Mob Boss: The Life of Little Al D’Arco

By Jerry Capeci, Tom Robbins

436 ratings - 4.08* vote

Reminiscent of Wiseguy, Mob Boss is a compelling biography from two prominent mob experts recounting the life and times of the first acting boss of an American Mafia family to turn government witnessAlfonso “Little Al” D'Arco, the former acting boss of the Luchese crime family, was the highest-ranking mobster to ever turn government witness when he flipped in 1991. His tes Reminiscent of Wiseguy, Mob Boss is a compelling biography from two prominent mob experts recounting the

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Book details

Audible Audio, 0 pages
November 19th 2013 by Tantor Audio

(first published October 1st 2013)

Original Title
Mob Boss
ISBN
1250006864 (ISBN13: 9781250006868)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Donna Davis

Mob Boss
The Life of Little Al D’Arco, the Man Who Brought Down the Mafia

Jerry Capeci has written about the American mob for a long time; Tom Robbins is an experienced crime journalist. Both of them sat in on D’Arco’s court testimony, and later took hundreds of hours of interviews down on tape. Neither of them was willing to negotiate with an individual of D’Arco’s moral fiber; they told him that if they wrote his story, he would not be able to declare any topic off-limits, and he would not get to proofread the book before it went to press. He agreed. Both writers note that unlike other mafia figures that have turned out of self-interest, this one actually told the truth about whatever he was asked, even volunteering information about crimes no one knew had been committed. And if a prosecutor was fishing for information about something he genuinely was clueless about, he would flatly state that he knew what they wanted, but he couldn’t help them.

So whereas there really is no honor among thieves, one thing D’Arco understands clearly is how to work by a set of rules. When his allegiance to the American mafia ended, he treated his job helping the FBI nail mob figures as if it were a job. His lack of ambiguity and complete frankness is apparently a rarity in that realm, and perhaps it is partly this that makes this is a compelling story by the masters of the genre.

Why do we read these things? Why are we fascinated by this unwholesome world that we would never want to have as part of our own lives? I was lucky, and received my copy as a Goodreads.com First Read, but I would have read it anyway, sooner or later. There is a peculiar draw, similar to the way one cannot look away readily when a snake unhinges its jaw in order to swallow an egg, or even a live mammal. The horror and ferocity is haunting.

But there’s something more, at least for me. Books like this one share a characteristic in common with other tales that excite prurient interest mixed with fear and/or distaste. When someone leaves a polygamous sect and rushes out to tell their story, the public eats it up. I know I do. And when a member of the Amish decides it’s time to go out and get a cell phone and an apartment with central heating, we can’t wait for them to spill the story.

What is it like to live in as vast a place as the USA, and yet operate under a strict, separate and Byzantine set of rules that is very, very different from the way other people, perhaps next door or across the street from you, live theirs? How does a subgroup of society exact the loyalty and obedience of people who can choose to walk away?

Of course, in a sense, we’ll never know. The people who tell us what it’s like are the ones who left. Nobody that is still inside organized crime, or inside a polygamous sect with full plans of remaining, or still living the Plain life into which they were born is going to talk to a journalist, and if they did, there would be such strict limits on what they were willing to give up that writers of Capeci’s and Robbins’ caliber would not stand still for it. Why waste their time?

After reading this story and a couple of others, I think that this particular subgroup filled a particular need for a finite time. They sure weren’t Robin Hoods; in fact, they stole from the poor—skimming government money that was designated for windows in public housing projects, even robbing the projects themselves, and setting up gambling scenarios that fed off the most vulnerable and desperate portions of the U.S. population.

But in New York City, cops would not even make a pretense of being interested in saving the lives or property of ordinary working people. The only law that Little Italy knew, at least for a generation or two, was that of the Mafia. D’Arco’s grandmother told him at night to be good and stay safe lest the Black Hand get them. And in fact, if some aspect of life within their own invisible yet distinct boundaries was becoming so unfair as to be unmanageable, a word from a resident not Mafia-affiliated with someone in a position of criminal power was often all it took to take care of that one specific problem. It was in the interest of organized crime to keep the level of chaos down to a dull roar lest pressure build for the cops paid by the taxpayer’s dollar to come in and clean house.

Because of this understanding, local political/criminal bosses initially made a point of not living large. They might have millions of dollars in cash parked somewhere (or more likely , distributed among many somewheres) but their own living standards would not rise above those around them. If everyone else had to walk up two flights of stairs and live in cramped quarters, they did it too. When others coming up the ladder of organized crime began to show their wealth with public arrogance, the whole thing began to fall apart.

D’Arco left when he knew he was marked for death, and his son was marked also. However, it was more than that: suddenly the rules had come undone. The structure into which he had so carefully been trained and inducted was no longer adhered to; treasured, absolutely sacrosanct rules were no longer being observed. And when the floor began to tilt and the ceiling was beneath his feet, D’Arco could no longer maneuver or find purchase.

Nobody lives without some sort of rules.

Capeci and Robbins have done a wonderful job of unwinding the spool at a pace that is absorbing, yet not hectic enough to keep the reader from being able to identify who each of a complex tree of characters is, and what their role in the story is. I can see why they were so insistent upon the protocol they used with this mobster; telling this story must have been a lot of work. But for the reader, it’s easy. Carefully documented, yet never slowing in pace, this well-told tale is worth your time and money. If you liked reading the fictional novel, The Godfather, this is your chance to read about the real thing.

Matt

I really liked this book. Good detail, good background, and overall well put together in typical biographical form. This can be read by mafia enthusiasts and a passing novice as well. Does a solid job laying out the players along the way.

