THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist

  • Stay tuned for THIEF! book signings, media interviews and other THIEF! events
  • Media Reviews posted periodically
  • Mobwriter comments on true crime events and books

THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Monday, June 30, 2008


The following was posted June 24 on Despite the negatives, it's still a worthwhile purchase for Bugsy fans. It's available on new for $12.99.

Don't Call Me Bugsy
A curious phenomenon occurs all too often with documentary films about organized crime. Even the most rational and high-minded documentarian tends to fall prey to the notion that they must adhere to the tropes of a gangster B-movie. Don't Call Me Bugsy, which details the rise and fall of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, is no exception. From its self-consciously hardboiled voiceover narration to its formulaic presentation, the 70-minute doc is a passable, if unexceptional, examination of the underworld figure who helped create modern-day Las Vegas.

Don't Call Me Bugsy touches on the essentials about Siegel, whose crazy temper earned him the sobriquet "Bugsy," a nickname he despised (hence the title of the flick). Born in Brooklyn, he aligned himself at an early age with fellow gangsters Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Lansky was the brains of the outfit and Luciano the connection to the Sicilian Mafia, but Siegel possessed the murderous instinct that made him the favored triggerman. True-crime author Tim Power notes that the trio was undeniably vicious, but "it's impossible not to admire their energy, their drive."

As Prohibition ensured there was a fortune to be made trafficking in illegal booze, the Luciano-Lansky-Siegel alliance maneuvered to head criminal activities in New York and along the East Coast. In 1931, Siegel and three others killed old-school Mob boss Joe Masseria, setting the stage for the new generation of young Turks to transform organized crime into more of a streamlined business operation. But Siegel was restless for more adventure and, in 1935, relocated to Los Angeles. Enlisting the help of childhood-friend-turned-actor George Raft, Siegel dived into Beverly Hills society. His movie-star looks and roguish charm made him a favorite among polite society, particularly with rich women.

His most significant achievement, however, came when Lansky directed Siegel to spearhead the construction of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gambling had been legal in the dusty desert town since the mid-1930s, but Lansky envisioned a gaming Mecca along the lines of what organized crime had built in pre-Castro Cuba.Siegel took to the assignment with a vengeance, sparing no expense in his desire to make the Flamingo a world-class destination. Nevertheless, costly delays and a ballooning budget assured his own demise. In 1947, Siegel was gunned down in his Beverly Hills home, a crime that remains unsolved.

The documentary intersperses black-and-white still photographs and archival footage with a handful of interviews from true-crime experts and various folks who knew Siegel, including his lawyer, barber and next-door neighbor. While the interviewees offer some juicy tidbits, they must compete with a hackneyed voiceover narration read by Larry Moran. When relating Siegel's 1926 arrest for rape, the narrator's sonorous voice tells us, "When it came to sex, he didn't discriminate. He didn't always ask, either." Siegel's longtime girlfriend, Virginia Hill, is described as "a feisty redhead from the foothills of North Carolina." Cue the eye-rolling. It's enough to make Mickey Spillane shudder.

It isn't a bad documentary, but it is uninspired and surprisingly lifeless. Too much of the film is a recitation of facts that don't shed much light on the subject. Only when we get to the saga of the Flamingo does Don't Call Me Bugsy really grab you, and most of that is due to rarely seen footage of Las Vegas in its early days.

The Video: The full-frame picture is solid but unremarkable. A few of the modern-day interviews suffer from softness, but much of the black-and-white archival footage is in very good condition.

The Audio: The 2.0 Stereo audio track gets the job done without any fanfare. The sound is somewhat flat, but you clearly hear the interviews and voiceover narrator, which is all that an audience would need.

English subtitles are available, but it should be noted that whoever is responsible for them evidently has little understanding of when a comma is necessary.

Extras: None.

Final Thoughts: Made in 1992, Don't Call Me Bugsy is a run-of-the-mill true-crime documentary that packs more information than it does illumination. The film chronicles Siegel's extravagant tastes for the Flamingo, but there is no speculation about what prompted it. What was his vision for Las Vegas? Did he even have a vision for it? People fascinated by organized crime (a group that includes your reviewer) would be better-served elsewhere, while viewers with only a casual interest are not likely to find much here worth their time.

Thanks to Phil Bacharach

Friday, June 27, 2008

Can't Find a Book About The Mob or Las Vegas?

Below is one of the most complete lists of mob, gambling & Las Vegas related books I've ever seen! It comes straight from the Gambler's Book Shop catalog ( Here's their contact info:

Gambler`s Book Shop
630 South 11th Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101
TOLL FREE ORDER LINES: 1-800-522-1777 & 1-800-634-6243

Click on an item to view its description:

20 YEARS A FAKIR by Weldon, S. James ...Order 494804...$1.00
24/7 LIVING IT UP & DOUBLING DOWN IN THE NEW LAS VEGAS by Martinez, Andres ...Order 612908...$15.00
ACCARDO: THE GENUINE GODFATHER by Roemer, William F. ...Order 552704...$6.99
AIDING AND ABETTING by Spark, Muriel ...Order 620109...$21.00
ALWAYS BET ON THE BUTCHER by UNR Oral History ...Order 558204...$21.95
AMERICAN MAFIA by Reppetto, Thomas ...Order 400404...$26.00
AN OFFER WE CAN'T REFUSE - THE MAFIA IN THE MIND OF AMERICA by De Stefano; George ...Order 526504...$26.00
ANOINTED ONE: NEVADA POLITICS by Ralston, Jon ...Order 537504...$17.95
ART OF GAMBLING & THE AGES by Flowers, Arthur/ Curtis, Tony ...Order 533404...$40.00
BARBARY COAST: HISTORY OF SAN FRANCISCO UNDERWORLD by Asbury, Herbert ...Order 455904...$14.95
BARNEY ROSS by Century, Douglas ...Order 655204...$19.95
BATTLE FOR LAS VEGAS:THE LAW VS. THE MOB by Griffin, Dennis N. ...Order 669104...$14.95
BENNY BINION by Gatewood, Jim ...Order 500004...$41.50
BEYOND THE GLIMMERING LIGHTS by Geran, Trish ...Order 486204...$19.95
BEYOND THE MAFIA by Balboni, Dr. Alan ...Order 529604...$27.95
BEYOND THE MAFIA (PAPERBACK) by Balboni, Alan ...Order 544604...$19.95
BIG BANKROLL-LIFE AND TIMES OF ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN by Katcher, leo ...Order 534904...$18.00
BIG JULIE OF VEGAS by Linn, Edward ...Order 462404...$5.00
BLACK BOOK AND THE MOB by Farrell, Ronald & Carole Case ...Order 550104...$18.95
BLACK GANGSTERS OF CHICAGO by Chepesiuk, Ron ...Order 401104...$22.00
BLACK STEPS IN DESERT SANDS by Overstreet, Everett Louis ...Order 537404...$10.00
BLOOD AND HONOR by Anastasia, George ...Order 556404...$17.95
BLOOD AND VOLUME: INSIDE NEW YORK'S ISRAELI MAFIA by Copeland, Dave ...Order 684204...$22.00
BLOOD COVENANT by Franzese, Michael ...Order 654304...$19.95
BLUEGRASS CONSPIRACY by Denton, Sally ...Order 528304...$14.95
BLUEGRASS DAYS NEON NIGHTS by Smith, John L. ...Order 621404...$24.95
BOSS OF BOSSES by O'Brien, Joseph & A. Kurins ...Order 531204...$7.50
BOULDER CITY NEVADA by Rodden, Mimi ...Order 549704...$18.99
BOUND BY HONOR by Bonanno, Bill ...Order 556904...$7.99
BRINGING DOWN THE MOB by Reppetto, Thomas ...Order 458504...$26.00
BROTHERHOODS: TRUE STORY OF TWO COPS WHO MURDERED ... by Lawson, Guy & Wm. Oldham ...Order 496904...$7.99
BROTHERS BULGER, THE by Carr, Howie ...Order 425094...$25.95
BROWNSVILLE by Kleid, Neil & Allen, Jake ...Order 425404...$18.95
BUILDING HOOVER DAM by Dunbar, Andrew & Dennisa McBri ...Order 557104...$24.95
BUILDINGS OF NEVADA by Nicoletta, Julie ...Order 619408...$45.00
BULLETS OVER HOLLYWOOD by McCarty, John ...Order 456504...$25.00
CAPONE by Kobler, John ...Order 481004...$19.95
CAPTAIN WILL FRITZ AND THE DALLAS MAFIA by Gatewood, Jim ...Order 480904...$32.50
CARD SHARPS, DREAMBOOKS AND BUCKETS by Fabian, Ann ...Order 531104...$29.95
CARNY KID, THE: SURVIVAL OF A YOUNG THIEF by Kahn, Kenneth ...Order 463504...$19.95
CASINO'S MOST VALUABLE CHIP by Scheri III, Saverio R ...Order 444004...$29.95
CIGAR CITY MAFIA (PAPERBACK) by Deitche, Scott M. ...Order 400904...$14.95
COLORADO GAMBLING (EARLY DAYS) by Wommack, Linda ...Order 532204...$4.95
CON MAN: A MASTER SWINDLER'S OWN STORY by Weil, J R ...Order 614604...$14.00
COVERT, MY YEARS INFILTRATING THE MOB by Delaney, Bob ...Order 555504...$19.95
CRIME INCORPORATED by Balsamo, Wm. & George Carr ...Order 529804...$15.95
CROOKS CON MEN AND CHEATS by Villiod, Eugene ...Order 466804...$4.95
CROSSROADER by Moore, N.M. and Walt Darring ...Order 532604...$14.95
CULLOTTA by Griffin, Dennis ...Order 603204...$19.95
CULT VEGAS by Weatherford, Mike ...Order 534204...$19.95
CUTTING THE WIRE by Schwartz, David G ...Order 442404...$24.95
DEVILS BARGAINS by Rothman, Hal K. ...Order 462302...$34.95
DIRTY DEALING by Cartwright, Gary ...Order 532704...$18.95
DOUBLE DEAL by Giancana, Sam and M Corbitt ...Order 500104...$7.99
DOUBLE DOWN by Barthelme, Frederick & Steven ...Order 554004...$13.00
DOUBLE OR NOTHING: HOW TWO FRIENDS RISKED IT ALL by Breitling, Tom ...Order 401404...$24.95
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF UNSOLVED CRIMES by Newton, Michael ...Order 528004...$21.95
