Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review – The Quiet Don: The Untold Story of Mafia Kingpin Russel Bufalino

The Quiet Don: The Untold Story of Mafia Kingpin Russell BufalinoThe Quiet Don: The Untold Story of Mafia Kingpin Russell Bufalino by Matt Birkbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want an all you can eat buffet on organized crime in Northeastern Pennsylvania, this is the book to read. Being a native of Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA.. of which the locals call it "Knee-Pah"), I grew up in the area hearing of Italian influence in Pittston and nearby towns. Over the past several years, the local government's and agencies have been in flux due to shake-ups, as one person after another has been accused of taking bribes and the like, and often I heard many complain that the region was corrupt at every corner.

I always thought those complaining were like the "conspiracy guy" with sporting events... you know.. the guy who says that every major sporting event is fixed and what not. And it's not that I'm sure they're accurate or not.. it's more or less just annoying when someone thinks that everything is fixed. After reading this book... I can tell you.. I have many more concerns about NEPA and it's leadership.

Birkbeck's writing dives into modern events (opening with the arrest of an ordained priest in 2008), and then dives into various history lessons dating back to the late 1800's, and how many Italian immigrants were attracted to the NEPA region for their vast coal mines. As the book progresses, it doesn't necessarily account just Bufalino's life, but the realm of influence he had on others, and who had influenced him along the way. Intertwined are modern events (on how seemingly dirty politics still exist today in the region) and famous mob stories, including the suggestion that Bufalino has good reason to partake in the assassination of JFK to his possible involvement in the killing\disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. I don't know if Matt Birkbeck is from Northeastern Pennsylvania or not, but he did an excellent job on researching the appropriate names and events in the area that have plagued us negatively in recent years, and parts of the book feel like a pre-eminent who's who in the NEPA valley today.

In the end, it's an enlightening book, and has a sole purpose to tell. If Bufalino had lived a more luxurious lifestyle, and\or had lived in NY or NJ... would more people inherently know his story? The book makes a compelling argument suggesting that his low profile never allowed him to make national headlines, and it may have served him well.

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