The Valachi Papers Info

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Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.19

1270 Ratings

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Reviews for The Valachi Papers:

4

Dec 02, 2013

If you are a true Mafia History buff, you should probably get this book out of the way for a point of reference.

Peter Maas is a good author, and does a decent job framing this story.

In the end Joe Valachi was not exactly a big wheel in La Cosa Nostra but he was one of the first prime time rats to come to the forefront. This work is significant from that perspective.

This book had significant influence on the world of the mafia which had remained very private prior to his public exclamations.

I If you are a true Mafia History buff, you should probably get this book out of the way for a point of reference.

Peter Maas is a good author, and does a decent job framing this story.

In the end Joe Valachi was not exactly a big wheel in La Cosa Nostra but he was one of the first prime time rats to come to the forefront. This work is significant from that perspective.

This book had significant influence on the world of the mafia which had remained very private prior to his public exclamations.

I give this a solid 3 overall as a book and story. Due to the heavy significance of the content and it's impact on history, I raise it up to a 3.5+ ...more
5

Jan 12, 2017

I've been binging on mob books lately. This is one of the best. It ranks with "Wiseguys" as an insider's account. Maybe better, because Valachi really was in the mafia, while Henry Hill was a wannabee. This was a reread for me. When it first came out I read it. It's serious stuff. Some people are born in a certain time period in a certain place where they are led into this. They may otherwise be decent people with a love of family but at a certain point they find themselves in a situation where I've been binging on mob books lately. This is one of the best. It ranks with "Wiseguys" as an insider's account. Maybe better, because Valachi really was in the mafia, while Henry Hill was a wannabee. This was a reread for me. When it first came out I read it. It's serious stuff. Some people are born in a certain time period in a certain place where they are led into this. They may otherwise be decent people with a love of family but at a certain point they find themselves in a situation where they are embroiled in a life of crime and deception. (Think of the fictional Godfather. Circumstances led him to this position. And then the least likely son is drawn in by events and love of family. Dramatized and romanticized? Yes. But understandable and compelling? Yes. This conflict is why it was such a great novel and movie.) At some point they have to kill someone - not because of any personal reasons but because they are told to do so - and if they don't do it they are dead. Basically it's a horrible existence. When they are around people not involved they are charming and generous to a fault. A classic example of compensation combined with guilty conscience. Some of them do have a conscience. Really. Not all - but some. I have a feeling Valachi was one such person. ...more
3

Sep 30, 2011

This is the first non-fiction novel Ive read for quite a while. And I actually was reading two at one time! Fancy that! But anywho, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. There were times it dragged a little and times I had to go back and re-read due to poor sentence structure (I hate that), but most of the dragging was due to government jargon and most of the poor grammer etc was quoted word for word from Valachi. So you cant blame the guy, really. It had plenty of gore, and crime, and even a This is the first non-fiction novel I’ve read for quite a while. And I actually was reading two at one time! Fancy that! But anywho, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. There were times it dragged a little and times I had to go back and re-read due to poor sentence structure (I hate that), but most of the dragging was due to government jargon and most of the poor grammer etc was quoted word for word from Valachi. So you can’t blame the guy, really. It had plenty of gore, and crime, and even a little bit of a romance thrown in. But just a little. I was pleased with the plot set up – finding out how the story came to be told before hearing the story itself. However, the one crucial detail that was missing was about how Valachi fared after spilling his guts to the US Government about his former boss and all his former cronies. I would have liked to know what happened. ...more
4

Dec 19, 2008

A classic mafia source document. Limited and wrong in places, its still a primary source by one of the first made men to turn rat. Vito Genovese!
3

Jan 06, 2016

Based on the confession written by Joseph Valachi who had been a member of the Mafia for 30 years, it is an easy reading but after a while a bit boring as it is a serial description of crimes and people taking part in them.
5

Feb 11, 2007

This book is all about Joseph Valachi, the first Mafia member to publicly acknowledge the existence of the Mafia (Cosa Nostra). Excellent book filled with real stories. It's amazing how much Valachi remembered and in such great detail.
4

Sep 06, 2007

Joe Valachi was the first Cosa Nostra insider to talk about the organization and he was around for the period during which it was formally organized, all of which makes for really entertaining and fascinating reading.

3

Nov 27, 2016

This book is chock full of so many details and so many names that it's hard to keep it all straight. I read this slowly, just taking in a little bit at a time as I didn't find it compelling enough to spend a lot of time reading in one sitting. I read this 48 years after it was published, so by this time I've read a lot more interesting accounts of the mafia so this just didn't hold my interest.
2

Mar 01, 2012

The Valachi Paper's detailing of the history and structure of the Cosa Nostra is interesting, especially since it's the first book to introduce it to the world. But it quickly abandons narrative drive and devolves into a dry recounting of names and events with any sense of character and place bled away. A historically important work, but not an absorbing one.
4

Jun 15, 2013

Although written long ago (1968) this was a fascinating read. Because Maas had several sections straight from Valachi's mouth it was as if you were in the room with them. You'll recognize several names and then there are several you have never heard of. The last chapter was the "wrap up" of what organized crime in American "today" was all about. That part was a little off and that's probably due to the age of the book. I'm sure back in the day this was a corker!
2