ETHNIC OASIS: THE CHINESE IN THE BLACK HILLS by Zhu, Liping ...Order 527804...$15.95
EVERY MAN A SPECULATOR by Fraser, Steve ...Order 441204...$29.95
EYEING THE FLASH by Fenton, Peter ...Order 527904...$23.00
FAKERS, FORGERS & PHONEYS: FAMOUS SCAMS AND SCAMPS by Magnusson, Mangus ...Order 444404...$16.95
FAMILY AFFAIR by UNR Oral History Prgm ...Order 453804...$24.95
FAST COMPANY by Bradshaw, Jon ...Order 544304...$16.00
FIGHTING BACK by McMillan, James ...Order 527304...$21.95
FIRE IN THE DESERT by Puit, Glenn ...Order 485804...$16.95
FIRST 100 by Hopkins, A.D. & K.J. Evans ...Order 538604...$19.95
FIVE FAMILIES by Raab, Selwyn ...Order 442304...$29.95
FUN AND GAMES IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICA by Giordano, Ralph ...Order 471304...$49.95
G-MEN AND GANGSTERS by Spinale, Dominic ...Order 534604...$17.95
GALVESTON: ISLAND OF CHANCE by Chalfant, Frank E. ...Order 534404...$27.95
GAMBLERS OF YESTERYEAR by Barnhart, Russell ...Order 470804...$3.00
GAMBLERS OF THE OLD WEST by Kelly, Bill ...Order 551504...$24.95
GAMBLING & SPECULATION by Brenner, Rueven and Gabrielle ...Order 540604...$67.16
GAMBLING AND GAMBLING DEVICES by Quinn, John Phillip ...Order 471204...$8.95
GAMBLING WIZARDS by Munchkin, Richard ...Order 557804...$14.95
GAMBLING'S STRANGEST MOMENTS by Sharpe, Graham ...Order 543604...$13.00
GANGSTER CAPITALISM by Woodiwiss, Michael ...Order 426504...$14.95
GANGSTER CITY by Downey, Patrick ...Order 400004...$23.95
GANGSTERS, SWINDLERS, KILLERS, AND THIEVES by Block, Lawrence ...Order 402004...$26.00
GENIUS by Gleick, James ...Order 556704...$16.00
GLOBAL UNDERWORLD by Liddick, Donald R ...Order 467104...$39.95
GOLD, GALS, GUNS, GUTS by Lee, Bob ...Order 442004...$24.95
GOOD RAT: A TRUE STORY (HB) by Breslin, Jimmy ...Order 565704...$24.95
GREAT GAMBLES OF THE CIVIL WAR by Katcher, Phillip ...Order 441504...$9.99
GREEN FELT JUNGLE by Demaris, Ovid and Ed Reid ...Order 498904...$35.95
HANG TOUGH: GRANT SAWYER by UNR Oral History Program ...Order 536604...$12.95
HAVANA NOCTURNE: HOW THE MOB OWNED CUBA by English, T.J. ...Order 426704...$27.95
HENDERSON IMAGES OF AMERICA by Armstrong, R Jackson ...Order 558304...$19.99
HISTORIC PHOTOS OF CHICAGO CRIME: CAPONE ERA by Russick, John ...Order 401504...$39.95
HISTORIC PHOTOS OF LAS VEGAS by Burbank, Jeff ...Order 600504...$39.95
HISTORY OF DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS by Las Vegas Facts ...Order 501004...$19.95
HISTORY OF HISPANICS IN SOUTHERN NEVADA by Miranda, M. L. ...Order 441004...$31.95
HISTORY OF L.V. NEIGHBORHOOD HOTEL/CASINOS by Las Vegas Facts ...Order 501104...$19.95
HISTORY OF L.V. OFF STRIP HOTEL/CASINOS by Las Vegas Facts ...Order 501304...$19.95
HITTING THE JACKPOT by Fromson, Brett Duval ...Order 441304...$15.00
HOLD THE ROSES by Rose Marie ...Order 400304...$25.00
HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITY PLAYGROUND by Johns, Howard ...Order 595804...$35.00
HOLLYWOOD'S CELEBRITY GANGSTER by Lewis, Brad ...Order 402304...$22.00
HOUSE OF HILTON: FROM CONRAD TO PARIS by Oppenheimer, Jerry ...Order 686804...$24.95
HOWARD HUGHES: POWER, PARANOIA & PALACE INTRIGUE by Schumacher, Geoff ...Order 520304...$25.95
HOWARD HUGHES: THE UNTOLD STORY by Brown, Peter Harry ...Order 533304...$17.95
I'LL DO MY OWN DAMN KILLIN' by Sleeper, Gary ...Order 565604...$22.00
IF I DIE by Fleeman, Michael ...Order 530604...$6.99
IN NEVADA by Thomson, David ...Order 537904...$14.00
IN NEVADA THE LAND PEOPLE & CHANGE by Thomson, David ...Order 530104...$27.50
IT WAS NEVER A GAMBLE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF A 1900'S HUSTLER by James, C W, Jr. ...Order 450204...$29.95
IT'S UNLUCKY TO BE SUPERSTITIOUS by Rowan, D. Arthur ...Order 414104...$14.95
J. FRANK NORRIS TOP O' HILL CASINO by Gatewood, Jim ...Order 442104...$42.50
JFK AND SAM by Giancana, Antoinette ...Order 452004...$22.95
JOHN DILLINGER SLEPT HERE by MacCabee, Phil ...Order 551404...$24.95
KING CON: THE STORY OF SOAPY SMITH by Haigh, Jane G. ...Order 401604...$9.95
KING OF THE GODFATHERS: BIG JOEY MASSINO by DeStefano, Anthony ...Order 401204...$6.99
KING OF THE JEWS (PAPERBACK) by Tosches, Nick ...Order 422804...$14.95
