Saturday, February 22, 2020

Book Reviews: The Mafia Hitman's Daughter

The Mafia Hitman's Daughter
by Linda Scarpa with Linda Rosencrance
Greg Scarpa was also known as The Grim Reaper, which probably tells you everything you need to know about his primary skill sets and value to the Profaci (later Colombo) Crime Family of which he was a member. Scarpa boasted that he had stopped counting the number of people whom he had murdered after around fifty or so. 

Some accounts indicate that the number of murders he either committed personally (Scarpa was a hands on leader) or ordered could be somewhere between eighty and one hundred. The FBI employed Scarpa to intimidate and/or torture KKK members for information, something he boasted about to his family.

Somewhat surprisingly Scarpa had an unconventional home life. He married one woman and had four children with her. Sometime during that marriage Scarpa fell in love with another woman and had two children with her. However he didn't marry her. That woman, Linda Schiro, didn't want the stigma of having children outside of wedlock so she married (and cuckolded) another man before divorcing him to move in with Scarpa. 

Cuckoldry became something of a recurring theme as Schiro later, with Scarpa's apparent enthusiastic support, took up with a delivery boy who would later become part of Scarpa's criminal network. Another book I read that focused on this family claimed that Scarpa would occasionally interrogate the younger man to ensure that he was properly satisfying Schiro. Hmm. 

Those must have been some rather uncomfortable conversations.

I guess the Mafia was not immune to changing sexual mores. I also guess that people who wanted to keep breathing did not needle Scarpa about Schiro's behavior. You don't get a nickname like The Grim Reaper by letting people insult your common-law wife.

This book was written by Scarpa's daughter from his second relationship, Linda Scarpa, who as a youngster initially thought another man was her father. Linda was not a member of her father's crew or involved in his criminal activities. 

But Scarpa didn't bother hiding who he was and what he did, especially once his younger set of kids became teenagers. Linda describes her preferential treatment at NYC nightclubs and bars and why some men feared approaching her. Her father was extremely protective. He murdered a man who had molested Linda. 

Even monsters, and Scarpa was, have people who love them and whom they love. Very few people are all good or all evil. The same man who murders someone in the club basement goes home and croons Barry White songs to his daughter. Most parents are not murderous Mafia members but I think readers will empathize with the author as she discovers her father's mistakes, lies, or other immoralities. It can be a painful yet necessary part of maturation to learn that your parents are fallible human beings.

Linda Scarpa made this discovery during an extremely stressful period. Greg Scarpa had life threatening ulcers. He needed a blood transfusion.  Primarily motivated by bigotry, Scarpa and Linda Schiro decided they didn't trust the hospital's blood supplies. They (this book says it was Schiro alone) made the fateful decision to request blood donors from Scarpa's friends and criminal crew. However one crew member was HIV+. Before long Scarpa had AIDS. Roughly around the same time the Colombo Family erupted in civil war. Despite his medical death sentence, or perhaps because of it, Scarpa refused to relinquish his war chief role, becoming even more violent and unhinged. 

Scarpa found it harder to hide that he had also been a federal informant for decades. Scarpa used an FBI agent to provide information on enemies. This would have repercussions in Scarpa's family and the organization. The distance between Scarpa's business life and home life collapsed. Linda Scarpa's tale is tragic but it's a reminder that crime doesn't pay. Linda Scarpa looks not from a criminal's perspective but from those of victims and family members. It is similar to Albert DeMeo's book.  

At just under 300 pages, this was a quick read. Linda Scarpa employs insights from her mother and other relatives to give different takes on key incidents. No one will read this book and think that Mob life is anything other than disgusting and pathetic. If you normally avoid books on this topic because you think the authors deify hoodlums, don't worry. That doesn't happen in this story.
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