Hello Fellow Readers!
How was your October reading Challenge-Wise? I hope it was a good month for you.
I have to admit – I just about baled on this month. I just couldn’t get excited or interested in anything Mob or gangster related. But at the last minute I picked up a children’s/young adult book and, well, it was pretty good.
Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko is actually the fourth in the series and reading this one kind of makes me want to go back and read the first three! It’s not as dark and violent as say, The Godfather, but it also doesn’t sugar-coat or romanticize the criminals or what they’ve done.
“Moose” Flanagan lives on Alcatraz Island with his parents and his older sister Natalie where his father works as the assistant warden at the prison during the Great Depression. Natalie has many problems (what we would probably now diagnose as autistic) and her care puts a strain on the family and a lot of responsibility on Moose. There are other families with kids on the island including the Warden’s troublemaker daughter Piper and Moose’s friend Jimmy. Moose wants nothing more than to be a normal high school kid and to spend the summer playing baseball. Things aren’t always that simple though, especially when your home is on an island where some of the most notorious, dangerous criminals – including Al Capone – live.
The reality is that Moose spends a lot of time looking after Natalie, making sure she is safe and keeping her out of trouble. Moose is used to this and knows how to help her when she gets frustrated or frightened, but this summer it’s much harder. First he takes the blame for a big mistake that Natalie makes and when she gets lost and ends up inside the prison, he has to put everything on the line to get her out.
This book was a quick, fun read but it’s also full of insight – the family dynamics of caring for a special needs child, the love that Moose has for his sister, the price of trying to belong with the wrong people, the difficulty and rewards of growing up and letting go. There’s also a lot of interesting information about how the prison at Alcatraz operated, the social dynamics of the prisoners and the lives of the people working on the island. A great read!
Now it’s your turn – what did you read for October?
Time for a new Reading Challenge. This month our film inspiration is The Godfather, often considered one of the best films ever made and phrases and scenes from it permeate American pop culture. Unusually, it’s sequel, The Godfather Part II, is usually ranked even higher. While the original tended to romanticize the mob culture, Part II is unflinching in it’s dark portrayal of organized crime.
Hmmm. Kinda dark, right? There are quite a few well-written, interesting books set in this world. Hopefully there is one that grabs your interest. Here are a few titles to get you started.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
Gangster by Lorenzo Carcaterra
Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins
I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt
Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business by Joseph Pistone
The Firm by John Grisham
Al Capone and the 1933 World’s Fair: the End of the Gangster Era in Chicago by William Hazelgrove
The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano
I’m not sure what I’m going to read this month. I’m not really in the mood for dark, ruthless crime. Maybe I’ll opt for a movie this time instead!
We will have displays of books for this month at the library, so if you’re not sure what to read (or watch) stop in and browse the selection!
In The Making of the Mob: New York, AMC has created an eight-part docu-drama series that begins in 1905 and traces the rise of the American Mafia for over fifty years. This series examines the lives of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, and several other notorious gangsters as they all struggle for power when the mafia starts becoming more organized. The amount of attention to detail that went into the establishment of the five major heads of the family, also known as the Commission, and Murder, Inc., the group of Jewish hitmen who killed around 1,000 people in ten years, shows that the new mobsters rising up in the ranks were definitely looking to run the mafia as more of a business with set consequences and an elected representative board.
This docu-drama looks into the five main families of the American Mafia and goes into great detail showing how organized crime came to exist and flourish in America. What I found to be the most intriguing part of this series was that it included interviews from former politicians, mobsters, actors, and other influential people, as well as actual archival footage and sound recordings of the actual mobsters alongside the actors’ dramatic interpretations of what was happening. The inclusion of actual footage and interviews really drew me into this docu-drama and had me fully invested in the lives of the mobsters, the shady deals they were doing, and the specific individuals and governmental organizations who were working to bring down the American mafia.