LAS VEGAS AS IT BEGAN AS IT GREW by Paher, Stanley ...Order 466904...$29.95
LAS VEGAS MEMORIES by Las Vegas Facts ...Order 501114...$24.95
LAS VEGAS THE GREAT AMERICAN PLAYGROUND by McCracken, Robert ...Order 551604...$16.95
LAS VEGAS THE FABULOUS FIRST CENTURY by Ainlay, Thomas and J. Gabaldon ...Order 566804...$24.99
LAS VEGAS: A CENTENNIAL HISTORY by Moehring, Eugene ...Order 441104...$21.95
LAS VEGAS: AN UNCONVENTIONAL HISTORY by Ferrari, Michelle ...Order 466704...$40.00
LAST GANGSTER by Anastasia, George ...Order 500204...$25.95
LAST HONEST PLACE IN AMERICA (PAPERBACK) by Cooper, Marc ...Order 401209...$14.95
LAST MOUTHPIECE by Simone, Robert F. ...Order 557304...$24.95
LAST RESORT by Dombrink, John & Wm Thompson ...Order 610808...$29.95
LAUGHLIN NEVADA HISTORY - #3 by Taylor, Richard ...Order 539904...$12.00
LAUGHLIN NEVADA HISTORY - #4 by Taylor, Richard ...Order 548104...$12.00
LEARNING FROM LAS VEGAS by Venturi, and Brown and Izenour ...Order 536904...$17.95
LEGALIZED GAMBLING by Thompson, William ...Order 541304...$45.00
LESTER BEN "BENNY" BINION by UNR Oral History Program ...Order 535304...$26.00
LIBERAL CONSCIENCE, A by Denton, Ralph ...Order 483204...$25.95
LICENSE TO STEAL (PAPERBACK) by Burbank, Jeff ...Order 520204...$18.95
LICENSE TO STEAL by Burbank, Jeff ...Order 540204...$29.95
LIFE AND TIMES OF LEPKE BUCHALTER by Kavieff, Paul R. ...Order 442604...$22.00
LITERARY COMPANION TO GAMBLING by Davis-Goff, Annabel ...Order 535604...$5.00
LUCKY LUCIANO by Powell, Hickman ...Order 553204...$23.95
MADE MEN by Smith, Greg B. ...Order 536204...$6.99
MAFIA AND ORGANIZED CRIME: A BEGINNER'S GUIDE by Finckenauer, James ...Order 401304...$14.95
MAFIA AND THE ALLIES, THE by Costanzo, Ezio ...Order 442704...$17.00
MAFIA BUSINESS by Aarlacchi, Pino ...Order 616508...$13.95
MAFIA DYNASTY by Davis, John H. ...Order 548904...$7.99
MAFIA ENCYCLOPEDIA by Sifakis, Carl ...Order 541604...$19.95
MAFIA IN HAVANA by Cirules, Enrique ...Order 542404...$17.95
MAFIA WIFE by Milito, Lynda and R Potterton ...Order 600004...$7.99
MANHATTANIZING LAS VEGAS by Murad, Paul ...Order 451111...$19.95
MAVERICK SPIRIT THE by Davis, Richard ...Order 524204...$17.95
MEMORIES OF THE LAS VEGAS STRIP by Las Vegas Facts ...Order 501204...$14.95
MEMORIES OF DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS by Las Vegas Facts ...Order 501604...$9.95
MOB NEMESIS by DeNevi, Don and Joe Griffin ...Order 535404...$26.00
MOBSTERS, UNIONS & FEDS: MAFIA & AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT by Jacobs, James B. ...Order 524504...$32.95
MONEY AND THE POWER by Denton, Sally ...Order 536304...$15.95
MOTOR CITY MAFIA: A CENTURY OF ORGANIZED CRIME IN DETROIT by Burnstein, Scott ...Order 562604...$19.99
MOULIN ROUGE HISTORY by Taylor, Richard ...Order 548004...$24.00
MT CHARLESTON HISTORY: VOL. 3 by Taylor, Richard ...Order 536104...$15.00
MURDER OF A MAFIA DAUGHTER by Scott, Cathy ...Order 558004...$23.95
MY FATHER'S SON by Cladianos, Pete ...Order 526904...$21.95
MY YEARS WITH CAPONE by Elliott, Neil ...Order 529904...$10.95
McMAFIA: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Glenny, Misha ...Order 402402...$27.95
McMAFIA: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Glenny, Misha ...Order 402404...$27.95
NEON METROPOLIS by Rothman, Hal ...Order 534304...$27.50
NEON METROPOLIS PAPERBOUND by Rothman, Hal ...Order 534704...$20.95
NEVADA TOWNS & TALES -VOL I NORTH by Paher, Stanley ...Order 532004...$19.95
NEVADA TOWNS & TALES -VOL II SOUTH by Paher, Stanley ...Order 532104...$22.50
NEVADA YESTERDAYS by Wright, Frank ...Order 442504...$24.95
NEVADA'S GOLDEN AGE GAMBLING by Woods, Albert ...Order 538904...$19.95
NO LIMIT--RISE AND FALL OF BOB STUPAK by Smith, John L. ...Order 534804...$21.95
NOTHING PERSONAL JUST BUSINESS... by Dickson, Kenneth ...Order 464604...$20.00
OF RATS AND MEN: OSCAR GOODMAN by Smith, John L. ...Order 549104...$25.95
ON THE BOULEVARD by Smith, John L. ...Order 530804...$12.95
ORGANIZED CRIME by Lunde, Paul ...Order 475204...$30.00
OUTFIT, THE by Russo, Gus ...Order 540104...$35.00
PADDY WHACKED by English, T J ...Order 533904...$27.95
PAPER FAN: THE HUNT FOR TRIAD GANGSTER STEVEN WONG by Gould, Terry ...Order 540804...$16.95
