The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob
By Jeff Coen
(Chicago Review Press, Hardcover, 9781556527814, 400pp.)
Publication Date: April 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Even in Chicago, a city steeped in mob history and legend, the Family Secrets case was a true spectacle when it made it to court in 2007. A top mob boss, a reputed consigliere, and other high-profile members of the Chicago Outfit were accused in a total of eighteen gangland killings, revealing organized crime’s ruthless grip on the city throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Painting a vivid picture of murder, courtroom drama, family loyalties and disloyalties, journalist Jeff Coen accurately portrays the Chicago Outfit’s cold-blooded--and sometimes incompetent--killers and their crimes in the case that brought them down. In 1998 Frank Calabrese Jr. volunteered to wear a wire to gather evidence against his father, a vicious loan shark who strangled most of his victims with a rope before slitting their throats to ensure they were dead. Frank Jr. went after his uncle Nick as well, a calculating but sometimes bumbling hit man who would become one of the highest-ranking turncoats in mob history, admitting he helped strangle, stab, shoot, and bomb victims who got in the mob’s way, and turning evidence against his brother Frank. The Chicago courtroom took on the look and feel of a movie set as Chicago’s most colorful mobsters and their equally flamboyant attorneys paraded through and performed: James Jimmy Light” Marcello, the acting head of the Chicago mob; Joey the Clown” Lombardo, one of Chicago’s most eccentric mobsters; Paul the Indian” Schiro; and a former Chicago police officer, Anthony Twan” Doyle, among others. Re-creating events from court transcripts, police records, interviews, and notes taken day after day as the story unfolded in court, Coen provides a riveting wide-angle view and one of the best accounts on record of the inner workings of the Chicago syndicate and its control over the city’s streets.
Jeff Coen is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, covering federal trials and investigations from the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in downtown Chicago. He was present in the courtroom throughout the Family Secrets trial, and his pieces on the case were featured in a popular series in the Chicago Tribune.
"[A] revealing, shocking book . . . superbly crafted." Publishers Weekly
"A telling look inside the twisted world of organized crime, sure to interest those who follow mob mayhem." Kirkus Reviews
"[An] authoritative account . . . indispensable to truly knowing how Chicago works." Chicago Tribune
"Painting a vivid picture . . . riveting . . . one of the best accounts on record." TheChicagoSyndicate.com
"[Coen has produced] a careful account." Bloomsbury Review
"(An) episodic telling . . . a useful and lucid history . . . [the book] teems with disturbing local color." Gaper's Block
"The book reads like a fast paced crime thriller and, indeed, though it is nonfiction, it makes for fascinating reading." The Times
"Coen's narrative is compelling even when covering materials where we already know the trial's outcome and gives the participantsfrom lawyers to prosecutors to defendentsa rich, full rendering which is no easy feat." Chicagoist.com