Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: To Kill the Irishman

To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia,by Rick Porrello, is a great book for fans of true crime. It tells the story of Danny Greene, an Irish Mobster battled with the Cleveland Mafia for control of the city’s rackets.

Porrello’s background in law enforcement lends unique insight to the material, in a genre dominated by journalists.
At times his style can be on the dry side, and he suffers from problem common among true crime writers who tackle the mafia: too many characters, with too many shifts in focus. But Porrello’s even-handed approach more than makes up for these minor issues. For those who do have trouble navigating the names, there is handy reference sheet for all the major players in the first few pages of To Kill the Irishman.

Gamers will find To Kill the Irishman an excellent source of material for modern campaigns (particularly those involving law enforcement or criminal networks). Danny Greene can be ripped directly from the book and popped into a session with ease (I created a 4 session campaign entirely from the events of the book). He was a brash, celtic warrior, who loved animals and despised Italians. Porrello paints a clear portrait of Greene, and hones in on some useful details, like his exploitation of local media outlets and his somewhat mundane home life.

The book covers everything from Greene’s birth to his rise and his assassination by the mafia, plus its aftermath.
Porrello does a good job explaining the legal context of the story, something many writers gloss over, and he avoids some of the over-the-top speculation and sensationalism
similar books succumb to.

These last two points deserve some emphasis and Porrello deserves praise because of them. In a lot of books in this genre, the writers breath life onto the page by engaging in less than objective reporting on the facts, choosing sexier details or assumptions that fit the overarching theme of the book rather than more reasonable conclusions.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in the Italian
Mafia or Irish Mob, and to any gamers looking for campaign material. Though it leaves something to be desired in terms of focus (I would liked to have seen fewer detours into the backgrounds of minor characters), it is a refreshingly objective look at the topic.

To Kill The Irishman, is published by Next Hat Press, and is being made into a motion picture called “The Irishman”. Rick Porrello is a writer, jazz musician, commentator,
and police chief. His website is resource for all things mafia.


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