Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Book Review - Mafia Republic by John Dickie

Mafia republic : Italy's criminal curse : Cosa Nostra, Camorra and 'Ndrangheta from 1946 to the present
by John Dickie

London : Sceptre, 2013                                                   ISBN 9781444726428

John Dickie has become something of a Mafia "expert", this being his third book about the subject (the others being Mafia brotherhoods and Cosa Nostra). He writes lucidly and well about the peculiarly Italian mix of culture, criminality and power that is encompassed by the major organised crime societies mentioned in the title.

Originally confined to their own areas of the Peninsula and Sicily, Mafia republic describes how, after World War II, these criminal syndicates expanded their range into Northern Italy and beyond - to the USA, Australia, South America and Asia - via the explosion of money provided by the drug trade. Dickie describes the inter-connection between Cosa Nostra and the political networks in Sicily and how up until the end of the Cold War they both relied on each other to confirm their power. Until the present time, it has been the ability of these Mafia organisations to influence the political arena that have enabled them to lurk "openly in the shadows", and infect nearly all areas of business in Italy.

At the end of the Cold War, when the old certainties no longer applied, and with much more at stake owing to the rivers of gold provided by drug money, the connections that had slowly built up between Cosa Nostra and the Camorra particularly, and between Cosa Nostra and the Government, began to break down. "Warfare" broke out, with no-one being immune to the bullets of the assassins. Salvatore Riina, the Corleonosi who murdered his way to power in the 80s, finally went too far when he murdered Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two of the country's most committed anti-mafia judges. Even the politicians couldn't sweep this under the carpet, and the response was heavily damaging to all the Mafia syndicates. The forces of law and order were helped by the "pentiti", Mafia bosses who started to tell all - Riina's murderous rampage had convinced many that it was safer to talk from a prison cell than stay on the streets.

Dickie's book ties these strands together well, and also shows how the Camorra rose to be a power before splintering into so many criminal gangs, and how it is the 'Ndrangheta has become the major world-wide force in drug trafficking, after a late start and a side-track into kidnapping that did not endear it to it's criminal associates.

While this book does not take you into the soul of Sicily in the same way as Midnight in Sicily, it is a great one-book introduction into Italian organized crime.


Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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