PARABLES FROM (a not quite) PARADISE NEVADA by Thompson, William ...Order 553604...$11.45
PASCAL'S WAGER: THE MAN WHO PLAYED DICE WITH GOD by Connor, James A. ...Order 482802...$24.95
PASSING THROUGH by Menzies, Richard ...Order 561204...$21.95
PEOPLES OF LAS VEGAS by Simich, Jerry ...Order 626409...$24.95
PHILADELPHIA'S BLACK MAFIA by Griffin, Sean Patrick ...Order 441404...$42.00
PK MAN: TRUE STORY OF MIND-OVER-MATTER by Mishlove, Jeffrey ...Order 547004...$9.00
PLAYERS: CON MEN, HUSTLERS, GAMBLERS, AND SCAM ARTISTS by Hyde, Stephen ...Order 540004...$16.95
PLAYERS: THE MEN WHO MADE LAS VEGAS by Sheehan, Jack ...Order 539804...$18.95
PLAYING THE CARDS THAT ARE DEALT by Dixon, Mead w/& Ken Adams ...Order 676725...$21.95
POLICING LAS VEGAS by Griffin, Dennis ...Order 535004...$17.95
PONZI by Dunn, Donald ...Order 666604...$14.00
PONZI'S SCHEME: PAPERBACK by Zuckoff, Mitchell ...Order 666804...$14.95
PURPLE GANG by Kavieff, Paul R. ...Order 535104...$22.00
QUICKSILVER by Smith, John L. ...Order 540504...$13.95
RAT BASTARDS by Shea, John ...Order 402104...$24.95
RAT PACK CONFIDENTIAL by Levy, Shawn ...Order 534504...$14.95
READER OF GENTLEMEN'S MAIL by Kahn, David ...Order 522704...$32.50
RESORT CITY IN SUNBELT by Moehring, Eugene ...Order 545204...$19.95
REVENGE OF THE PEQUOTS by Eisler, Kim ...Order 542304...$13.95
RICHES AND REGRETS by Stowkowski, Patricia ...Order 530504...$39.95
RISE & FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA by Porrello, Rick ...Order 550904...$22.00
ROLL THE BONES (Paperbound) by Schwartz, David ...Order 646604...$18.00
ROTHSTEIN by Pietrusza, David ...Order 462604...$16.00
RUNNING SCARED: STEVE WYNN by Smith, John L ...Order 539704...$15.95
SECRET LIFE OF SIEGFRIED AND ROY by Mydlach, Jim ...Order 499704...$25.95
SHARKS IN THE DESERT by Smith, John L ...Order 441604...$24.95
SHORT HISTORY OF LAS VEGAS by Land, Barbara & Myrick ...Order 535504...$17.95
SHORT HISTORY OF RENO by Land, Barbara & Myrick ...Order 549604...$14.95
STARDUST OF YESTERDAY by Rinella, Heidi Knapp ...Order 672704...$39.95
STEALING MACHINE (SOFTBOUND) by Villiod, Eugene ...Order 454904...$7.95
STEALING MACHINE (HARDBOUND) by Villiod, Eugene ...Order 456204...$11.95
STORMING LAS VEGAS by Huddy, John ...Order 555604...$25.95
STREET SOLDIER by Mackenzie, Edward ...Order 400604...$14.00
SUBURBAN XANADU by Schwartz, David ...Order 454804...$40.95
SUCKER'S PROGRESS by Asbury, Herbert ...Order 455004...$7.00
SUN, SIN AND SUBURBIA by Schumacher, Geoff ...Order 551104...$23.95
SUPER CASINO - INSIDE NEW LAS VEGAS by Earley, Pete ...Order 652511...$7.99
SUPERMOB by Russo, Gus ...Order 541104...$34.95
TAKEDOWN by Cowan, Rick and D Century ...Order 400504...$7.99
THIEF! THE GUTSY, TRUE STORY OF AN EX-CON ARTIST by Hanner, William and C Rohn ...Order 429204...$22.00
THIS BO PEEP AIN'T NO FAIRY TALE by Silver, Murray ...Order 558104...$13.95
TOUGH JEWS by Cohen, Rich ...Order 531904...$13.00
TRUE BLUE by Sutton, Randy ...Order 541008...$23.95
UNDERBOSS by Mass, Peter ...Order 546504...$7.99
UNSINKABLE TITANIC THOMPSON by Stowers, Carlton ...Order 529404...$19.95
VATICAN TO VEGAS by Klein, Norman ...Order 540704...$27.95
VEGAS...THE MOB AND THE DEAD PIG ON THE DANCE FLOOR by Broderick, Michael ...Order 441704...$16.00
VIOLENT YEARS by Kavieff, Paul R. ...Order 534004...$22.00
VIRGIN KISS by Scoblete, Frank ...Order 602404...$17.95
WE ALL LIVE IN VEGAS by Paolini, Francois ...Order 670004...$34.95
WEIRD LAS VEGAS AND NEVADA: YOUR ALTERNATIVE TRAVEL GUIDE by Oesterle, Joe et. al. ...Order 418204...$19.95
WHALE HUNT IN THE DESERT by Castleman, Deke ...Order 586002...$24.95
WHEN CAPONE'S MOB MURDERED by Tuohy, John W. ...Order 551704...$24.95
WHEN THE MOB RAN LAS VEGAS by Fischer, Steve ...Order 442204...$19.95
WICKED WEST, THE by Monahan, Sherry ...Order 526004...$15.95
WINNER TAKES ALL by Binkley, Christina ...Order 426604...$25.95
WISE GUY by Pileggi, Nicholas ...Order 535804...$7.99
WITHOUT RESERVATION by Benedict, Jeff ...Order 618208...$14.00
YAKUZA by Kaplan, David E & Alec Dubro ...Order 600204...$19.95
YOUNG LAS VEGAS by Whitely, Joan Burhart ...Order 443004...$29.95

