Deadly Silence

by Edwards,
ISBN: 0771590172

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A Parallel Universe
by Matthew Kudelka

PAUL VOLPE was murdered by the Philadelphia mob in a turf war over rights to develop casinos in Atlantic City. Rosario Sciarrino, a bankrupt photographer, went deeply into debt with Rocco Zito, a Toronto crime boss. At their last meeting, when Sciarrino insulted the mobster's honour -- which was alarmingly easy to do -- Zito flew into a blind and sudden rage, and bludgeoned him into unconsciousness with a wine bottle before shooting him twice.

Alberto Agueci of Toronto broke the Mafia's code of silence by threatening to inform on his bosses in the heroin trade and was tortured to death by lieutenants of the Magaddino clan of Buffalo, New York. His eyes were burned out with a blowtorch; 40 pounds of flesh were hacked from his body while he was still alive. Giovanni Costa, a wrought-iron worker and taxpaying father of three, was shotgunned to death outside his home in Thornhill, Ontario, because he was the brother of the wrong men -- at the time, his cousins in Italy were locked in a bitter feud with another mob family.

Organized crime in Canada is a parallel universe with tenuous connections to reality as law-abiding people -- including the vast majority of Italian-Canadians, who hate the various forms of the Mafia at least as much as anyone else -- recognize it. The mobsters in Deadly Silence would not be more strange if they had pointy ears and polka-dot skins. Fortunately, they murder each other more often than they murder outsiders.

Peter Edwards and Antonio Nicaso do much to explain the Mafia's origins and its staying power in a society-at-large that bears no resemblance to the one that gave birth to it. What sets Mafia families apart is not their degree of organization -most crime is organized -- but their strict and all-embracing codes of honour and respect. This is true of all four main branches of the Mafia: Cosa Nostra (based in Sicily), 'Ndrangheta (Calabria), Camorra (Naples), and La Cosa Nostra (North America). All four operate independently but sometimes cooperate. What they share is an emphasis on respect, a harsh code of secrecy, and a belief that they are "a natural force, like a raging fire or torrent of water." Money is not the object of Mafia activity but something that accumulates through the gaining and exercise of power.

The authors base their book on 13 mob-related murders in Canada between 1911 and 1992. They use each case to illuminate different aspects of Mafia history, and mores. There are some very strange characters in this book: Max Bluestein, who defied Johnny Papalia and, after being beaten almost to death for his effrontery, was reduced to whimpering paranoia for the remainder of his life; Angelo (Quack Quack) Ruggiero, whose viciousness was matched only by his garrulity; and Paolo Violi, who played by the family rules and died by them, walking calmly to his death (by shotgun blast) in a Toronto bakery when he knew he had run out of allies, though not respect. The Godfather hasn't died, and Edwards and Nicaso explain his habits in this Country as well as anyone can. Deadly Silence is soaked in enough blood to satisfy most true-crime fans. But it is also solid reporting, and an intelligently written primer for anyone who wants to understand how the Mafia clans operate and why Canadian law is unlikely to succeed in containing them.


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