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Publisher's Summary

Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo, and Lucchese. For decades these Five Families ruled New York and built the American Mafia (or Cosa Nostra) into an underworld empire. Today, the Mafia is an endangered species, battered and beleaguered by aggressive investigators, incompetent leadership, betrayals, and generational changes that produced violent, unreliable leaders and recruits. A 20-year assault against the five families in particular blossomed into the most successful law enforcement campaign of the last century.
Selwyn Raab's Five Families is the vivid story of the rise and fall of New York's premier dons, from Lucky Luciano to Paul Castellano to John Gotti and more. The book also brings the listener right up to the possible resurgence of the Mafia as the FBI and local law enforcement agencies turn their attention to homeland security and away from organized crime.
©2005 Selwyn Raab (P)2015 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"This masterpiece stands an excellent chance of becoming a bestseller with crossover appeal beyond devoted watchers of The Sopranos." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Mark on 10-13-16


To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons I chose this book was that I’m getting towards the end of my credits for this year, and so I was looking for a long book. I’m quite interested and curious about the mafia, and so, at 33 hours, I thought this would be a good listen.

It has many merits: It’s a pretty comprehensive account of organised crime in America in centuries 20-21, and it can't have been an easy story to unearth. The Cosa Nostra has been a phenomenally secretive and devious organisation throughout its lifespan. All members of the fraternity are bound by their most sacred rule ‘Omerta’- meaning, literally, ‘being a man’, but in practical terms ‘Omerta’ refers to secrecy rather than manliness; a strict code of silence, under pain of death, to which all Mafiosi are sworn.

There’s a certain amount of romanticism surrounding the Mafia. I’m as much a sucker for this as the next person. I realise it’s probably the result of gangster movies from the thirties with stars like Edward G Robinson and Jimmy Cagney, and, more recently, the brilliant 'Godfather trilogy'. In the early years the mafia gained a foothold by providing some popular services deemed illegal by a prudish establishment. They provided alcohol during prohibition and facilitated gambling – banned by the government but craved by the populace.

The public was happy to turn a blind eye to this criminal activity and often saw the mafia as the good guys and the authorities as the bad guys - But in reality the mafia have always been a very nasty bunch of people, heaping misery on the everyday American, a parasite on the backs of honest, hardworking citizens.

This book tells that story. The authors overcame the secrecy barrier by researching the evidence from rare cases where 'Omerta' was compromised – most of it coming from the few Mafiosi persuaded to testify against their fellow mobsters - and from wire taps. All credit to the authors for finding and collating this information.

But it takes more than this to make a really good listening experience. It isn’t enough for all the information to be there in the book, it also needs to be in a coherent order.

I’m sorry to say that, here, it isn’t. So many times I lost track and thought ‘who are we talking about now?’ and ‘where does this bit fit into the big narrative?’

It felt like ‘7326451’ instead of ‘1234567’.

Verdict: Definitely worth a listen – I did learn a lot about the mafia – but the story was out of order.

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33 of 35 people found this review helpful

By Rik B on 12-30-15


Love me some mob stuff! I've been fascinated with La Cosa Nostra since I was a teen in the 80's. I've read many books and have watched everything I know of concerning it. I'm not as expert level as Selwyn Raab, though I'm well informed. This is a great and fairly deep history of the American mob. Starting with it's roots in Sicily on through to the 00's. I learned of many "characters" and tidbits about the dysfunctional mob family that I didn't know of before, which thrilled me. I put it on at a random spot at night and listen to stories until I fall asleep. For me it's well worth the price of admission.

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21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Andrew on 04-14-16

Interesting and well-written history

Any additional comments?

This is the first book I've listened to (or read) on the subject. Fascinating, well-written, and well-narrated.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

By William on 03-18-16


If you could sum up Five Families in three words, what would they be?

Well narrated, Interesting, informative,

What other book might you compare Five Families to, and why?

Mob Boss: The Life of Little Al D'arco, the Man Who Brought Down the Mafia, Along similar lines but different story and a different perspective of the life.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

"The Five Families: The money the lies and the killing’s from Bensonhurst to Broadway"

Any additional comments?

Superb book couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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