Motor City Mafia

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Motor City Mafia

Joined: 14 Dec 2005, 20:51

15 Dec 2006, 09:14 #1

Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit
by Scott M. Burnstein

# Paperback: 128 pages
# Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
# Language English
# ISBN: 0738540846

Book exposes unseen world of local Mafia
By Jennie Miller
C & G Staff Writer

If you wanted to grab a book for an in-depth look at mob activity in Michigan, you might not find much. Most Mafia books focus on activity in New York City or Chicago, or solely on the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

But now there’s some new material. West Bloomfield native Scott Burnstein, 29, has published his first book, “Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit.”

“When I wrote this book, I was thinking, ‘What would I want to read?’” Burnstein said last week, amid a busy schedule chock-full of book signings at Borders stores in Troy, Rochester Hills, Grosse Pointe, Utica, Detroit, Flint and East Lansing.

The graduate of Roeper School, Indiana University and John Marshall Law School in Chicago dove into the research, spending hours engrossed in the pages of historical archives at Wayne State University and local newspapers. He tracked down retired FBI agents who worked the cases, interviewing them and gathering never-before-seen photographs that are among the 200 in the book.

Of all Burnstein’s research, the most interesting to him, like the general public, is the information he gleaned regarding Jimmy Hoffa.

“I was able to talk to federal law enforcement who were on the case when it happened,” he said, adding that he was in the midst of his research last summer when the FBI spent weeks digging at a farm in Milford on a tip that the mobster’s body was buried there.

“Motor City Mafia” reveals new information and pictures related to the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance and murder; includes crime scene photos taken from various local murders; and captures never-before-seen mug shots of many notorious Detroit-area criminals of the past and present. It also unveils FBI surveillance photographs of numerous local wise guys, mobsters and crime syndicate leaders; and even contains photographs and stories involving alleged affairs between the Mafia and Detroit sports legends Isiah Thomas, Alex Karras, Tommy Hearns and Denny McClain.

But it’s not just the sensationalist stories that interest Burnstein.

“People are interested in gangsters because of the blood and guts, but the part that interests me is the nuts and bolts [of the organization], how the power flows vertically and horizontally up the ladder, and the politics about how something like this is run,” he said. “These guys are really the crème de la crème of gangsters in the city of Detroit. They’re college educated, all incessantly trying to avoid the spotlight, where in other cities they like being portrayed as wise guys. These guys are business-like, with a corporate-like structure in terms of the underworld savvy. There’s not a lot of people who can top these guys.”

The response to “Motor City Mafia” has so far been positive, he said, although with relatives of those mentioned in the book living nearby, he might get a little bit of flak.

“I want to make it clear that I’m not passing judgment; I’m not trying to get people in trouble with law enforcement, nor am I trying to pump these guys up,” Burnstein explained. “This city has a rich tradition of underworld activity, and people are fascinated by that. It’s such a unique part of our society, but until now, there’s been nothing to read about it. This is for history’s sake.”

“Motor City Mafia” is available at local bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or
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Joined: 14 Dec 2005, 20:51

15 Dec 2006, 09:15 #2

I just ordered a copy.
Check out the Gangsters Inc website for all your news and info about organized crime and the mafia!

Joined: 03 Apr 2006, 12:08

14 Mar 2007, 13:17 #3

Picturing the Detroit Mafia
February 4, 2007



You’ve seen the Arcadia Publishing books in your local bookstore. They are the photo-filled paperbacks that celebrate the uplifting local histories of Detroit, its suburbs, and assorted ethnic groups, generally taking a warts-free approach that plays up the bucolic and nostalgic side of yesteryear.

Then there is Arcadia’s “Motor City Mafia,” Scott Burnstein’s history of organized crime in Detroit. It is filled with images of bodies lying in their own blood, mug shots, FBI surveillance photos, Mafia weddings and wise guys with nicknames like Cockeyed Sam, Sammy B, Swinging Sammy, Jimmy Q., Pat the Pimp, Joe the Barber, Tony Pro, Tony Z, Joey Jack, Billy Jack, Frank the Irishman, Sally Buggs, Joe the Whip, Papa John and Black Jack.


And Black Bill, Little Vince, Tommy Gun, Jackie G, Louie the Bulldog, Hollywood Ronnie, Pete the Baker, Tony Pal, Frankie the Bomb, Fat Jackie, Taco, Buster, Skippy, Bernie the Hammer, Pete the Greek, Bobby the Tiger, Tony the Fixer, Fat Jerry, Bobby the Teacher, Freddie the Saint, Superfly, Chicago Tony, Little Caesar, The Peacemaker, Young Mikey, Sammy Lou, Mike the Enforcer, Joe Uno and Pat the Cat, among others.

While “Motor City Mafia” is an unlikely part of the series, it’s proven to be a popular one in metro Detroit. It’s now running through its third printing, and Burnstein, 30, of West Bloomfield, has been asked to do numerous book signings.

“I’m not trying to put these guys in jail,” Burnstein says. “I’m not passing judgment on what they’ve done. Historically, it’s important to the city. It needs to be put in some sort of record.”

Assembling the photos from local archives, his own collection and retired FBI agents, Burnstein starts his tale at the turn of the 20th Century, when Detroit’s teeming ethnic neighborhoods spawned mobsters who struggled for control of businesses both legal and illegal. One photo of a police lineup from the Prohibition era shows members of the Italian River Gang, the Jewish Purple Gang and independent Polish gangsters. Burnstein writes that the ruthless Purple Gang ruled city street from about 1925 to 1933. Authorities say they were responsible for more than 500 local murders.

He chronicles the 1931 rubout – by his own men -- of gangland boss Chester (Big Chet) La Mare, which led to the formation of the modern-day Mafia crime family. The first leader was Bill Tocco, who chose as his underboss best friend and brother-in-law Joe Zerilli, who assumed control of the local mob five years later and ran it into the 1970s, “building the crime family into a juggernaut of vice and corruption and a model of underworld stability and efficiency,” according to Burnstein.

Zerilli anointed Jack Tocco as his successor, and Tocco continues as boss today. Burnstein says the metro-area Mafia of the early 21st Century is a cohesive outfit staffed by people who are mostly relatives, which adds to the cohesiveness. Regenerating after federal prosecutions of the 1990s, local mobsters remain active in the traditional Detroit mob pursuits as bookmaking, extortion and loan sharking, Burnstein contends.

Growing up in West Bloomfield, Burnstein became interested in crime after developing an obsession as a child with one of the crimes of the century – the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He graduated from Indiana University and got a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He decided several years ago that he wanted to become a writer.

“By the end of law school I was telling everybody that law school was a mistake, and if I ever had to practice law I would have to shoot myself,” he says.

Signing books at local stores, Burnstein has met some of the younger relatives of the mobsters featured in the book, and he has even come face-to-face with a couple of low-ranking Mafia members. They’ve been generally positive, he said. One told him: “We got a kick out of it.”

One night, at the Border’s in Birmingham, an older man walked up and showed Burnstein his driver’s license. It was a former underworld character whose street name was “Pat the Pimp,” described in the book as having been killed in a gangland dispute. “I’m not dead,” he told Burnstein. Turns out he had been shot, but didn’t die. Before long, patrons were asking Pat the Pimp to sign their books, right on his photo – an FBI mug shot -- on page 91.

Said Burnstein: “I’m not saying it’s the gospel. I’m not saying I know everything. The goal was to be as accurate as possible. I hope it’s the first book of many.”