Honor Thy Father by Gay Talse

Honor Thy Father

The boring life a Mafia Don. Yes, their lives were for the most part dull. Even worse they rarely made much money. Whenever they had a profitable ‘score‘ this made the other families jealous, and put them on the radar of the FBI. So why do it? Any organization this large would return greater profits on the legal side of commerce. In Talese’s book, Honor Thy Father, the Bonanno have many legitimate businesses. Were they subsidizing the criminal side? It took a couple generations to break up the Mafia. I doubt the FBI was the primary reason. It was probably the realization they were actually losing money by being criminals. (I got the feeling the FBI loved the Mafia. It was the FBI’s primary source of their funding requests. I bet Hoover enjoyed chasing them around the country.)

We meet Joseph Bonanno and learn his life story, from a boy in Sicily to the head of the Bonanno crime family. Joe stages a fake kidnapping to avoid the NY Grand Jury. This forces to his son Bill, a college kid from Arizona, to take over the family business. This void or the perceived weakness leads to the “Banana War” between his family and 3 other New York families. The details in the book are amazing. The Bonanno’s either have great memories or their were a lot of wiretaps Talese got transcripts of.

592 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

The Mafia bosses in the South, or in the Far West, in places like Boulder. Colorado, undoubtedly lived a much better life than any of the five dons with organizations centered in New York City. The don in Colorado probably owned a trucking business or a little nightclub and, with only ten or twelve men under his command, ran a few gambling parlors or a numbers racket on the side. He worked regular hours, probably played golf every afternoon, and had time in the evening for his family. His sons would graduate from college, becoming business executives or lawyers, and would know how to steal legally. – location 674-678

The mafiosi were really servants in a hypocritical society, they were the middlemen who provided those illegal commodities of pleasure and escape that the public demanded and the law forbade. – location 1279-1280

If people would obey the law, there would be no Mafia. If the police could resist graft, if the judges and politicians were incorruptible, there would be no Mafia because the Mafia could not exist without the cooperation of the others. Before there was a Mafia in the United States catering to the crime market, thriving first as bootleggers during Prohibition, there were other ethnic gangs supplying illegal demands and gradually buying their own way out of slums. When the Mafia dies out in a generation or two, by which time the grandsons of mafiosi will have learned the art of tax dodging and legal subterfuge in large American corporations, the key jobs in organized crime, which is a kind of lower-caste civil service, will be occupied by Latin American gangsters or blacks, the element that has already gained control of the lowest rung in the criminal pecking order, the narcotics trade. – location 1280-1286

Bill found it extremely difficult to appear unemotional at this point in the trial–he felt somehow that he had been deceived, used, sold out, and he suddenly had a vision of himself as the star of a sardonic and satirical showing of This Is Your Life, a production in which his old friends and associates were assembled to tell him in public what an abominable person he was. – location 6557-6560

Nearly everything in Bill Bonanno’s past had left a sharp, lasting impression. He had almost total recall. He could remember minor incidents in precise detail, could recreate past scenes and dialogue, could describe the places he had seen, what he had felt. Yet he possessed a rare quality of detachment–it was as if a part of him had remained outside of everything he had ever experienced. – location 7569-7571

I was sensitive to the situation, and at this juncture I was far more interested in the domestic atmosphere and the style of people than in any specific information. I was content to observe, pleased to be accepted. At night, after I returned home, I described on paper what I had seen and heard, my impressions of the people. Soon, as I reread certain scenes, I could see the book taking shape. It seemed to suggest fiction, but each detail was true. – location 7588-7591

While my initial proposal to write about him might have been flattering, particularly since he then felt so misunderstood and had gone through life being his father’s son, I do believe that later I served as an instrument through which he could communicate to those closest to him. He could reveal through me, who related to him on his own terms, thoughts and attitudes he did not wish to express directly to his family, to his father. – location 7624-7627

I sensed later that his wife, Rosalie, also confided to me thoughts that she wished to have conveyed to Bill; and Bill’s sister, Catherine, and other members of the family, too, were telling me what they wished others to know. I had become a source of communication within a family that had long been repressed by a tradition of silence. – location 7627-7629

Bonanno went on to say that he viewed his imprisonment as a retreat from his problematic existence, a sabbatical from unrelenting stress: the threats of rival hit men, the sleuthing of the Feds, the obligatory concealment of underworld income in a hidden economy, and his complicated ties to his wife and children while maintaining criminal links to his father and their dysfunctional Mafia family. “The only time I can escape,” he told us, “is when I’m in prison.” – location 7667-7670


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information: www.effectiveconcepts.net
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