Organized Crime Research (kvl-homepage) Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" and Organized Crime

Excerpts from the first pocketbook edition by Fawcett Crest Book (1969) related to key issues of the organized-crime debate, compiled by Klaus von Lampe.

Back to: Organized Crime in the U.S.

References to:
Political Influence/Power
Cosa Nostra
Murder, Inc.
The other Crime Families
Control over Illegal Activities
Range of Activities

References to Sicilians:
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"Because they know that by tradition no Sicilian can refuse a request on his daughter's wedding day. And no Sicilian ever lets a chance like that go by." (27)

Consigliori...So high a position was traditionally given only to a man descended from two Italian parents. (40)

the Don had broken a long-standing tradition. The Consigliori was always a full-blooded Sicilian, and the fact that Hagen had been brought up as a member of the (50) Don's family made no difference to that tradition. It was a question of blood. Only a Sicilian born to the ways of omerta, the law of silence, could be trusted in the key post of Consigliori. (49f)

...any of the powerful Sicilian families who had established themselves in America. (50)

-> p. 67

Blood was blood and nothing else was its equal. (99)

the Sicilians' law of omerta, the law of silence (101)

the ten-century-old law of omerta (213)

Barzini: "Even a Sicilian sentenced to twenty years might break the omerta and talk his brains out." (288)

omerta, the law of silence (324)

Political Influence/Power:
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Don Corleone did not hide his pleasure that so great a man as the Senator had shown him such respect. The Senator, like Luca Brasi, was one of the great stones in (42) the Don's power structure, and he too, with this gift, had resworn his loyalty. (41f)

Woltz was not a stupid man, he was merely a supremely egoistical one. He had mistaken the power he wielded in his world to be more potent than the power of Don Corleone...Would actually have him killed!...There couldn't bbe any kind of world if people acted that way. It was insane. It meant you couldn't do what you wanted with your own money, with the companies you owned, the power you had to give orders. It was ten times worse than communism. It had to be smashed. It must never be allowed. (69)

With the revenue they earn they can amass more and more police and policitcal power. (72)

Detective John Phillips, who was on the family payroll (82)

I need the Family political contacts more than I need the money even. (89)

"He has the political connections they always need and he can use them for trading. If he wants to badly enough". (117)

Hagen... "Your Godfather is a much more powerful in areas far more critical. How can he swing the Award? He controls, or controls the people who control, all the labor unions in the industry, all the people or nearly all the people who vote." (170)

He also would be called in on special cases, where store owners resisted the sales talks of Clemenza and Tessio. Then Vito Corleone would use his own formidable powers of persuasion. (212)

Like any good salesman he came to understand the benefits of undercutting his rivals in price, barring them from distribution outlets by persuading store owners to stock less of their brands. Like any good busi- (213)nessman he aimed at holding a monopoly by forcing his rivals to abandon the field or by merging with his own company. (212f)

He had to rely on the force of his own personality and his reputation as a "man of respect". (213)

A system of payoffs was set up and soon the Corleone organization had a sizable "sheet", the list of officials entitled to a monthly sum. (214)

when these Italians were puzzled and confused on who to vote for to represent them in the state legislature, in the city offices, in the Congress, they should ask the advice of their friend don Corleone, their Godfather. And so he became a political power to be consulted by practical party chiefs...He planned for the future of his empire with all the foresight of a great national leader. (216)

Don Corleone: "I do have some influence but many of the people who respect my counsel might lose this respect if drugs become involved in our relationship. they are afraid to be involved in such business and they have strong feelings about it. (289)

Michael: "Killed, yes; jail, no". (362)

"My father is a businessman trying to provide for his wife and children and those friends he might need someday in a time of trouble. He doesn't accept the rules of the society we live in because those rules would have condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinary force and character. What you have to understand is that he considers himself the equal of all those great men like Presidents and Prime Ministers and Supreme court Justices and Governors of the States. He refuses to live by rules set up by others, rules which condemn him to a defeated life. But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power since society doesn't really protect its members who do not have their own individual power. In the meantime he operates on a code of ethics he considers far superior to the legal structures of society." (365)

The things he did can no longer be done except with a great deal of risk. Whether we like it or not the Corleone Family has to join that society. (365)

He was amazed at how wealthy and powerful the Corleone Family truly was. It owned tremendously valuable real estate in midtown New York, whole office buildings. It owned, through front, partnerships in two Wall Street brokerage houses, pieces of banks on Long Island, partnerships in some garment center firms, all this in addition to its illegal operations in gambling. (391)

