Five Families

The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires

Selwyn Raab

St. Martin's Griffin

For half a century, the American Mafia outwitted, outmaneuvered, and outgunned the FBI and other police agencies, wreaking unparalleled damages to America's social fabric and business enterprises while emerging as the nation's most formidable crime empire.  The vanguard of this criminal juggernaut is still led by the Mafia's most potent and largest borgatas: New York's Five Families.
Five Families is the vivid story of the rise and fall of New York's premier dons from Lucky Luciano to Paul Castellano to John Gotti and more. This definitive history brings the reader right up to the possible resurgence of the Mafia as the FBI and local law-enforcement agencies turn their attention to homeland security and away from organized crime.  The paperback has been revised and updated, with a new epilogue focusing on the trial of the notorious "Mafia Cops."


Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
A Fiery Saint
“If I betray my friends and our family, I and my soul will burn in hell like this saint.”
As Tony Accetturo recited this grave oath, the holy picture in his hand perished in flames. A cluster of nodding, stone-faced men lined up to embrace him, kiss him on the cheek, and vigorously shake his hand, a collective gesture of solemn congratulations. For Accetturo, it was the most memorable moment of his life. The ceremony burnt into his soul; his prime ambition was fulfilled. He was now the newest member of an exclusive, secret coterie:


Praise for Five Families

"Five Families is the finest Mafia history we're likely to see for a good long time."
---Bryan Burrough, The New York Times Book Review
"Raab . . . exudes the authority of a writer who has lived and breathed his subject."
---The Boston Globe
"Raab sets a new gold standard for organized crime nonfiction with his outstanding history."
---Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Riveting history."
"...enlightening chronicle of the rise of the five Mafia families..." --Entertainment Weekly

"Raab's meticulouly researched history is an engrossing initiation."
--The Baltimore Sun

"A classic piece of reporting by a man who knows the bloody, brutal, corrupt territory."
--Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes

"[Raab's] sprawling history offers sufficient anecdotes to fuel a half-dozen "Godfather" sequals and keep "The Sopranos" well stocked with mayhem for another decade."
--Kirkus Reviews

"So well written and encompassing."
--Detroit Free Press

"In this definitive account of the royal families of mobdom, Selwyn Raab not only tells us where the bodies are buried, he brings them back to life."
--Thomas Reppetto, author of American Mafia

"After an eight-decade run in which its executives built the most powerful criminal organization in U.S. history, the American Mafia began to unravel at the end of the 20th century. It did so in a convulsion of blood and treachery, fueled by out-of-control egos. Selwyn Raab was there, in the streets, the precinct houses, and the courtrooms to record that story. No one does it better. "
--Tom Robbins, reporter, Village Voice

"In my more than fifty years as a reporter, there is no journalist whom I've respected more than Selwyn Raab at The New York Times in covering New York's criminal justice system. He was tireless and painstaking in investigating the investigators, sometimes helping to prove innocence, but equally fair and conscientious in cases that ended in conviction. His riveting book Five Families will be I'm sure the definitive history of the Mafia in New York for a long time to come. It is a model of what journalism can be."
--Nat Hentoff, columnist, Village Voice

"A well-researched, well-written historical account of the murderous, double-dealing and often-sophisticated gangsters who shot their way into American folklore and created a criminal empire that has fleeced Americans and confounded law enforcement for more than 100 years. Raab's work surpasses all the rest."
--Mafia expert Jerry Capeci; webmaster, GangLandNews.com; author, The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Mafia

"While the introduction to Five Families says the Bonnano, Genovese, Luchesse, Colombo, and Gambino families were among the reigning giants of the underworld, what it doesn't say is that the book about them is by one of the reigning giants of journalism, Selwyn Raab."
--Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes and author of Tell Me A Story

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Selwyn Raab

  • Selwyn Raab was an investigative reporter for The New York Times, covering organized crime and criminal justice matters for twenty-five years. He is also the author of Justice in the Back Room and Mob Lawyer. He lives in New York.





    Available Formats and Book Details

    Five Families

    The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires

    Selwyn Raab



    St. Martin's Griffin