Normally, mob memoirs or first-hand tales of organized crime are told by washed up or turncoat Mafiosi hoping to make a fast buck and get one last jolt of fame before they kick. Bugs, Bull & Rats – An Insider’s Account of How The Mob Self-Destructed, recently released by Brighton Publishing, is as far away from a run-of-the-mill book about the mafia as possible. It’s written by an active member of one of New York’s ‘Five Families’ under the alias Frank Palmeri.

Unlike almost every other mobster to pen a book, Palmeri has never cooperated with the government. He says he was so disgusted at what the Italian mafia in the United States had become when he emerged from a lengthy prison sentence, he felt compelled to speak out against the “bugs and rats” that had transformed the La Cosa Nostra organization he joined with pride and honor in the 1970s into its’ current bunker state due to a deluge of informants and witnesses.

Palmeri’s book isn’t a traditional underworld autobiography. Bugs, Bulls & Rats is packaged as a series of intriguing insider anecdotes, touching on all five NYC crime families and featuring Palmeri giving a play-by-play analysis on certain key points in mob history. One eerily foreshadowing moment Palmeri recounts involves a conversation between legendary Genovese crime family boss Vincent (The Chin) Gigante and Bonanno crime family capo and insurgent faction leader Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato in 1981 where Indelicato tried to argue with Gigante and Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano over their demand that he make peace with his rivals in the Bonanno clan.

“You don’t understand, if you go to war, we’ll kill all of you on the spot, end of story,” Gigante warned Sonny Red.

Indelicato and his fellow renegade capos failed to listen to Gigante and just as the Chin had told him, they all wound up dead – viciously slain in the infamous Three Captains Hit dramatized on the silver screen in the 1997 film Donnie Brasco. Gigante was convicted of eight counts of racketeering and conspiracy in July 1997, just four months after Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp and Godfather saga alums Al Pacino and Bruno Kirby hit theatres.

According to Palmeri and most mob experts and historians, the Genovese Family has always been the gold standard.

“They run the show,” he said. “As a family, they dictate the pace, everyone follows their lead, that’s how its been for years” he said.

Liborio (Barney) Bellomo, 59, is alleged to be the don of the Genovese syndicate in 2016. He was released from federal prison in 2008 after a 12-year stint on two separate racketeering convictions and one for mail fraud that ran concurrently.

Palmeri grew up in Brooklyn and admits to being “made” into the mafia in the late 1970s as part of a wave of new initiates brought in by all five traditional NYC mob families after a multi-year embargo on inductions was lifted.

“That was a great time (for the mob), there was a lot of money for everybody, a lot of prosperity” said Palmeri of the era in which he was inducted into La Cosa Nostra.

By the 1990s, informants were ravishing the mob across the nation. Palmeri was indicted for racketeering in the early 2000s, copped a plea and did a decade in the can.

“It was already over by the time I went to prison in 2001, the rats were everywhere, guys wearing wires all over the place” he said. “These type of men are born that way. They don’t just become rats. They were like that from the start,”

Admittedly, Palmeri is no saint. He’s back to making his living on the street, but doesn’t seem contented, rather resigned.

“You change with the times…. it’s a tough life to lead,” he said.

This is a quick, interesting read. At less than 200 pages, it gets straight to the point and hits its’ target, giving fresh perspective to some old, yet-still fascinating terrain, while throwing in never-before-revealed details and specifics of life at the higher levels of the mafia in New York during the late 20th Century all fans of the genre will appreciate. Gangster Report recommends Bugs, Bull & Rats for every mob-book aficionado’s library.

You can purchase a hard copy or ebook copy of Bugs, Bull & Rats here.

Bugs, Bull & Rats


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