Michael: "political connections and power are worth ten regimes. I think I've got most of my father's political power in my hands now, but I'm the only one who really knows that." (414)

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when Don Corleone returned from the hospital, he had informed Hagen that he was now officially the new Consigliori to the family. This meant that Hagen was sure to become a very rich man, to say nothing of power. (49)

Between the head of the family, Don Corleone, who dictated policy, and the operating level of men who actually carried out the orders of the Don, there were three layers, or buffers. In that way nothing could be traced to the top. (50)

caporegime (86), (221), (411)

Clemenza was troubled. Not because Gatto had been his prot‚g‚ and had turned traitor. This did not reflect on the caporegime's judgment. After all, Paulie's background had been perfect. He came from a Sicilian family, he had grown up in the same neighborhood as the Corleone children, had indeed even gone to school with one of the sons. He had been brought up through each level in the proper manner. He had been tested and not found wanting. And then after he had "made his bones" he had received a good living from the Family, a percentage of an East Side "book" and a union payroll slot. Clemenza had not been unaware that Paulie Gatto supplemented his income with free-lance stickups, strictly against the Family rules, but even this was a sign of the man's worth. The breaking of such regulations was considered a sign of high-spiritedness, like that shown by a fine racing horse fighting the reins. (100)

It was an important promotion, that to "button" man (101)

in the organization (101)

acting head of the family (135)

Nino..."...once I asked the Don for a job in his organization...He says every man has only one destiny and that my destiny was to be an artist. Meaning that I couldn't be a racket guy." (188)

Finally Vito Corleone worked out a system of organization. He gave Clemenza and Tessio each the title of Caporegime, or captain, and the men who worked beneath them the rank of soldier. He named Genco Abbandando his counselor, or Consigliori. He put layers of insulation between himself and any operational act. When he gave an order it was to Genco or to one of the caporegimes alone. Rarely did he have a witness to any order he gave any particular one of them. The he split Tessio's group and made it responsible for Brooklyn. He also split Tession off from Clemenza and made it clear over the years that he did not want the two men to associate even socially except when absolutely necessary. ...Tessio understood that Vito did not want his two caporegimes to have any opportunity to conspire against him and he also understood there was no ill will involved, merely a tactical precaution. In return Vito gave Tessio a free hand in Brooklyn while he kept Clemenza's Bronx fief very much under his thumb. (215)

And when an employee of his was arrested and sent to prison by some mischance, that unfortunate man's family received a living allowance; and not a miserly, beggarly, begrudging pittance but the same amount the man earned when free. (215)

Normally the highly placed members of the Corleone Family would never be concerned with such an operational detail. There was at least a five-layer insulation to their level. But since the book was being used as a testing ground for the son-in-law, it had been placed under the direct scrutiny of Tom Hagen, to whom a report was sent every day. (244)

Meanwhile he would guard his Family's empire, earn the respect of his father, and, since the position was not hereditary to an absolute degree, cement his claim as heir to the Corleone Empire. (261)

Succession in control of such enterprise as the Family was by no means hereditary. In any other Family powerful caporegimes such as Clemenza and Tessio might have succeeded to the position of Don. Or at least they might have been allowed to split off and form their own Family. (398)

Tessio: "I think you should give us permission to recruit new men for our regimes" (401)

Hagen: "You gave Lampone his own living, you gave him a lot of freedom. So he needs people to help himin his little empire. But everybody he recruits has to be reported to me. And I notice everybody he puts on the payroll is a little too good for that particular job, is getting a little more money than that particular exercise is worth." (403)

In their eyes he was not yet the new Don; he had not earned the position or the title. If the Godfather had lived, he might have assured his son's succession; now it was by no means certain. (412)

He was put in the Clemenza regime and tested carefully by that masterful personnel man. (424)

He was a "special" and as such commanded a high salary but did not have his own living, a bookmaking or strong-arm operation. (425)

Neri was sent to take command of the Tessio regime. (435)

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"That's the Mafia style, isn't is (sic!)? All olive oil and sweet talk when what you're really doing is making threats." (Woltz) (62)

"And if that Mafia goombah tries any rough stuff, he'll find out I'm not a band leader." (Woltz) (62)

his father is a Mafia chief who has to kill bad people, sometimes bribe high government officials (121)

