BOOK REVIEW ~ The Accidental Gangster

The Accidental Gangster: From Insurance Salesman to Mob Boss of Hollywood

by  Ori Spado & Dennis Griffin

I just finished this true crime book by Orlando (Ori) Spado better known as the Mob Boss of Hollywood, according to him and his cronies. He had a decades long friendship with mobster Sonny Franzese who kept him protected, on the street and in the joint. It was a good read, no dragging places, moved along well. I’ve been very blessed with the last several books, I’m on a streak. I love when that happens. Spado has his own things he does in Hollywood to make money, but he’s also know as a ’fixer’ for people who are having a problem they need handled, like a debt they are having trouble collecting, or people they are having problems with, things like that. With his connections, and all of the people he knows, he had no problem taking care of most anything for anyone and was quite successful at it.

There are photos in the book and a link where you can see them online too, along with some others, which I always enjoy checking out. The book is co-written with Dennis Griffin who is becoming one of my favorite true crime writers as I have read quite a lot of his work lately and enjoyed it.


 

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Publisher: WildBlue Press – 344 pages
Published: Nov 12th, 2019
MY RATING: 4/5 Stars


The Co-Author- Dennis N. Griffin was born in Rome, New York in 1945. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1962. After being honorably discharged in 1966, he returned to central New York. He is married and has four adult children. Mr. Griffin began his career in investigations and law enforcement in 1975, when Pinkerton, Inc. hired …him as a private investigator. His duties included insurance fraud, missing persons, financial and background investigations, as well as undercover operations. In 1979 the Madison County, New York Department of Social Services hired him as a Senior Child Support Investigator. He was responsible for locating and conducting financial investigations of persons failing to provide legally mandated child support. In 1981 he joined the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, and attained the rank of sergeant. He was a shift supervisor and public information officer. During the same time-period, he moonlighted as a part time patrolman for the Village of Chittenango Police Department. In 1987 Mr. Griffin was hired by the New York State Department of Health as Director of Investigations, Wadsworth Center. The primary mission of his unit was to investigate violations of the Public Health Law relating to clinical and environmental laboratories, and health care fraud. He was responsible for hiring and training investigators, case assignments and general supervision. In addition, he personally handled the more difficult and complex investigations. Many of these cases received both local and national media attention. He retired in 1995. In 1996, Dennis was supposed to be retired, but decided to tell the story of what he learned while investigating the operation of a medical examiner’s office. It was an eye-opening experience and he felt compelled to share it with others. Dennis eventually authored a fictionalized account called, The Morgue. However, readers didn’t believe anything in the book could actually happen, but they liked the story and his style; rough edges and all. Six more mystery/thriller fictions followed. The author is an active member of the Police Writers Association. He attended Onondaga County Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College and the Central New York Regional Academy for Police Training. He has three other novels published through 1stBooks. The first, The Morgue, was published 1999. Red Gold, followed in 2000. In January 2002, his writing career was at a crossroads. Would he continue the uphill struggle for recognition in a genre with a number of well-established authors? Or was it time to find another hobby? The question was answered at a writers’ conference when a lady suggested Dennis try his hand at police-related non-fiction. That was the turning point. He began writing Policing Las Vegas, the history of law enforcement in Las Vegas and Clark County from 1905 thru 2004. Policing was released in April 2005. Writing that book opened his eyes to some interesting things about Las Vegas and the mob that he wanted to explore; leading to his second non-fiction book, The Battle for Las Vegas, the story of the Vegas reign of Chicago mob enforcer Tony Spilotro. In the movie Casino, actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro. The Battle for Las Vegas was released on July 1, 2006. In writing that book, Dennis relied heavily on resources such as retired FBI agents and police detectives from that era, and through his conversations with career criminal and former Spilotro lieutenant Frank Cullotta. Those conversations led to a third Vegas-based non-fiction, CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, released nationally in July 2007. Since that time, Dennis has written several books on the true stories of the Las Vegas mob and the era in which they reigned. In 2007 Denny began hosting his own Internet radio show on Blog Talk Radio.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Kidnapped by a Client

Kidnapped by a Client: An Attorney’s Fight for Justice at Any Cost


 

This was one of the most exciting, scary, and tension filled true crime books I’ve read. You really feel for Sharon Muse as the beginning of the story unfolds and you follow along with her. Things just get more intense and frightening as it continues and she finds herself kidnapped by someone she once represented who was convicted. And he wants revenge his own way now that he’s made her drive out to this creepy abandoned farm. This part of the book is riveting, but there is much more to this story, so check it out. I highly recommend this one.  Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Sharon R. Muse, JD & Holly Lorincz, and the publisher.

