Praise for Smalltime
“Russell Shorto’s Smalltime draws a convincing portrait of a time when Italian Americans weren’t permitted to live in certain neighborhoods or rise too high in the political firmament. This remembrance of his grandfather’s and great-uncle’s lives — of slots and pinball machines, ‘tip seals,’ ‘skeeched dice,’ and places like the Melodee Lounge and City Cigar — mixes great history and lovely, lingering memories: ‘Long conversations about spaghetti sauce and aunts who kissed you on the lips: those were the ways we were Italian.’”
Written with a keen ear for the darkly humorous inflections of Italian American speech, Shorto’s story of a small-town USA mobster, his grandfather, ought to change forever how we think about the mafia. La Cosa Nostra flourished not only in big cities but across the continent, wherever there were mines and factories, as much a part of the post – World War II industrial boom as smokestacks, union bosses, and big cars with fins. Smalltime is also a deeply personal and moving reflection on the bonds between Italian American grandfathers, fathers, and sons. Beautifully written, brilliantly researched, Smalltime establishes itself immediately as a classic of the Italian American experience.
“Lively…a narrative full of sharp twists… Historian Shorto vividly portrays the lives of farm-team mobsters, among them his own ancestors.”
“Smalltime is a big pleasure — an emotionally astute, deeply personal work of family and cultural history.”
“A compelling memoir, one that reads with the forward momentum of a good novel. A splendid book in every way.”
“Russell Shorto is a magnificent writer and Smalltime is a delicious story. A world so vividly rendered, you will find it hard to leave.”
“Part memoir, part narrative history rich in mesmerizing detail, at the heart of Smalltime is the abiding love the author clearly holds for his colorful and flawed Sicilian immigrant family, one that looks so very much like the American family. I could not put this book down, and you won’t be able to either.”
“Russell Shorto, one of our most celebrated narrative historians, is expert at mining history for fascinating gems, but here it’s as if he breaks through into his own heart.”
Shorto tells us the story of a small-town, smalltime mob, but, much more than that, the story of an American family over three generations. By turns tender, poignant, and unsparing.
“Shorto presents a fascinating institutional history of small-town organized crime and a moving family saga with equal amounts of detail and heart. Mob history lovers will especially enjoy this colorful account.”
“This immersive, poignant memoir reminds us all to question the stories and myths we’ve grown up with. These pages are both gritty and elegiac, tense and tender, embodying the contradictions at the heart of all families. A deeply satisfying read.”