Mafia Brotherhoods: The Rise of the Italian Mafias by John Dickie
|MafiaBrotherhoods: The Rise of the Italian Mafias by John Dickie|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: In-depth academic research into the birth and growth of the mafias delivered in a way that makes it accessible and enjoyable to the casual reader. Highly recommended. John Dickie was kind enough to talk to Bookbag about Blood Brothrhoods.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: June 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
In hardback the title of this book is Blood Brotherhoods: The Rise of the Italian Mafias There can be few people who are unaware of the 'mafia' particularly as the word is used as a catch-all to cover the Italian criminal fraternity – and by extension the off-shoots which have spread throughout the world – but the south of Italy has three major mafias. Sicily is the birthplace of and home to Cosa Nostra, whilst Naples and its hinterland hosts the camorra. In Calabria, possibly the poorest region of Italy, you'll find the 'ndrangheta. There are plenty of myths and legends about the birth of the criminal organisations, but Professor John Dickie has looked at their early history from 1851 through to the liberation of Italy at the end of the Second World War. He looks at their rituals and their methods and much of what you will read has been a secret until now.
I don't usually begin a review by saying what a book isn't, but I think it's important here. If you're looking for a book of stories about guys with silly nicknames whacking one another (those are John Dickie's words) then this isn't really the place to look. This book is based on serious academic research and whilst violent deaths are regular occurrences the thrust of the book is the birth and growth of the mafias and their interactions with the forces of law and order. On the face of it that might sound quite a simple relationship, with the criminals being pursued by the law enforcers, or even being the controlling force, but there were occasions when the mafias were ostensibly used to 'co-manage' the upholding of the law, particularly in prisons. The relationships were frequently complex and usually quite opaque.
BUT, don't let me put you off by referring to 'serious academic research'. That's the background to the book and where the dryness ends. Weaving three strands of history into one readable thread is no mean feat. John Dickie himself refers to the 'architecture' of the book, but I'd prefer to say that it's been crafted rather than simply written. We follow the development of the three criminal organisations, but without losing sight of the wider picture – and it would be easy to forget that Italy itself didn't become one nation until 1861.
The writing style is very easy to read. It's chatty and informative, rather like having someone you know describe something to you. There's no jargon – or when it's necessary it's explained in language the layman understands – and there's a particular talent for lifting characters off the page. Given that information about the people (and most of them are not well-known names) comes from archival research it's unusual to find that their personalities emerge quite so well and this applies to the mafiosi as well as to the policemen.
There's the full supporting cast of maps and illustrations which bring the narrative to life. John Dickie has wisely eschewed footnotes which would be a little much for the general reader but there are extensive notes on sources and details of sources consulted for the more specialist reader.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
John Dickie has promised us a sequel to Blood Brotherhoods, but in the meantime you might enjoy Into the Heart of the Mafia: A Journey Through the Italian South by David Lane.
John Dickie was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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