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Legit SEX for Sale near Sin City

Every once in a while, a book really grabs my attention--so much so that I'm drawn to read it again. Such is this book about legitimate sex for sale. Lora Shaner, retired madam at Pahrump's legal brothel, Sheri's Ranch, pulls no punches in MADAME--Inside a Nevada Brothel.

From the back cover:
Sex is for sale 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in Nevada's legal brothels. Former madam Lora Shaner takes you into the parlor--and bedrooms--of Sheri's Ranch in this compelling account of the sex-for-money culture.

You'll read about Mary Clair, the nun turned prostitute; Ellen, the errant wife; Coral and Millie, the Happy-hooker tag team; Alice the pro with the heart of gold; and the turn outs, part-timers, sex addicts, adventure-seekers, and other ladies of the house.

You'll also meet the cathouse clientele: Lester, the rodeo rider who liked to warmup by playing horsey; Mr. Yamaura, who paid thousands for three minutes of pleasure; and Gold Guy, who employed Sheri's girls to help him perfect his stroke; as well as the hunks, nerds, pimps, cheapos, professional athletes, and other customers who ring the brothel doorbell at all hours.

Madam's piercing character studies and poignant sketches of day-to-day life in a legal brothel strip bare the myths about the world's oldest profession, revealing the hearts and souls of the women who sell sex--and the men who buy it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Family Secrets Fallout

The following appeared Sunday, June 15, 2008, on

Did Federal Prosecutor Make Eyes at Mobster in Court?
Reputed mob hitman Frank "The German" Schweihs -- once among the most feared men in the Chicago Outfit -- wasted little time Tuesday showing that the cancer that ravaged his body has not softened his attitude.

"You making eyes at me?" Schweihs said from his wheelchair to a federal prosecutor during a status hearing in his criminal case."Yeah you, you making eyes at me? Do I look like a fag to you?" Schweihs asked.

Prosecutors ignored Schweihs' remarks and continued to take care of the routine business of his upcoming trial, scheduled to begin in October. Schweihs, 78, was originally to be tried along with five other defendants in the historic Family Secrets federal prosecution against the Chicago mob. But a battle with cancer made him too sick to go to trial with the other men, including Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr. and James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, who were convicted.

Schweihs, looking pale and gaunt, first asked his attorneys if they were in a foreign country after apparently noticing that one of the prosecutors wears a turban. Schweihs has a history of making racially insensitive remarks and has shown over the years a disdain for a wide variety of people. Schweihs later referred to another federal prosecutor in court as "another a--hole."

U.S. District Judge James Zagel did not reprimand Schweihs but ended the hearing quickly after his last remark.

One of Schweihs' attorneys, Ellen Domph, said outside court that Schweihs is usually "very polite."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Our question was: How can you spot "ringer" (someone who's a pro but acts like an amateur) in a poker game or other game?

Answer: One good way is if he doesn’t look at you when he’s calling, he’s probably a pro. Amateurs look you in the eye to show you they’re “honest.” Also, amateurs tend to bet fast while pros take their time. Naturally, there are always exceptions to the above.

Like anything, there are no hard and fast rules. The better you are at observing your opponents particular habits, the more likely you are to beat them. A large percentage of the time, people give away clues to their behavior. Patience and observation are the name of the game.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Q & A Question

Q. How can you spot a “ringer” in a poker or other game? (Someone who’s a pro but pretends he’s an amateur.)

Look for the answer in 2 days.