Corleone was one of the biggest Mafia men in the country with more political connections than Capone had ever had (139)

The toughest hood in the Mafia had to stand still if the lowliest patrolman decided to slap him around (140)

Emissaries were sent that very day by plane to Sicily to prepare a hiding place with the Mafia chief in the hill country (140)

In Sicily at the turn of the century the Mafia was the second government, far more powerful than the official one in Rome. Vito Corleone's father became involved in a feud with another villager who took his case to the Mafia. The father refused to knuckle under and in a public quarrel killed the local Mafia chief. A week later he himself was found dead, his body torn apart by lupara blasts. A month after the funeral Mafia gunmen came inquiring after the young boy, Vito. (194)

This man was reputed to be of the "Black Hand", an offshoot of the Mafia which extorted money from families and storekeepers by threat of physical violence. (195)

He used the Sicilian phrase of the Mafia, "Fari vagnari a pizzu". (199)

his own hot-tempered father who had been killed by the Mafia in Sicily (200)

A real Mafioso chief would have had the other two men killed also. (201)

Corleone, "Watch yourself with that bastard of a Black Hand, he's tricky as a priest. (202)

Black Hand terrorist (203)

Vito Corleone was now a "man of respect" in the neighborhood. He was reputed to be a member of the Mafia in Sicily. (212)

dragged through the bloody mud of the Mafia war (258)

>The Other Mafia Families (258)

The Bocchicchio Family was unique in that, once a particularly ferocious branch of the Mafia in Sicily, it had become an instrument of peace in America. (276)

the Bocchicchios had contacted fellow Mafia chiefs and extracted agreements for their aid. The heavy equipment was sabotaged, the lighter equipment stolen. Mafia deputies in the Italian Parliament launched a bureucratic (sic!) counterattack against the planners. This went on for several years and in that time Mussolini came to power. The dictator decreed that the dam must be built. It was not. The dictator had known that the Mafia would be a threat to his regime, forming what amounted to a separate authority from his own. (277)

In a few short years he had broken the power of the Mafia, simply by arbitrarily arresting anyone even suspected of being a mafioso. (278)

as a diversification, the Bocchicchio Familiy became negotiators and hostages in the peace efforts of waring Mafia families. (278)

they recognized their limitations and knew they could not compete with ther Mafia families in the struggle to organize and control more sophisticated business structures like prostitution, gambling, dope and public fraud. (278)

Chicago Mafia (283)

to the interior of the Sicilian island, to the very heart of a province controlled by the Mafia, where the local capomafioso was greatly indebted to his father for some past service. (324)

Michael was installed as a gueat in the home of a bachelor uncle of the capo-mafioso...The capo-mafioso was a man in his late fifties... (324)

the gabbelotto was a mafioso who for a certain sum of money protected the real estate of the rich from all claims made on it by the poor, legal or illegal. (325)

Don Tommasino was an old-fashioned Mafia chief and would have nothing to do with dope traffic or prostitution. In this Don Tommasino was at odds with the new breed of Mafia leaders springing up in big cities like Palermo, new men who, influenced by American gangsters deported to Italy, had no such scruples.
The Mafia chief was an extremely portly man, a "man with a belly", literally as well as in the figurative sense that meant a man able to inspire fear in his fellow men. (325)

Dr. Taza loved to tell stories about the Mafia and its exploits over the centuries (325)

In this antique garden, Michael Corleone learned about the roots from which his father grew. That the word "Mafia" had originally meant place of refuge. The it became the name for the secret organization that sprang up to fight against the rulers who had crushed the country and its people for centuries. (326)

They learned that society was their enemy and so when they sought redress for their wrongs they went to the rebel underground, the Mafia. And the Mafia cemented is power by originating the law of silence, the omerta. ... And the greatest crime any member of the Mafia could commit would be to tell the police the name of the man who had just shot him or done him any kind of injury. Omerta became the religion of the people. (326)

the Robin Hood Mafia. And to some extent the Mafia fulfilled this role. People turned to their local capo-mafioso for help in every emergency. (326)

the Mafia in Sicily had become the illegal arm of the rich and even the auxiliary police of the legal and political struc- (327)ture. It had become a degenerate capitalist structure, anti-communist, anti-liberal, placing its own taxes on every form of business endeavor no matter how small. (327)