Jan 11, 2008

Even though this is one of the key books in the genre, I remain disappointed in it. I think it is amazing how Valachi was involved in dozens of major criminal acts as though he was floating effortlessly from family to family.
While it is true his revelations were some of the first insider views on the mob, many people have pointed out that there are flaws in his seemingly perfect memory.
His story is really the first look at social interaction within the mob when the previous idea was based on Even though this is one of the key books in the genre, I remain disappointed in it. I think it is amazing how Valachi was involved in dozens of major criminal acts as though he was floating effortlessly from family to family.
While it is true his revelations were some of the first insider views on the mob, many people have pointed out that there are flaws in his seemingly perfect memory.
His story is really the first look at social interaction within the mob when the previous idea was based on the exagggerated 1930s cinema. ...more
3

Sep 26, 2007

It has been a long time since I read this but I still remember much of it. It is an excellent start for anyone interested in crime fiction. Valachi shed a light on organized crime and the way the mafia opereated in a time when it's existed was denied by police and governments. Well written the only reason for not giving it a higher rating is the dated nature of the content. However, for background and history this represents the best as he had no particular axe to grind (nothing to hide about It has been a long time since I read this but I still remember much of it. It is an excellent start for anyone interested in crime fiction. Valachi shed a light on organized crime and the way the mafia opereated in a time when it's existed was denied by police and governments. Well written the only reason for not giving it a higher rating is the dated nature of the content. However, for background and history this represents the best as he had no particular axe to grind (nothing to hide about himself). ...more
2

Feb 22, 2009

In it's time, this was an important book on the inner-workings of the mafia. But there are much better books on the topic available today. Peter Maas drug out the beginning with too many details about how he was selected to write the book and the conditions Valachi had in prison.

I kept thinking the book would pick up, but once it got going, it was just a lot of name dropping and descriptions of who murdered who. The only reason I was able to finish the book was knowing that one of the In it's time, this was an important book on the inner-workings of the mafia. But there are much better books on the topic available today. Peter Maas drug out the beginning with too many details about how he was selected to write the book and the conditions Valachi had in prison.

I kept thinking the book would pick up, but once it got going, it was just a lot of name dropping and descriptions of who murdered who. The only reason I was able to finish the book was knowing that one of the "characters" is believed to be a distant relative of my husband. ...more
4

Jan 09, 2009

Peter Maas paved the way for every true crime historian of today. Truly the oldest reference book for Mafia researchers. With years and years of thorough investigative work from Peter Maas & the FBN. The son inlaw (Joe Valachi) of a former Capo (Tom Reina) recalled in his own words,the names of gansters and the details of events. Great Book!
5

Jan 02, 2020

Incredibly interesting if you enjoy the genre. Reminded me at time of the Congressional hearings scenes in Godfather Part II
4

Jan 27, 2018

Read it years ago in the 70's and really liked it. Will have to re-read
4

May 07, 2019

Very intriguing and eye opening. This first hand account of the inner workings of the mafia makes all the movies and shows regarding the same subject come to life as you have an different view - an insiders view - as to what really takes place.
2

May 13, 2017

historically important book but it's brought down by very dry writing, it just feels like a boring recounting of names and dates, and the recall that Valachi was apparently capable of should have been edited better.
5

May 29, 2019

Wow, that was a really great book! I didn't think that I'd get through it but I couldn't put it down. It definitely had a different perspective on the Mafia than Gay Talese's book "Honor thy Father". By the way, different doesn't mean better. I think both books are incredible resources for learning about organized crime. The only thing I'll say is that money can't buy you class and humility. That's a lesson for us all.
4

Apr 02, 2019

Engrossing and disturbing, this account sheds light on an area of American history that has captured our imaginations, but has become romanticized to the point or being dangerously overlooked as a still-relevant corrupter of our government. It's fascinating to read about elements of the real Cosa Nostra that undoubtedly influenced the Godfather novel and subsequent movies, and I think that's what makes this both captivating and chilling.
5

Oct 05, 2019

I read this book years ago and loved it. Valachi did what no wiseguy had yet done--sing like a canary. This is his account of life in the Cosa Nostra, or, what we outsiders are used to calling it: the Italian-American Mafia. Valachi opened up a real can of worms on the Mafia's activities, history, and organisation. Now we get to read about it and gain some insight into the force that wielded power in the USA and beyond for so long. Essential reading for the Mafia historian, and a good start for I read this book years ago and loved it. Valachi did what no wiseguy had yet done--sing like a canary. This is his account of life in the Cosa Nostra, or, what we outsiders are used to calling it: the Italian-American Mafia. Valachi opened up a real can of worms on the Mafia's activities, history, and organisation. Now we get to read about it and gain some insight into the force that wielded power in the USA and beyond for so long. Essential reading for the Mafia historian, and a good start for readers new to the topic. ...more
5

