Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Lad Lit Book Reviews: Bound By Honor by Bill Bonanno

Books For Men, Book Review, Bound By Honor, Bill Bonanno, America Mafia
Perhaps a better name for this book should be Boast By Honor. After all, this books boasts that it's 'The fascinating true story of the powerful crime family that inspired the The Godfather.' It also boasts of Mafia ties to the likes of JFK and the Hollywood elite. And Bill Bonanno does plenty of boasting about his own credentials within one of the most powerful crime organisations in American history.

Bound By Honor isn't a bad book, and it's first-hand account of an era that gave their names to New York's Five Families (Lucchese, Bonanno, Gambino, Genovese, and Colombo) is certainly unique. But... having read a number of books on the subject, I can't help but think that old Bill does half try and pour on a large dose of that 'Romanticizing the Mob' cocktail! Honour, tradition, taking care of our own, etc etc.

At the heart of the book there is a good story. The relationship of John. F Kenedy's father, Joe, with the mob is well-documented elsewhere in his role as a prohibition bootlegger, so it comes as no surprise that he might have had close connections with Bill's father, Joseph Bonanno; a man who became one of the most powerful and colourful men in Mafia history.

But the line about 'Two proud men, one named Bonanno, the other named Kennedy, dream of their sons taking over their dynasties-each taking a different, but equally powerful pat...' Fuhgeddaboudit! It all sounds a little too Hollywood for me at times, especially as it implied that Bill was the inspiration for Mario Puzo's Michael Corleone character. Hmmm, hell of a boast there Bill...!

I don't want to keep taking digs at this book, because I did actually enjoy it. It has some fascinating insights into an era of the Mob that will never certainly be seen again (and for good reason!), but they mainly include the stories about Bill's father than they do about him. Tales about the Apalachin meeting, the plot to assassinate fellow crime lords Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese, and The Banana War. In many circles Bill was considered 'too weak' to lead a crime family, and he certainly does not come across as fierce as some of his counterparts.

At the end of the day, I did find this an enjoyable read, but I took a lot things with a pinch of salt. Bill Bonanno seems compelled to try and put his memoirs in the same ilk as The Godfather, when the reality is you only have to read something like Murder Machine by Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci to realise this image couldn't be any further from the truth! I'd recommend giving it a read if you are interested in that era, but I'm not too sure I'd go around boasting about it.

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