He had passed his medical exams through the good offices of the most important Mafia chief in Sicily who had made a special trip to Palermo to confer with Taza's professors about what grades they should give him. And this too showed how the Mafia in Sicily was cancerous to the society it inhabited. Merit meant nothing. Talent meant nothing. Work meant nothing. The Mafia Godfather gave you your profession as a gift. (327)

The shepherds of the island were often recruited to act as the Mafia's hired killers and did their job simply to earn money to live. Michael thought about his father's organization. If it continued to prosper it would grow into what had happened here on this island, so cancerous that it would destroy the whole country. (327)

The deadly Sicilian shotgun was the favorite weapon of the Mafia. Indeed the police chief sent by Mussolini to clean the Mafia out of Sicily had, as one of his first steps... (328)

arresting and deporting to penal colonies any male suspected of being a mafioso. (328)

believed that anyone imprisoned by the Fascist regime was a democrat and many of these mafiosi were appointed as mayors of villages or interpreters to the military government. This good fortune enabled the Mafia to reconstitute itself and become more formidable than ever before. (328)

favorite spot for the Mafia torturers (329)

"new Mafia" (329)

With this wealth they were trying to encroach on the country fiefs of old-time Mafia leaders whom they con-(330)temptuously labled Moustache Petes. (329f)

The region was loaded with bandits, with Mafia partisans fighting against each other and endangering everybody else in the process. (330)

The Mafia, after the law proved helpless, took this interest of the peasant under its protection and solved the problem in typical fashion. (330)

And yet the Mafia market carts had gaily painted scenes on their sides (331)

He (Michael) was, after all was said, a murderer, a Mafioso who had "made his bones". (334)

Don Tommasino, knowing Michael's true identity and deed, had always been wary of him, treating him as a fellow "man of respect". (335)

Since the word Mafia could never be uttered aloud by the ordinary Sicilian, this was as close as the caf‚ owner could come to asking if Michael was a member of the Mafia. (337)

He was talking about the new-style Mafia chiefs rising in the big cities of Palermo and challenging the power of old-regime stalwarts like himself. (338)

capo-mafioso (338), (350)

He was still having trouble with the new Mafia in the town of Palermo, Dr. Taza said. (346)

"I would have practiced the New England omerta. Yankees are pretty closemouthed too, you know." (360)

Cosa Nostra:
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"...And who are they then to meddle when we look after our own interests? Sonna cosa nostra," Don Corleone said, "these are our own affairs. We will manage our world for ourselves because it is our world, cosa nostra. And so we have to stick together to guard against outside meddlers. (293)

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a crooked police official mixed up in the rackets who got what was coming to him (132)

They had assumed it was another gang execution, and had questioned hoodlums with records in the rackets and a history of strong-arm. (207)

rackets (222)

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Maranzalla was a gangster often in the newspapers, reputed to be the leader of a criminal ring specialized in extortion, gambling and armed robbery. (201)

Kay: "You're really a gangster then" (361)

Kay: "You're telling me you're a gangster" (362)

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Cleveland syndicate, perhaps the most powerful of the strictly gambling operations in the United States (283)

Murder, Inc.:
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Moe Greene was a handsome hood who had made his rep as a Murder Incorporated executioner in Brooklyn. (387)

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Michael: "He's not a crazy machine-gunning mobster as you seem to think." (365)

The other Crime Families:
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one of the five great New York families (87)

there were five or six "Families" too powerful to eliminate. (222)

the Corleone Family had waged war against the five great Mafia Families of New York and the carnage had filled the newspapers. (258)

Besides the Five Families of New York, there were representatives from ten other Families across the country, with the exception of Chicago, that black sheep of their world. (280)

Greene: "You're getting chased out of New York by the other Families" (388)

ever since Don Corleone had made the peace with the Five Families, the strength of the Corleone Family had declined. the Barzini Family was now indisputably the most powerful one in the New York area; allied as they were to the Tattaglias, they now held the position the Corleone Family had once held. (398)

The Five Families sent their Dons and caporegimes, as did the Tessio and Clemenza Families. (409)

Michael Corleone made his reputation and restored the Corleone Family to its primary place in the New York Families. (435)

Control over Illegal Activities:
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The call was from the bookmaker licenced by the Family to operate in the district of the Don's office. (83)

an enforcer who worked with the colored policy bankers in Harlem...This man got along too well with the black people, which hinted at some flaw of character. Also he would be too hard to replace in the position he now held. (101)

