Once again I have to beg forgiveness from my followers. Of books, I have read many, of writing, I have done little. I hate myself when I let these reviews back up like this but as all readers and writers are aware….so many books, so little time!
Operation Family Secrets itself is a codename for an FBI operation into the world of La Cosa Nostra in Chicago. Where the New York mob is comprised largely of Italian made men, the Chicago mob is a melting pot of made men. Chicago is well known for its Italian, Sicilian, Polish, Russian, Jewish and Mexican mafia’s in addition to organized multi-generational street gangs whose activities are organized. Add in one of the most notorious hit men Frank (The German) Schweiss and you can see that it is more diverse than some.
Frank Calabrese Sr. is also a notorious hit man. Unlike many of his fellow LCN members who attempt to make enough money to put their children through expensive private schools and colleges in order to steer them away from “the life”, Frank is a paranoid man who only trusts those closest to him – but just barely.
This book is written by Frank Jr. and examines how through his father, he and his younger brother were groomed for “the life” and then immersed in it, much to their chagrin. As his father became more paranoid, Frank Jr., never a true devotee to begin with, tried many times to leave but was always forced back into crime by his father. Finally, Jr. wrote to the FBI after he was incarcerated, endangering himself by wearing a wire to record conversations with his father, himself incarcerated at the same facility.
In a rare unguarded moment for Sr., he outlined his crimes to his son. At times the detail is explicit – at others it is more oblique but with the background, it is easy to read between the lines. Sr’s crew operated out of Chinatown but controlled parts of the downtown entertainment District, Chinatown and Elmhurst. All of the old chestnuts of organized crime are there: loan sharking, extortion, drugs, robbery, jewel theft and the like. And of course, murder.
What I enjoyed most about the book is the look at how most (if not all) organized crime relies on generational participation and how legitimate business’ are busted out (or juiced) until the owner relinquishes them to the mob. This allows the mob to become the owner and establish their own laundry to clean the money as well as give them tax fronts and business” with which to get their medical insurance and provide a sense of legitimacy.
In other words, how the Trump family operates. (Now don’t get crazy if you’re a Trump supporter) I am just pointing out an alternate economic system at work here. And I couldn’t resist the jibe! Trump’s involvement with local mobs in major cities is well known as an adjunct to his “developments”.
Frank Jr. shows remarkable courage in this book. He has the old problem of loving a father but hating the man. Sr. was quite cruel to his children and wife. He was even willing to hide ill gotten gains at his elderly parents home then evict them when he needed to finance his defense.
I hope there are more books about the Family Secrets material from other writers because this is a fascinating glimpse into current mob activities in Chicago which have been more shrouded and lower profile than their New York counterparts.