You’ve probably heard of The Chin, Vincent Gigante, the long-time head of New York’s Genovese Crime Family, who spent years pretending to be insane in order to escape federal prosecution. But his full story has never been told – until now.
The book is Chin: the Life and Times of Mafia Boss Vincent Gigante, and lucky for us, the man telling the story is Larry McShane, a former New York Daily News staffer who is currently a columnist at The Daily Beast. Larry is a damned fine reporter and one hell of a writer. I know this first-hand because we worked together for a few years at the Associated Press, but just don’t take my word for it.
Those raving about the new book include George Anastasia, author of Gotti’s Rules, ex-FBI agent Joe (Donnie Brasco) Pistone, and Pete Hamill – three men who certainly know about these things. Hamill, for one, says “McShane tells the story that remains full of astonishment and a kind of dark wonder.”
Here’s a quick summary from the book jacket:
“He started out as a professional boxer–until he found his true calling as a ruthless contract killer. His doting mother’s pet name for the boy evolved into his famous alias, “Chin,” a nickname that struck fear throughout organized crime as he routinely ordered the murders of mobsters who violated the Mafia code–including a contract put out on Gambino family boss John Gotti.
“Vincent Gigante was hand-picked by Vito Genovese to run the Genovese Family. Chin raked in more than $100 million for the Genovese family, all while evading federal investigators. At the height of his power, he controlled an underworld empire of close to three hundred made men, extending from New York’s Little Italy to the docks of Miami to the streets of Philadelphia–making the Genovese Family the most powerful in the U.S.
“And yet Vincent “Chin” Gigante was, to all outside appearances, certifiably crazy.
“A serial psychiatric hospital outpatient, he wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in a ratty bathrobe and slippers, sometimes adding a floppy cap to complete the ensemble. He urinated in public, played pinochle in storefronts, and hid a second family from his wife. On twenty-two occasions, he admitted himself to a mental hospital–evading criminal prosecution while insuring his continued reign as “The Oddfather.” It took nearly thirty years of endless psychiatric evaluations by a parade of puzzled doctors for federal authorities to finally bring him down.
“This is an American Mafia story unlike any other–a strange and shocking account of one man’s rise to power that’s as every bit as colorful and bizarre as the man himself.”
You can buy it here.