Sunday, July 22, 2018

Top Hoodlum: Frank Costello, Prime Minister of the Mafia


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 Stars

I love The Godfather and it is my all-time favorite movie. As a result I will read pretty much anything written about the Mafia, particularly during the 'glory days' so to speak. I realize how dangerous that can be, romanticizing such brutality. You can tell me about while I sit here playing The Godfather: Black Hand Edition on my Wii.

But in all seriousness, this is an excellent, well-researched biography of arguably the most important man to ever run the show. He got his start during Prohibition, making a fortune on that and various illegal gambling operations. For all that he made though, it was never really the money that was the end game. What Costello wanted more than anything else was to be accepted a legitimate business man who was a contributing member of society. He almost made it, but was never quite legit enough. Unfortunately, it was never to be, both because of his bootlegging days and those he kept company with later in life. Those ties to illegal activities in his earlier years would come back to haunt him, as it was all dredged up time and again when he was called to testify at various hearings.

One of the key takeaways from Costello's life was the way he operated. He moved in circles that included some very unsavory people who did some very unsavory things. Yet Costello was called the 'Prime Minister' for a reason. He recognized that violence and wars between the families was bad for business. It is no secret that muscle was often called in to take care of a multitude of jobs. But Costello does not appear to have been an advocate for violence. Even so, he was still the head of one of the Five Families. Death and destruction was part of the life and as a result, Costello could never be considered legitimate.

This is a story first and foremost about Costello's life on the wrong side of the law. There is very little in the way of his personal life, so if that is what you are looking for you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for a well-researched book on the life and crimes of Frank Costello, then this is exactly what you need. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and could not put it down. Highly recommended.


  1. Costello, more important than Luciano? Them's fighting words!

    Have you ever read Joe Bonanno's memoir, "Man of Honor"? I'm sure it's tweaked to make him look like a innocent angel and everything, but it was my first look into the Sicilian mafia -- that and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia". I got looks for buying THAT one!

    1. There's quite a bit about Luciano covered here too, you'd enjoy this one, no worries :)

      I have not read Bonnano's memoir but it is on my TBR...That is kind of hilarious that The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia even exists

    2. As I remember, it's a bit of history, as well as explaining different income sources, both historical and contemporary -- from 30s-era numbers running to pinball machine rentals! I may still have it, but I donated most of my Complete Idiots's and Dummies books years ago.

    3. Too funny, I guess everything has an Idiot's Guide these days, right? Did it discuss the Five Families and the Chicago/Vegas/Miami/LA mobs as well?


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