When he became a Don and asked opponents to sit down and (203) reason with him, they understood it was the last chance to resolve an affair without bloodshed and murder. (202f)

They knew he had killed Fanucci and though they never spoke about it to anyone the whole neighborhood, within a few weeks, also knew. Vito Corleone was treated as a "man of respect" by everyone. But he made no attempt to take over the Fanucci rackets and tributes. (208)

Vito Corleone made the final step rom a quite ordinary, somewhat ruthless businessman to a great Don in the world of criminal the end of the Prohibition period and the start of the Great Depression, Vito Corleone had become the Godfather, the Don, Don Corleone. (213)

The great Al Capone was Maranzano's friend and he had his won organization, his own men, plus a huge war chest. He would not brook this upstart whose reputation was more that of a Parliamentary debator than a true Mafioso. Maranzano's refusal touched off the great war of 1933 which was to change the whole structure of the underworld in New York City. (217)

The underworld did not know the true strength of his soldiers and even were deceived that Tessio in Brooklyn was a separate and independent operation. (217)

there were five or six "Families" too powerful to eliminate. But the rest, the neighborhood Black Hand terrorists, the free-lance shylocks, the strong-arm bookmakers operating without the proper, that is to say paid, protec-(223)tion of the legal authorities, would have to go. And so he mounted what was in effect a colonial war against these people and threw all the resources of the Corleone organization against them. (222f)

He was underworld apostle of peace and, by 1939, more successfull than any Pope, he had achieved a working agreement amongst the most powerful underworld organizations in the country. Like the Constitution of the United States this agreement respected fully the internal authority of each member in his state or city. The agreement covered only spheres of influence and an agreement to enforce peace in the underworld. (224)

Nobody wanted the old day back again with all its turmoil and trouble (262)

The death of Santino Corleone sent shock waves through the underworld of the nation (276)

Since the New York Families were the most powerful in the country, it was understood that their welfare affected the welfare of the country as a whole. (276)

grand council (276)

Other dons were arriving. They all knew each other, they had met over the years, either socially or when in the pursuit of their businesses. They had always showed each other professional courtesies and in their younger, leaner days had done each other little services. (281)

ambition to supplant Don Corleone as the most powerful and respected Mafia leader in the country and to take over part of the Corleone empire. (285)

Barzini:"Sollozzo and the Tattaghlias could not go into their new business without the assistance of Don Corleone. In fact, his disapproval injured them. That's not his fault of course. The fact remains that judges and politicians who would accept favors from Don Corleone, even on drugs, would not allow themselves to be influenced by anybody else when it came to narcotics. Sollozzo couldn't operate if he didn't have some insurance of his people being treated gently. (288)

It was agreed that Las Vegas and Miami were to be open cities where any of the Families could operate. They all recognized that these were the cities of the future. It was also agreed that no violence would be permitted in these cities and that petty criminals of all types were to be discouraged. it was agreed that in momentous affairs, in executions that were necessary but might cause too much of a public outcry, the execution must be approved by this council. It was agreed that Families would do each other services when requested, such as providing executioners, technical assistance in pursuing certain courses of action such as bribing jurors, which in some instances could be vital. These discussions, informal, colloquial and on a high level, took time and were broken by lunch and drinks from the buffet bar. (291)

they were slyly whittling down the power of the Corleone Family, muscling into their gambling areas, testing the Corleone's reactions and, finding them weak, establishing their own bookmakers. (398)

Barzini bookmakers were put out of business. (435)

He was respected not only for his tactical brillance but because some of the most important caporegimes in both the Barzini and Tattaglia Families immediately went over to his side. (435)

The bloody victory of the Corleone Family was not complete until a year of delicate political maneuvering established Michael Corleone as the most powerful Family chief in the United States. (440)

Now the Corleone Family was unchallengable, and Clemenza had his own Family. (440)

Range of Activities:
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The Corleone Family doesn't need it (drugs), we have the gambling, which is the best business to have. (115)

For the Tattaglia Family dealt in women. Its main business was prostitution. It also controlled most of the nightclubs in the United States and could place any talent anywhere in the country. Phillip Tattaglia was not above using strong-arm to get control of promising singers and comics and muscling in on record firms. But prostitution was the main source of the Family income. (285)

If everything goes right, the Corleone Family will be completely legitimate in about five years. (363)

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