Monday, June 9, 2008

You Never Know Who You're Gonna Meet

Just this morning I was getting ready to do laps at the community pool where I live, and a guy slinked over to me (no kidding) and introduced himself. This second generation Italian wore a gold chain and matching bracelet as thick as a guy's wrist. When he found out I was a true crime writer and wrote about the mob, he started to go on about how he never talks about "family." The way he went on and on about never talking about family, I was sure that if I gave him a few more minutes of my time, he'd spill the entire story of his "connected" life.

Then he told me he owns a go-fast boat he named Bad Boy but changed it to Bad Toy when his then Russian girlfriend threw a fit about cheating on her. The guy offered me some vodka and cranberry drink he had at poolside. I politely declined as it was 9:00 a.m....just a little early for me and excused myself to do my laps.

When I was leaving, he again envited me for drink. And again I begged off, this time saying I had to go teach a guy a lesson. I thought he was going to choke on his vodka. He's propably still laughing as I write.

You just never know who'll meet at the neighborhhod pool these days.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mob Speak Interview: Rick Porrello, Crime Expert

As a special new feature here on Mob Speak, we’re interviewing true crime writers, crime experts, relatives of gangsters, gambling experts and maybe even a reformed mobster or two plus anyone of interest I can track down. I promise you there won’t be any duds!

To kick off the series, I’ve asked Rick Porrello [pictured at right], multi-published author and respected true crime expert, to answer a few questions. I hope this will spur our savvy readers to ask Rick a few questions of their own.
A little background on Rick first, quoted directly from his famous Website,

Rick Porrello’s Background

Rick Porrello wears many hats. He is a veteran Cleveland-area police lieutenant with Mafia roots and author of
The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia. Porrello began writing his first book during research into the murders of his grandfather and three uncles, who were mob leaders killed in Prohibition-era violence. Read the Preface. The book, published in 1995 by Barricade Books of New York City, quickly became a regional favorite, went through several hardcover printings, then was republished in paperback.

Porrello is an accomplished jazz musician and soloist. In 1981, he began his greatest musical achievement at age eighteen when he took over the drum throne from his brother
Ray Porrello , then stickman for Sammy Davis Jr. for seven years. That fortunate break started Rick on a two-and-a-half year stint involving extensive traveling including Europe, South America, Australia and of course the regular venues of Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe and Atlantic City. Accompanying Mr. Davis, Rick also had the honor of working with the great Count Basie Orchestra and, has appeared on several television shows including Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show", understandably Rick's most memorable career highlight.

Despite the excitement and promise of such early success, a second career interest eventually pulled Rick from the Davis gig and he returned to Cleveland to begin college studies. In 1986, despite opposition from family and friends, Rick traded his sticks for a badge and .38 special when he joined the police force. Since childhood, Rick had an increasing interest in police work and despite a skyrocketing music career, he decided that protecting the public was more important to him then entertaining them.

Rick Porrello continues to perform in the N.E. Ohio area.

In 1998 Rick’s second book was published. Titled
To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia, it is the definitive story of Danny Greene, a fiercely proud Irish-American racketeer who took on La Cosa Nostra, sparking events that led to the fall of several Mafia families. Porrello won a national Non-Fiction award for the book which has since been optioned for a movie The Irishman and is currently going to a sixth printing.

Rick's current title is
Superthief - A Master Burglar, the Mafia and the Biggest Bank Heist in U.S. History. The title won second place in ForeWord Magazine's 2005 Book of the Year Awards true crime category, and was a finalist in the 2006 Independent Publisher Awards.

Rick Porrello is a frequent commentator on the general history of the Mafia in the United States and was recently interviewed by Chris Jansing on MSNBC about the last episode of the Sopranos.
Email Rick at

Mobwriter: Gee Rick. I’m curious about your previous career traveling the world as Sammy Davis, Jr’s. drummer. What was it like being around Sammy? Do you have any special memories of your time on the road?

Rick: Cherie, my time on the road with “Mr. D” was the most exciting and educational time of my life. I mean, here I was, an 18-year-old kid from Cleveland, and I was traveling the world first class and working for the greatest entertainer in the world. It had been my dream to take over that spot from my brother, Ray, Sammy’s drummer for seven years, if he ever left the show. And it came true. When Ray got tired of life on the road, he told Sammy’s conductor, George Rhodes, that I was a good big band player and show reader. George telephoned me and gave me a 3-night audition gig at the Carlton Dinner Theater in Minneapolis. I thought I’d only be sitting in at a rehearsal, but then George explained that I had the job for 3 nights. When I called my father to tell him, I think he was more excited than I was.

I’ll never forget when Sammy called me, George, and his musicians to his dressing room after my first show. He said to me, “You’re a bitch. You’ve got the gig.” Then he gave each of us a red silk handkerchief to welcome me to his musical family.

There were many highlights. My appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, including one in which Sammy changed the music and I had to sight read a tune, were as stressful as they were exciting. It was always a treat when I was featured during the overture. And then there were the times Mr. D would revisit a medley he used to do with his first drummer – just voice and drums.

Mobwriter: Do you ever miss that life? What about plans to write your own story, Rick?

