This book is a biography of Momo “Sam” Giancana, the head of the Chicago Outfit who succeeded Al Capone in the forties and stayed the head of not only Chicago but almost every other organized crime syndicate outside of New York until his assassination in the 1970’s.
There was a lot to like about this book and a lot to think about. First of all, it is very much an insider’s opinion of Sam, known to his family as Mooney and referred to as Mooney throughout the book. It outlines his rise from the street gangs on Taylor Street in the South Side of Chicago, all the way through his involvement in international organized crime, with a particular, but not exclusive, interest in Latin America.
Chuck Giancana is Sam’s younger brother. He is 11 or 12 years younger and looked upon Sam as not only an older brother but also as a mentor and father figure. Through his eyes, we are able to see that Sam exerted control over his own family, including his father; his neighborhood; the gangs and through his intelligence and ruthlessness, the Chicago Outfit.
The book does an excellent job of explaining the intricate inter-relationships between the Chicago players as well as the different cities. These include the traditional members of the New York five families, Joe Kennedy and the Boston Irish mob, Santo Trafficante in Tampa Florida, Carlo Marcello in New Orleans, the establishment of the syndicate players in Dallas and Kansas City, Bugsy Siegel In Las Vegas and Johhny Roselli in Los Angeles.
Of all the “mafia” books I have read, this one really shows the way each player came into their position of power post prohibition. It definitely concurs with much I have already read and explained much better other things that have been alluded to in other biographies. Given that it’s an insiders look, it spells some things out with much greater clarity.
As with all insider books, one must always read with an open mind and consider whose interests a story serves. Never the less, for those wanting to at least explore a detailed (and quite frankly logical) explanation of how the mob played a part in the Kennedy assassination (if one subscribes to that theory) then this book provides one of the best and most comprehensive ones that I have ever read.
It shows the relationships, the favors done, the deals made in the interests of both legitimate and illegitimate business, the plays for both power – both overt and covert- that were part of wider picture. More importantly, it shows that the players and the game involved were a very long time in the making and it shows Joe Kennedy’s role as he tried to make the move from mobster to legitimate business and how it all came back to bite him.
If you have illusions that you wish to keep about John and Robert Kennedy, then perhaps you might choose not to read Sam Giancana’s version of events or description of the Kennedy brothers. While there is nothing new or even that shocking, it certainly paints the Kennedy brothers in a different light that brings them back down to the realms of men.
Whether Sam’s version of events is true or not, it certainly gives the reader plenty to think about with respect to how legitimate business and politics is influenced, informed, assisted and abetted by organized crime. And while there are certainly reasons to ignore what Sam says because of who he is, there are also reasons to believe it and to understand why great lengths were exercised to discredit him and ultimately, assassinate him.
An equally interesting and parallel story is Chuck’s. Being the brother (or daughter, nephew, wife or in-law) of someone like Sam Giancana comes with its own set of challenges. At times, Chuck comes to love and enjoy the life Sam provided him as “gangster by association” and confidante, it also hindered him in his own legitimate business interests and the taunting and bullying his own children suffered from having the last name Giancana as well as one son being Sam’s namesake.
Whatever your personal beliefs, the book is a great insight into the Chicago mob between the late 30’s and the early to mid 70’s. Thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking and a must have for those interested in all things mob related.