Jan 07, 2018

Excellent journalism. Maas does a great job as usual, reporting on a very interesting man and more interesting times. He remains impartial and doesnt offer his opinion very often, but allows Valachi to tell his own story, and allows the reader to make their own conclusions. The man and character Joseph Valachi was quite a dichotomy, and its clear that Maas too felt some level of sympathy for the killer. The Valachi Papers reads like a journalist report, but is as thrilling as any piece of Excellent journalism. Maas does a great job as usual, reporting on a very interesting man and more interesting times. He remains impartial and doesn’t offer his opinion very often, but allows Valachi to tell his own story, and allows the reader to make their own conclusions. The man and character Joseph Valachi was quite a dichotomy, and it’s clear that Maas too felt some level of sympathy for the killer. The Valachi Papers reads like a journalist report, but is as thrilling as any piece of fiction. If you’re interested in organized crime, prohibition, or secret societies, this book belongs in your library. This was a fundamental resource for me as I was researching for a novel, and I’m going to keep it around as long as the spine will hold. ...more
4

May 13, 2017

This is perhaps the definitive account of how the 20th century Cosa Nostra (commonly known as the Mafia) operated. It is an admirable effort on Peter Maas's part to give Joseph Valachi's words a fair presentation. The main focus of the book is on Valachi's own personal story, but to understand it is to understand the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra. It is a fascinating but brutal history of Families and their bosses dealing in such "rackets" as restaurants, horse racing, and drugs. It was a This is perhaps the definitive account of how the 20th century Cosa Nostra (commonly known as the Mafia) operated. It is an admirable effort on Peter Maas's part to give Joseph Valachi's words a fair presentation. The main focus of the book is on Valachi's own personal story, but to understand it is to understand the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra. It is a fascinating but brutal history of Families and their bosses dealing in such "rackets" as restaurants, horse racing, and drugs. It was a tenuous atmosphere, where bosses such as Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Maranzana and Vito Genovese could order a mobster's death virtually at will. Perhaps the most impressive part of the book is Valachi's remarkable memory. He remembers the details of incidents that occurred decades before he was interviewed for this book, recalling the monetary figures involved as well.
The book is very readable. Though the story becomes somewhat banal after a while, any reader will keep engaged. I highly recommend this book as the definitive volume on organized crime in the 20th century. ...more
4

Jan 08, 2019

Excellent. I was fascinated with the subject at the time, so I am surely a bit biased, though. Nevertheless, Valachi was the guy that forced the F.B.I. to acknowledge the existence of Cosa Nostra. J. Edgar Hoover himself would not acknowledge their existence, possibly because he knew that is had been around long before the F.B.I. and not by accident. So, perhaps he thought it was too difficult to conquer, and it was in the days before RICO. Perhaps it was because he liked Frank Costello giving Excellent. I was fascinated with the subject at the time, so I am surely a bit biased, though. Nevertheless, Valachi was the guy that forced the F.B.I. to acknowledge the existence of Cosa Nostra. J. Edgar Hoover himself would not acknowledge their existence, possibly because he knew that is had been around long before the F.B.I. and not by accident. So, perhaps he thought it was too difficult to conquer, and it was in the days before RICO. Perhaps it was because he liked Frank Costello giving him names of horses so he could win at the track - not to get rich, but just because he liked the thrill of it. Regardless, when Valachi, who'd been so loyal to his adopted family was abandonded by the very same, he did what he felt he had to, he proved that it is very dangerous to take away everything dear to someone and make them desperate.

Also, if you're an organized crime and/or Mafia/Cosa Nostra fan, this is classic literature. I highly recommend it. And, after you read it, check out the film version from 1972, starring Charles Bronson as Joe Valachi. (If you do, see if you can spot the actor that also appears in The GodFather.) ...more
3

Apr 04, 2019

New York was a crazy place back in the day! It's hard to believe most of the addresses mentioned were mob businesses or fronts. Even though it's a real account of the past, it almost reads like fiction or a movie script because it's so incredible.

My main criticism of the book was the number of name drops and mentions of names. Granted, this book was published in the 60s so all of the names mentioned in the book might have had more recognition, but to read it in 2019 was a struggle to keep up New York was a crazy place back in the day! It's hard to believe most of the addresses mentioned were mob businesses or fronts. Even though it's a real account of the past, it almost reads like fiction or a movie script because it's so incredible.

My main criticism of the book was the number of name drops and mentions of names. Granted, this book was published in the 60s so all of the names mentioned in the book might have had more recognition, but to read it in 2019 was a struggle to keep up with who was who.

The book does a great job of making a narrative out of all of the testimony and interviews, explains the dynamics of the Cosa Nostra pretty well and traces a path through the history of the organization through the viewpoint of one man with coherence and lucidity. Like most stories about the Mafia, it has some elements of glorifying these criminals because of the code they follow and reverence and intrigue in which they were held, but certainly not to the extent of other books.

After reading it, my thoughts instantly went to The Godfather by Mario Puzo, which uses so much of the real information from this book (and other journalistic articles around the time) to create the characters, the structure of the mob and the code that they abide by, and it's crazy to think that that novel would have read more like normal contemporary fiction at the time of publication. ...more

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