Rick: I miss it often, Cherie. I don’t so much miss the traveling. Though I did enjoy my overseas travels, it did get a bit old after the first year. I miss the friends I made. I miss the wonderful music—Sammy’s performances, of course, and the many talented musicians I was privileged to work with at such a young age. I have wonderful memories of working on the same bills with stars like Frank Sinatra, Bill Cosby and Dean Martin. I remember playing softball with Billy Crystal and a hilarious dinner with a very funny Billy Eckstine, who often opened for Mr. D.

And boy do I miss standing in the wings laughing at the comedians who warmed up Sammy’s crowds—guys like Rip Taylor, Tom Dreesen, George Wallace and Willie Tyler and Lester. When I left Sammy’s show, people at home would ask me about my experiences. They’d listen then say, “you should write a book.” I actually started writing a book about my time on the road, but it went to the back burner. I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually.

Mobwriter: OK…let’s move on to your police and writing careers. What was it like when you started learning about your infamous mob relatives? And how does becoming a policeman figure in the picture?

Rick: I became interested in police work at age twelve when I received a police radio for Christmas. A few years later, a cousin joined the Cleveland Heights Police Dept. and I did a junior high school project about him. I think I was hooked then.

By that time, I had known for several years that my father’s father had been killed in the 1930s. I didn’t know anything about it other than that it had to do with the mob.

In 1984, after I had left the Sammy Davis Jr. Show, and prior to entering college to pursue a Criminal Justice degree, I started researching my grandfather’s 1932 murder. I was simply curious about my family history. I was startled to see that his killing was the headline story in all the Cleveland newspapers, and that it was part of a much bigger story that had begun in 1927.

Mobwriter: Was The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia a direct product of learning about your relatives?

Rick: It sure was. Once I had a good idea of the whole story – the battles involving two sets of Sicilian immigrant brothers, the Porrello and Lonardo families, I knew it had to be a book. [Pictured at right: Joe Porrello, 2nd mob boss of Cleveland rackets, murdered.]

Mobwriter: I recently rented a Netflix movie, a documentary on Danny Greene. Gee, the guy sure had balls. How did you get interested in Danny Greene, the Irish-American racketeer who took on the Mafia?

Rick: Danny Greene is a fascinating character—a fearless Irishman who went up against the mob and who survived numerous attempts on his life until James Licavoli’s Cleveland Mafia crew finally got him with a car bomb in Greater Cleveland parking lot. Coincidentally, that suburb would be the city whose police force I would join 10 years after the murder.

After 9 years—yes, 9 years of work resulted in the publication of The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia, I vowed to my wife never to write another book. But when I got the first copy in my hands, I knew I couldn’t stop there. Rise and Fall ended with a chapter about Danny Greene [pictured at right], so it was a logical starting point for a new book.

Mobwriter: I know one of your books has been optioned for a movie and another is further along in the process, Rick. It’s a tricky business pitching book projects to producers. I hear that only about 1 in 10 book projects actually make it to the screen. How did your deals come about and where are they at now?

Rick: In 1997, a few months before To Kill the Irishman hit the shelves, I was contacted by not one, but two persons interested in the film rights to the book. Both had seen a newspaper article about the upcoming title. I was fortunate to retain the services of a tenacious and savvy book and film manager and producer named Peter Miller, president of PMA Literary and Film Management, and a man I now consider a close friend.

Peter hammered out the details with one of the interested parties, Tommy Reid, a graduate of the New York Film Academy and Ohio State University. That was 1998. Tommy has always believed in this project and his ambition has been ceaseless. Eventually he brought partners on board and in the past two years, the project has picked up a lot of steam. Between the efforts of the production team partners and Peter, almost all of the elements are in place for the film to be made.

Mobwriter: Phil Christopher, the character known as “Superthief” in your third book Superthief - A Master Burglar, the Mafia and the Biggest Bank Heist in U.S. History. is still behind bars. What’s the news from Phil these days? Any chance on that we’ll see Superthief on the big screen?

Rick: Phil should be out in the fall. I don’t have much contact with him like I did when I was researching and writing Superthief. I do speak with his wife, Mary Ann, my collaborator on the project, on occasion. Superthief won Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards’ second place spot for their true crime category. I’m hopeful that a producer will recognize the story as the next great heist film.

Mobwriter: At the end of the famous TV series The Sopranos, MSNBC’s Chris Jansing asked you to comment on the unorthodox finale. Perhaps you could give those of us who missed it a brief recap of your take, Rick.

Rick: I was disappointed that there was no resolution to the character of Tony Soprano. I’m used to real life Mafia stories in which someone in as deep as Tony is either killed outright or as I say, “BNF’ed” (body never found), deported, goes to prison, or winds up in Witness Protection as a cooperating witness.

Mobwriter: What other projects do you have in the works, Rick?

Rick: The most powerful and successful mobster ever, Meyer Lansky, escaped all of the scenarios I mentioned above. A couple of years ago, I was contacted by his daughter, Sandi Lansky Lombardo, about writing a book. Sandi, her husband Vince and I, have become friends as we work to write a book about new Meyer Lansky material, and Sandi’s life as a mob princess.

Mobwriter: Thanks, Rick. Wow! What an interesting life so far. Can’t wait to read the book and see the movie. Wonder who will play you?