Synopses & Reviews
Of course Pulitzer Prize winner Jimmy Breslin recognized Burton Kaplan right away as the Mafia witness of the ages. Breslin comes from the same Queens streets as mob bosses John Gotti and Vito Genovese. But even they couldn't match Kaplan in crime and neither could anybody else.
In his inimitable New York voice, Breslin, "the city's steadiest and most accurate chronicler" (Tom Robbins, Village Voice), gives us a look through the keyhole at the people and places that define the mafia characters like Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gaspipe Casso (named for his weapon of choice), Thomas "Three-Finger Brown" Lucchese, and Jimmy "The Clam" Eppolito, interwoven with the good rat himself, Burt Kaplan of Bensonhurst, the star witness in the recent trial of two New York City detectives indicted for acting as hit men in eight gangland executions.
Breslin takes us to the old-time hangouts like Pep McGuire's, the legendary watering hole where reporters and gangsters (all hailing from the same working-class neighborhoods) rubbed elbows and traded stories; the dog-fight circles and body dumps at Ozone Park; and the back room at Midnight Rose's candy store, where Murder, Inc., hired and fired.
Most compelling of all, Breslin captures the moments in which the Mafia was made and broken Breslin was there the night John Gotti celebrated his acquittal at his Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry, having bribed his way to innocence only to incite the wrath of the FBI, who would later crush Gotti and others with the full force of the RICO laws.
As in his unforgettable novel The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, Breslin brings together these real-life and long-forgotten Mafia stories to brilliantly create a sharp-eyed portrait of the mob as it lived and breathed, as it sounded and survived.
"Breslin, renowned journalist and author of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, revisits a familiar wise-guy milieu in this collection of stories and anecdotes about the mob. His writing, like the Mafia itself, breezily transitions from humorous to horrifying as he regales the reader with loosely connected tales of mistaken identity, crooked cops, snitches and murder. Unlike the Sopranos and the many other touchstones of the American love affair with organized crime, for Breslin, there's good and there's evil, with little in between. As always, however, nicknames are half the fun, as Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano, Tony Caf and Gaspipe Casso take the stage in the Mafia hotspots of the five boroughs, including Greenpoint, in Brooklyn, and Ozone Park, in Queens, as Breslin delights with stories from the Mafia's heyday. Breslin's storytelling is set to the sweet background music of one of the mob's biggest canaries, Burton Kaplan, as he sings to a grand jury. The author's vernacular precision contrasts sharply with the plodding sterility of Kaplan's grand jury testimony, and as we find out, good guys can often tell ugly stories more authentically than the bad guys. The effect is tragicomic as Kaplan's testimony sounds the death knell for his associates. These stories unveil the strict code of conduct, often broken, of a dying breed. According to Kaplan, however, while illegal gambling and extortion may be waning industries, the myth of the American Mafia will never die." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Whole chapters are given over to Kaplan's testimony, with Breslin doing little more than setting it up and interjecting pithy comments....Kaplan does have a distinctive voice, and by letting him do the heavy lifting, Breslin freed himself to tell colorful stories from the old days and riff on the rise and fall of the Mafia." Oregonian
"Breslin knows the territory. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist built a career chronicling New York's underworld, and his familiarity affords him the luxury of letting large chunks of Kaplan's testimony drive the story." USA Today
"For true crime fans, The Good Rat is the next standard-bearer; for Breslin fans new and old, it's a must." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Breslin does not offer apologies for the Mafia. Yet he's also willing to admit his attraction, to tell the stories that made their legend what it was." Los Angeles Times
"Breslin has many great tales in his arsenal." Charlotte Observer
"This is Breslin at his Runyonesque best, mixing hard fact with subjective impressions to paint a nuanced and unforgettable picture of a near-mythic group. If you liked The Sopranos, you'll want to read The Good Rat." Rocky Mountain News
About the Author
Jimmy Breslin was born in Jamaica, Queens. He was awarded the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary. His bestselling and critically acclaimed books include The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight; Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?; The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutiérrez; several anthologies; and the memoir, I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me. He lives on Broadway, the Big Street, in New York City.