not my thing. I will never forget once seeing my (now late) novelist uncle (who’d previously been a NYC detective, and was almost killed twice working undercover), telling a television interviewer dismissively: These guys [are so inept they] couldn’t even run a newsstand without a baseball bat.

Meaning they are not “businessmen.” There is no “honor” in them. They are not Al Pacino or Marlon Brando. The Godfather is fantasy.

What they are in real-life are scammers, semi-literate thugs, and murderers. I find nothing romantic, entertaining or intriguing about them. I have never even seen The Godfather film through from beginning to end; I’ve tried, and it has “great” bits in a filmmaking sense, but overall it disturbs me. Indeed upon its release more than a few of the thugs actually went to see that film as a way to learn how they should behave: they emerged from cinemas and started mimicking that film.

Whenever the mob comes up, I also fondly remember my grandfather. (That same uncle’s dad.) He didn’t mince words and possessed a clearly defined sense of right vs. wrong. I’ll always recall my grandmother telling me of this happening from shortly after they were married in the late 1930s:

Excerpt from "Distances." Click to enlarge.
Excerpt from “Distances.” Click to enlarge.

What is a true honor in this life is to have known someone like him and to be able to fictionalize he who really deserves his words and outlook being immortalized in a novel. The ability to do that is one of the greatest pleasures in writing. Tales that include Italian-Americans shouldn’t only revolve around hoodlums.

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂

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Author: “Conventions: The Garden At Paris,” “Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances.” British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.