Pretty typical of the crumbling Mafia in the last 3 decades, I do not gove much (given the title) to outline the story of a key Mafia player in the Luchese crime family.

Interesting twists aand turns including perspective on recent turncoat/authors such as Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

This is clearly a guy who was in the guts of it and by all accounts a real player in the hierarchy (unlike several lower level associaates who have written books in the last decade or so)

I give this a solid 4 stars.

Austin

One of the most unfortunate things about America's education system is that if taught correctly a lot of these subjects could be very interesting. History for example is far more bizarre and stranger than anything even Tom Robbins (different one, not the author of this book but the good fiction author of Skinny Legs and All, Another Roadside Attraction, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life with Woodpecker, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and of course who can forget the wisdom of Chink from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues?) could write. However we are taught to memorize boring white dudes and dates and in a watered down Disney version of reality. We euphemistically refer to genocide of 20 million indigenous tribe women and children as Manifest Destiny. We like to play victims in all of our wars, but after reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich I realized just how Hitlerian we truly are. I mean Adolf blew up the Reichstag and blamed it on Russian terrorists which he used to justify a pre-emptive attack on Poland? We were attacked by Saudi "terrorists" according to the almost laughable US narrative that found no evidence at any wreck site save for a paper passport in the rubble of building 1? Anywho then the weaponized media and dare I say this word I hate "Fake News" fully supported Colin Powell's world tour holding court daily with scare tactics of fake intelligence regarding Iraq and yellah cake. Thus we were led into our first war using Pre-emptive strike just like Adolf did to Poland. Also Hitler created the Division of Fatherland Security and we started the Division of Homeland Security. Or how about how no war has been fought sans Opium so when we cut off Germany's supply they created the modern opiods like Methadone that ended up stringing out a whole rural nation on Oxycontin then cheap, hand delivered heroin from the Cartel. I mean this stuff of fascinating, not talked about and no dates have been mentioned yet. I could go on but I won't. This book was more like history taught at Eugene Field Grade School in St. Joseph, Missourah circa 1977. It was made worse by the fact that I did truly believe this was the great fiction author Tom Robbins on the mob, but trust me on this you'll know two pages in it decidely is not Tom Robbins. I'm sure there were great stories of debauchery , evil incarnate, and sorts of other realities that were probably wrapped up in some euphemism while telling the dates of every boring action Little Al did day to day. I'm going to have to wash this book out with something on Truthers or the one Stephen King piece I haven't read yet. After I shower off though because I feel so dirty reading this mediocre American style history.

Blue Tango

The short version is that this book is a magnificent example of investigative journalism and an insightful journey in the recent mafia history.

Going into details, the story of Alfonso "Al" D'Arco starts from the very beginning; from a family emigrated in US from a small town called Cava Dè Tirreni in the south of Italy. It describes how several Americans of Italian origin start the mob Life because of the environment, because of the Forrest of wiseguys you grow up into.
Alfonso starts with small crimes, economical struggles and friendships in the New York mafia and ends up Acting boss of the Lucchese family.
Names, streets and facts are precise and extensive (may be boring but do not forget this is investigative journalism not fiction .... and despite that, the book keeps a very high pace), every details of the Life is described meticulously.
To some extent the book is more interesting than the life of Gotti which is full of events but do not transmit the feeling of how you become a wiseguy, how your life smells like when you are young associate of mafia family, prisoner at sing sing , made man, husband, NewYorker, father, son and boss....
if you like this kind of literature you must read it.

Debbie

This book was ok. It is about Little Al D'Arco and how he went from just one of the guys in the neighborhood to one of the top mob guys. Its the story of how he went from the bottom of the ranks in the mob to one of the bosses. Al was the kind of guy who always wanted to be a made guy and told what was asked of him no questions asked until the end when he found out he had a hit on him then he turned. This is that story of how he went from avoiding the cops to turning himself into the FBI and telling his story to them.

Matt

I LOVE this book. Such an incredibly rich and vivid piece of storytelling - you’re drawn in from the first page and the authors do an incredible job of setting the stage whilst reinforcing the credibility of the storyteller. In different stages you’re drawn into vividly painted scenes from working class immigrant life in NYC all the way through to the day to day of the acting head of one of the most powerful crime organisations in America. It will make you see things in a whole new light. Highly recommend.

FDR

An insightful book about D'Arco and the top of the Lucchese family, as well as the rackets and their business with the other families. He is a well-chosen protagonist and I liked his quotes. As they mention themselves, he provides straightforward insights. Even though you have to stay critical, it seemed like one of the most truthful books. I recommend it, although I didn't read it as fast as I expected.

Stephen Trujillo

NY Mob EncyclopediaThis work reads fast and easy, but students of the New York mafia will find it indispensable. Al D’Arco’s memory is impeccable: he knows where the bodies are buried, and he explains how they got there in dry detail. Jerry Capeci is probably the dean of American mob writers. His website is an indispensable resource, and this book is surely a reference classic.

Richard

Scorsese's mobster epic"The Irishman" is available in the theatres (at least where I live) so I settled for second best and read Capeci's tale about Al D'Arco the mobster you've never heard about. A lurid but well written saga about the long reach of the mafia in 80/90's NY and beyond... if you think their the stuff of movies this book will change your mind.

Hugo

Very informative about the mafia life of Al D'Arco.
It starts slow with the details of his personal life growing up, but really picks up in the second half of the book when Al became closer to the leadership of the crime family.

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