 

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Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing  – 312 pages
Publication: Sep 17th, 2019
RATING: 5/5 Stars


The Author- Sharon Muse, JD is the commonwealth attorney for Kentucky’s 14th Judicial District. She has a BA in Psychology from the University of Kentucky, a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Louisville, specialized training in the legal field, and extensive training in effects of trauma on the brain. She works with experts in self-protection, trauma, and grief counseling. Muse teaches classes and speaks to groups about self-protection and assists victims as they navigate the legal system.

Holly Lorincz is a professional collaborative writer and the owner of Lorincz Literary Services, an editing and publishing company. She regular works with New York Times bestselling authors and is award-winning novelist herself. She is also a nationally recognized speaking coach and a longtime speaking instructor.

BOOK REVIEW ~Red River Girl

Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine

 

This is author Joanna Jolly’s debut book on the death of Tina Fontaine. Tina was a Canadian girl, one of a number of aboriginal females who had gone missing and later turned up dead in the Red River. It’s written about as part of a larger problem of sexual exploitation with so many aboriginal young females. But the focus is on this girl for the purposes of this book. There is a lot of pressure for the police to make some progress in the case, and it continues to grow. There are several suspects, and they are careful to take the time to rule them out correctly before focusing on the final one. All of that takes time. The final suspect turns out to be very slippery, and they have to go above and beyond to convince themselves and the Crown that it’s the correct person.

I found this to be an engaging true story of Tina Fontaine’s life and tragic killing. She was just beginning to test her wings in a larger city, and when allowed a bit of freedom took too much and got in over her head. I’d recommend it for true crime readers. It held my interest quite well, and I’d recommend it. A good first effort for Ms. Jolly. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Joanna Jolly, and the publisher.

 

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Publisher: Viking – 320 pages
Published: Aug 27th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

 

The Author- JOANNA JOLLY is an award-winning BBC reporter based in London. She began her journalism career at the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, moving on from there to freelance in India and Australia before covering the fight for independence in East Timor. During the past decade, she’s worked as a BBC producer and reporter in Jerusalem, South Africa, Brussels, Washington, and India as well as spending two years as the BBC correspondent in Kathmandu, Nepal. During that time Jolly specialised in stories of sexual violence against women. Jolly has won several awards, including the 2007 BBC Onassis Bursary. In 2015, she won the Association of International Broadcaster’s best current affairs documentary award for her in-depth look at the prosecution of rape in India. Red River Girl is her first book.

BOOK REVIEW ~ They Must be Monsters

This was simply an amazing book about the McMartin Preschool abuse case back in the 1980s that was all over the news. I remember seeing it, but was busy starting a family, so I didn’t really follow the details then. So this gave me a chance to really dig in and see what it was all about, and wow what a story! What started with one child sexual abuse allegation, eventually snowballed into over 100 at 7 different businesses. It went from molestation to killing animals and devil worship, pictures taken for porn purposes, all kinds of allegations. People never knew who could be next to have the police beating on their door early in the morning with a warrant to search their home or business, and/or taking their kids away to be medically examined for signs of being molested, regardless of your wishes. It really got out of hand and is a good lesson.

This is a very eye-opening case, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t read a thorough run down of the full story. This one is written by two college student who took time off to cover this and spent three years doing so. This book is what they came up with and put together nearly 30 years later, but it’s worth the wait. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad, and the publisher.

 

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BooksGoSocial – 381 pages
Publication: Aug 12th, 2018
RATING: 5/5 Stars

Book Review ~ Out of the Fire and Into the Pan

This is the sequel to ‘Blood on My Hands’ and I found it to be just as good. It picks up where the first book leaves off, sharing how Shannon and her family do after leaving her toxic father. This book covers the period of her adulthood and how she copes with what happened in her childhood. Despite the trauma they all went through, and his continued stalking of the family, despite their repeated moves, they keep striving to better their lives. Shannon’s mother encourages education as the way out and many of them attend further schooling, especially Shannon. She becomes active in teaching, acting and directing on the stage and Australian National TV. She found that writing and music helped when she was stressed at night, and spent times indulging in it. There always seemed to be the threat of her father around outside at times, scratching at the window, the smell of his cigarette smoke seeping in, or his creepy phone calls when they later had a phone.

