Crow’s Feat

In Blood and Honor, Nick "The Crow" Caramandi lets us watch while the Philadelphia mob rubs itself out.

They [Beloff and Rego] asked me what I told him. And I said I told him he can’t get nothing without me, without my approval. Rouse has to go through me. The money has to go through me.
 
Can you believe the balls on this guy? He really thought he could force a white-bread prep school scion like Rouse to admit that the lawful world in which he lives cannot insulate itself from another, lawless world. The Crow and his pals overstepped, big-time. Rouse placed a call to the FBI, an undercover agent wearing a wire posed as the developer’s emissary, and before long everything — the plot, Cararnandi’s career, the mob itself — began to disintegrate. The kind of rough treatment that always worked in South Philly or Atlantic City was a joke on Market Street. And The Crow was, too: This time when he said "Ba-boom!" everybody laughed. If there’s a moral to Caramandi’s life, perhaps this is it: No matter how much money or power you earn, if you start out thinking you’re a loser, you’re a loser. Maybe The Crow’s got a self-help book for lowlifes in him.
 
Until then, this terrific, scary volume will do just fine. Anastasia provides a worm’s-eye view of two decades of organized crime in the city: Because Caramandi had been knocking around for years before his career took off, he has a storyteller’s outside-looking-in perspective on the Bruno-Testa administrations. And he is right in the middle of the insanely suspicious and treacherous plotting, counter-plotting, and counter-counterplotting that have characterized the years since Bruno’s death. His battle stories are evil, pathetic, hilarious, and sometimes all three. All the high points are covered — the Riccobene wars, the prolonged stalking of Salvatore Testa, the shift of power to the shore, the fall of Atlantic City Mayor Mike Matthews, the Rouse plot, John McCullough’s murder, and on and on. With The Crow’s help, Anastasia also manages to bring to life the club members we’ve come to know only by their predictably juvenile nicknames — Faffy and Yogi and Chickie and Cuddles and Cupcakes and all the rest.
 
This book is all we have left of them. Nicholas Caramandi was arrested for the Rouse plot, and while in jail learned that Scarfo had ordered his murder. With that, The Crow "flipped" — agreed to testify against his former associates in exchange for light prison time. (He’s a free man today.) His court performances helped convict Scarfo and 16 others on racketeering charges. Oh, and the federal prosecutor who put The Crow and his pals away was a upright sort named Louis Pichini. Does this mean we’re even now?
 


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