The Mafia Mystique, by Dwight C. Smith, Jr. New York: Basic Books. 399 pp.
When I told a friend that my Sicilian grandfather had died in jail, he asked without hesitation whether he had been killed by the Mafia because he “messed up.” I had great difficulty in persuading him of a far less vivid reality: my grandfather was a poor immigrant storekeeper accused of buying goods stolen by other poor immigrants; he could not defend himself in court because he spoke no English and died in jail of pneumonia. My friend’s question and the view of reality underlying it testify to the deep impression the Mafia has made on the American consciousness, and a most casual glance at the American media indeed will provide similar testimony...
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