Read how she starts to learn how to move beyond those awful years, to try and heal herself and learn who she is in this world. How she looks for answers to some of the awful things that happened back in her early years, but finds that no one really wants to help, including the police still. My thanks for a copy from the author and publisher for review.

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Paperback
Thinking Cat Productions – 368 pages
Publication: March 12th, 2019
RATING: 5/5 Stars

Author- Shannon O’Leary (a pseudonym) is a prolific writer and performer. Her first book, The Blood on My Hands, told the story of her traumatic and violent childhood in the 1960s and ’70s Australia. This sequel, Out of the Fire and into the Pan, explains to the reader how she progressed into the adult world while coming to terms with her terrifying past. It is a story of personal growth and of how O’Leary navigates her transition into adulthood, while seeking out the social norms and finding her place in the world. O’Leary has acted and directed on the stage and on Australian national TV, and she runs her own production company and music schools. She has numerous graduate and post-graduate degrees in education, music, and science. Shannon is a teacher and academic, had five children with her deceased former husband, and lives with her longtime partner in the Central Western Plains in Australia.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/out-of-the-fire-and-into-the-pan-shannon-oleary/1130958174?ean=9780648445609

Book Review ~ Savage Appetites

Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession


Rachel Monroe’s book delves into the issue of women and their obsession with true crime. As if that’s always a bad thing. This is basically divided into four sections relating four different cases the author examines as separate cases to consider as studies. I was already familiar with the one of the heiress in the 1940’s who came up with and then crafted a dozen miniaturized crime scenes called nutshells that were used for teaching what later became known as forensics. The second chapter is on a woman who years later, moved into the house where Sharon Tate and others were murdered. She has a thing for the murders and the Tate family in particular and spends her time trying to get to know everything there is to know about both. I remember reading the book she wrote after she eventually managed to get close to remaining family members after mother Doris Tate passed away. The third chapter is about a New York woman who becomes enmeshed with one of the West Memphis Three after seeing a video on it. After falling for one of them by mail, she devotes her life to trying to get him released from death row. And finally, the fourth chapter is about a young female who becomes infatuated with the Columbine school killers after reading all about their exploits online, and begins planning a shooting of her own.

This isn’t a typical true crime book, there is some discussion of the large number of women who are hooked on true crime vs. the small number of men. Then these four different kinds of examples and what they might mean. But it’s still all very interesting if you like the subject. I certainly had no complaints with it and was interested very much. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Rachel Monroe, and the publisher.

 

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Publisher: Scribner – 256 pages
Published: Aug 20th, 2019
RATING: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Rachel Monroe is currently a writer and volunteer firefighter living in Marfa, Texas. She’s written about #vanlife for The New Yorker; a romantic con man for The Atlantic, pick-up artists for New York magazine; child abductions on the Navajo Nation for Esquire; and a small-town quilting scandal for Texas Monthly. Her work has appeared in The Best American Travel Writing 2018, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, the Believer, and elsewhere. She is the author of Savage Appetites.

Book Review ~ Gotti’s Boys

Gotti’s Boys: The Mafia Crew That Killed for John Gotti

 

This was a good look at mob henchmen’s actions and functioning of the particular Bergin crew that operated to help John Gotti on his rise to power and followed his orders. They were busted by recordings made from bugs that were planted in the social club and some other’s home. Indictments were issued from that and the gathering of information after it was learned that one associate and his wife had died in a plane crash under false name, which brought out a lot of things unknown before (Salvatore Ruggiero). Some mentioned: Angelo Ruggiero, John Corneglia, Mark Reiter, Neil Dellacroce, Gene Gotti.

This is a very decent book for those who like mob books in the later days of the Mafia in the US when Gotti was coming up and then in power. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Anthony M. DeStefano, and the publisher.

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Publisher – Citadel ~ 356 pages
Publication – July 30th, 2019
RATING- 4/5 Stars

 

The Author- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony M. DeStefano has covered organized crime for over three decades, including the crime beat for New York Newsday for the past twenty years. His books on organized crime include Gangland New York, King of the Godfathers, Mob Killer, The Big Heist, and Top Hoodlum: Frank Costello, Prime Minister of the Mafia.

