Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Shondor Birns & Danny Green: Cleveland's Killer Celebrities


"To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia" by Rick Porrello (1998) is a biography of Danny Greene that includes a brief biography of Shondor Birns. Drawing on the confessions of informers, it provides the inside story of what was going on in the Mob's side of the story. A dramatis personae and tables of organizations help readers keep track of the many hoods in Cleveland and around the country. Skimpy index, no notes.

"The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia: Corn Sugar and Blood by Rick Porrello" (1995) is a history of the Cleveland Mob. Porrello knows whereof he speaks: The Porrellos were rivals of the Lonardo Gang during Prohibition. His grandfather and great-uncle were gunned down in the "cigar store massacre" of 1932. Porrello fell far from the tree; he is now a detective in the police department of Lyndhurst, the site of Greene's demise. More thorough index than previous book, still no notes. Porrello provides continuing stories about the mob on his Web site,

"The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno" (1981) by Ovid DeMaris is a biography of Jimmy the Weasel that takes him through his decision to testify against his old colleagues as a federally protected witness. Includes helpful nine-page dramatis personae, but unfortunately in an appendix that readers may not discover until they've finished the book. Index of names only, no notes.

"Vengeance is Mine: Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno Tells How He Brought the Kiss of Death to the Mafia" by Michael J. Zuckerman (1987) takes over where DeMaris left off and follows Jimmy's tour of trials. Like DeMaris, Zuckerman interviewed the former Fratianno at length. He refrains from mentioning his new identity and location.

"Mobbed Up: Jackie Presser's High-Wire Life in the Teamsters, the Mafia and the FBI" by James Neff (1989) is a biography of the Clevelander who became president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters with the help of the Mob and who returned the favor repeatedly. Inside stories from Presser's ex-wife enliven the account. Thoroughly annotated (50 pages) with bibliography and thorough index.

"The Mafia Encyclopedia: From Accardo to Zwillman" by Carl Sifakis (1987) lists Mafiosi, their jargon and milestones. An amusing entry: Baldwin Wallace College in Cleveland became known (to the FBI, that is) as "Mafia U." Its president agreed to put names of protected witnesses in the college database so that their educational background would check out if anyone inquired.


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