But as the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words and that is certainly true in the case of these 10 iconic pictures I have picked out that portray every face of the godfathers and gangsters that have infamously woven their way into American history. This really is a collection of the good, the bad and the ugly as these pictures depict all aspects of Mafia life.
10. Al Capone at a baseball game
Arguably the most famous gangster of all time, Al Capone sits alongside his son, Albert (Sonny) Capone, as gets Chicago Cubs player Gaby Hartnett to sign his baseball. When he wasn't watching baseball he could be found battering people to death with a bat!
9. The American Mafia's founding fathers
Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lanksy are the two men who were responsible for creating the structure of the American Mafia as we know it today when they created a hierarchy and a commission where all the bosses got to sit at the table to discuss family politics. Here they are in a police line-up (right to left) with Paul Ricca, Salvatore Agoglia, Luciano, Lansky, John Senna and Harry Brown.
8. Carlo Gambino strolling with the police
Gambino is probably the most successful mafia boss of all time, but you wouldn't be able to tell from this picture as he looks more like a mild-mannered grandfather than a man who murdered his way to the top of the mafia tree.
7. Frank Sinatra and the mob
If you read the book Double Cross it alleges that that Frank Sinatra had close ties to the mafia and this picture with some of the biggest Godfathers in history would go some way to backing those claims. In this picture from left to right: Paul Castellano, Gregory DePalma, Sinatra, Tommy Marson, Carlo Gambino, Aladena Fratianno, Salvatore Spatola, Seated: Joseph Gambino, Richard Fusco.
6. Albert Anastasia hit
Police detectives mull around Albert Anastasia's covered body after he was blown away in a barbershop at the Park Sheraton Hotel by Joey Gallo. I guess you could call it a short, back and dies!
5. Murder, Inc.
One of the most vicious groups of murderers in American history. Murder, Inc. was a group of Jewish gangsters who carried out mob hits on behalf of the mafia.
4. John Gotti in court
The tailored suit, the expensive haircut, the intimidating stare. This was one of John Gotti's last moments of freedom before the confession of his underboss Salvatore "Sammy The Bull" Gravano in 1992 would send the Dapper Don to prison for the rest of his life.
3. Carmine Galante chomping down on a cigar
Mafia executions are part of the territory but this picture of Bonanno crime boss Carmine Galante shows them in all their gruesome detail. If you look closely you can see the cigar Galante was smoking moments before he met his death still clenched between his teeth.
2. Joe Valachi gives evidence
Valachi became the first high profile member of Cosa Nostra to break the code of Omertà (code of silence) when he gave evidence against the mob in 1963. His testimony left a lasting blow on the mafia and was the first major crack in breaking the power they had wielded for so many years.
1. St Valentine's Day Massacre
The most famous gangland slaying of them all. In 1929 seven members of Bugs Moran's North Side Irish gang were murdered on Al Capone's orders in the battle to seize control of Chicago. I'm guessing this wasn't an act of love...!