Book Review ~ The Gangster’s Cousin

The Gangster’s Cousin: Growing Up In The Luciano Family

 

I found this to be an informative read by author Salvatore Lucania, giving an accounting of what it was like for him growing up in his family in New York. He’s the namesake and cousin of Charles “Lucky” Luciano. I enjoyed his narration throughout as he shared different episodes that happened to him and various friends even in his teens that were pretty amazing. For instance, he and two other buddies were bootlegging Chanel No. 5 perfume at age 16. He got married at 17, and had quite a bit saved from his bootlegging to get them an apartment. Sal was smart, and mostly stayed ahead of the game, even growing up with the dreaded nuns and brothers, once he figured out how to get out from under their control and punishment. He had some wise guys mentoring him, and he always got good advice, no matter the subject.


After he’s grown, he goes on some really crazy journeys that you’ll just have to read to believe, and they have nothing to do with New York. He gets himself into some of the most incredible situations I’ve read about as he follows his way to finding himself, along with trying to make a living over the next couple of decades. It does read more like fiction at times. But he always seems to manage to meet really good friends who are around at key times in his life, and that’s always important.


I’d recommend it to mob and memoir readers, and there is also some great new info at the end for Mafia history fans in the last chapter. I really enjoyed this one! Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Salvatore Lucania, and the publisher.

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Publisher: WildBlue Press – 365 pages
Published: June 21st, 2019
RATED: 5/5 Stars

 

 

 

Book Review ~ Chase Darkness with Me

Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

I reviewed a digital version of this book. The author was a friend and colleague of Michelle McNamera’s until she passed away while working on her true crime book, ‘I’ll Be Gone In The Dark.’ He is one of several who helped her husband to finish the book and get it published. This is his story, telling how he went from just reporting on stories to getting so frustrated that he jumped in and started solving them. He and Michelle had plans to work together at it as soon as she sent off her book manuscript to the publishers, which sadly never happened as she passed away. It tells how Jensen started in murder solving. How he fumbled and got advice, and learned and kept on. Like most anything, the more you do it and learn about it, the better you get at it. Then, at long last, he solved his first case and that made a huge difference in his confidence. After his regular job, he’d been working on Michelle’s book at night.

Jensen eventually developed his own system for getting tips online by targeting certain areas and then focusing on them with information and requests. He solved his 2nd case which came with police recognition and hugs from the victim’s mother and sister, which really meant the most. After that, he was really on his way.

This would be of interest to true crime fans as you can follow along and see how a writer becomes a crime solver. It has multiple cases that are interesting all through the book, some solved and some being worked on yet. Fascinating stuff as law enforcement and others tweak their skills to come up with new ways to solve crime in this new age. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Billy Jensen, and the publisher.



Publisher: Sourcebooks – 336 pages
Publication: Aug 13th, 2019
RATING: 4/5 Star


The Author- Billy Jensen is a true crime journalist focused squarely on unsolved murders and missing persons. But after 17 years of writing hundreds of stories with no endings, he was fed up–and decided to try and solve the murders himself using radical social media techniques. And it worked. Billy has solved or helped solve ten homicides. Law enforcement agencies now reach out to Billy to help in cases that have them stumped, using him as a “consulting digital detective,” or as Men’s Journal referred to him: The Facebook Detective.

He has written crime stories for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Magazine and the Long Island Press, and was most recently a producer and investigator on the Warner Bros. show Crime Watch Daily, where he covered the Allenstown 4 murders, the Humboldt 5, the gap in the system when it comes to missing persons and unidentified remains and the unique talents of citizen detectives. His investigation into the wrongful conviction of Kimberly Long helped earn her release from prison.

After his friend Michelle McNamara suddenly passed away in 2016, Billy helped finish her book on the Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, alongside her researcher Paul Haynes and her husband Patton Oswalt.

Book Review ~ The Evil Within

The Evil Within

Murdered by her stepbrother- the crime that shocked a nation. The heartbreaking story of Becky Watts by her father, Darren Galsworthy. Previously published as “Becky”, this is the story about a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Bristol, England who was very shy and just getting over a serious bout with anorexia after being bullied. When she suddenly goes missing, her family knows there’s a problem as she’s too shy to go off on her own or run away. They report it to the police right after checking with all those who know her, and an investigation is begun. What they end up finding when it’s all over will destroy what’s left of Becky’s family.

This is for the strong of heart true crime fans only as it’s really a heartbreaking story. If you are really sensitive you may want to pass this one over. I know that I haven’t cried so much reading a book in a long time, and it left me with a migraine. But I was hooked on reading it and was determined to finish it.

 

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Kindle Edition read
Publisher: Harper Element – 304 pages
Publication: March 10th, 2016
RATING: 4/5 Stars