• Five Families

  • The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires
  • By: Selwyn Raab
  • Narrated by: Paul Costanzo
  • Length: 33 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 06-10-2015
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (21 ratings)

Regular price: $66.63

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Publisher's Summary

Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo, and Lucchese. For decades these Five Families ruled New York and built the American Mafia (or Cosa Nostra) into an underworld empire. Today, the Mafia is an endangered species, battered and beleaguered by aggressive investigators, incompetent leadership, betrayals, and generational changes that produced violent, unreliable leaders and recruits. A 20-year assault against the five families in particular blossomed into the most successful law enforcement campaign of the last century.

Selwyn Raab's 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. The book also brings the listener 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.

©2005 Selwyn Raab (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This masterpiece stands an excellent chance of becoming a bestseller with crossover appeal beyond devoted watchers of The Sopranos." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • 13-10-2016

7326451

To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons I chose this book was that I’m getting towards the end of my credits for this year, and so I was looking for a long book. I’m quite interested and curious about the mafia, and so, at 33 hours, I thought this would be a good listen.

It has many merits: It’s a pretty comprehensive account of organised crime in America in centuries 20-21, and it can't have been an easy story to unearth. The Cosa Nostra has been a phenomenally secretive and devious organisation throughout its lifespan. All members of the fraternity are bound by their most sacred rule ‘Omerta’- meaning, literally, ‘being a man’, but in practical terms ‘Omerta’ refers to secrecy rather than manliness; a strict code of silence, under pain of death, to which all Mafiosi are sworn.

There’s a certain amount of romanticism surrounding the Mafia. I’m as much a sucker for this as the next person. I realise it’s probably the result of gangster movies from the thirties with stars like Edward G Robinson and Jimmy Cagney, and, more recently, the brilliant 'Godfather trilogy'. In the early years the mafia gained a foothold by providing some popular services deemed illegal by a prudish establishment. They provided alcohol during prohibition and facilitated gambling – banned by the government but craved by the populace.

The public was happy to turn a blind eye to this criminal activity and often saw the mafia as the good guys and the authorities as the bad guys - But in reality the mafia have always been a very nasty bunch of people, heaping misery on the everyday American, a parasite on the backs of honest, hardworking citizens.

This book tells that story. The authors overcame the secrecy barrier by researching the evidence from rare cases where 'Omerta' was compromised – most of it coming from the few Mafiosi persuaded to testify against their fellow mobsters - and from wire taps. All credit to the authors for finding and collating this information.

But it takes more than this to make a really good listening experience. It isn’t enough for all the information to be there in the book, it also needs to be in a coherent order.

I’m sorry to say that, here, it isn’t. So many times I lost track and thought ‘who are we talking about now?’ and ‘where does this bit fit into the big narrative?’

It felt like ‘7326451’ instead of ‘1234567’.

Verdict: Definitely worth a listen – I did learn a lot about the mafia – but the story was out of order.

45 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rik B
  • 30-12-2015

Great!

Love me some mob stuff! I've been fascinated with La Cosa Nostra since I was a teen in the 80's. I've read many books and have watched everything I know of concerning it. I'm not as expert level as Selwyn Raab, though I'm well informed. This is a great and fairly deep history of the American mob. Starting with it's roots in Sicily on through to the 00's. I learned of many "characters" and tidbits about the dysfunctional mob family that I didn't know of before, which thrilled me. I put it on at a random spot at night and listen to stories until I fall asleep. For me it's well worth the price of admission.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Ruth
  • 01-10-2016

Narrator pacing makes this a difficult listen

I'm only 8 hours into this mammoth book, so can't comment on its entirety, but I have to take a break for a few days. The narrator has a clear and pleasant voice, but he puts very tiny pauses in the wrong places, especially with dependent clauses. That makes the phrase seem like it belongs to either the previous or following sentence. It becomes very irritating.

Also, this is just too long. There is a lot of interesting material, but I think it would be one book I'd prefer to have in an abridged version.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • tony
  • 05-10-2017

Great listen

The most indept book on the subject I've listened to, the narrator in the beginning is a little boring, but once you get use to his voice the book gets better and better.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jerry in Charlotte
  • 28-07-2017

A Multitude of Fascinating Mob Stories

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would absolutely recommend this. Would make a great gift.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

This is well-told, entertaining, very informative set of interconnected and factual short stories about the Mafia, centered on NYC, but tales take the listener to Tampa, Nevada, LA, Chhicago, Upstate NY, New Orleans...so many connections, so many GREAT stories.You'll get to know about the early mobsters, at the turn of the century - the actual beginnings of the 5 big families of NYC...through the depression, into WWII (did you know Lucky Luciano had been deported to Italy in the '30s, and lived there through the war...and made a ton of $ because of it?), the political machine in NYC...multiple Congressional Queries, the Kennedy Assassination, so much more....Can't recommend the book highly enough. Truly a 5-Star experience.

What does Paul Costanzo bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Paul did a great job. So many different characters he played - excellent. Would definitely be interested in checking out other audio performances by Mr. Costanzo.That said, on the recording itself, there were some hiss and volume issues (in Volume 1, I think), hence only 4 stars on the Performance.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

All the stories about Hoover willfully ignoring (and/or not believing in the existence of) the 'Commission' was interesting and very entertaining. I literally laughed out loud at times...Hoover was a real 'piece of work'...ha!

Any additional comments?

So many names and so many great stories, sometimes a little hard to keep track...lol.The next time I listen, I'm going to setup a cork-board (just like in the movies), with cutout photos with dates, push-pins and strings connecting everything. Ha! That's the only issue I have with Audible - if there are maps, illustrations, diagrams, charts...etc... in a book, you'll not be getting these. You've gotta do the work to find similar information in these formats. :-(

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Adventure Boy
  • 26-01-2016

100 years of mafia headlines

The book tries to cover the entire history of the mafia in New York since 1900. Even though the book is very long, it only has time to skim the surface. It also makes the book seem repititious, as mobster after mobster engages in the same loan sharking or union tampering, and vies for promotion. There is very little new in this book that has not already appeared in the press. The writing is clear and the narrator is good, but this was a disappointment.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Fan
  • 29-10-2015

A very good history of the mob

Would you listen to Five Families again? Why?

Yes, Raab is an excellent author and is an expert in this field. Also, I like the narrator.

What does Paul Costanzo bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He adds drama and pace to an already interesting story.

If you could give Five Families a new subtitle, what would it be?

A real history of the Mafia.

Any additional comments?

I was very happy that I bought this book. I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in the Mafia.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Adrian
  • 26-05-2017

My first audiobook

This was my first audiobook and I loved it. I'm a big fan of Selwyn Raab and he did an amazing job.

My biggest issue and the reason for 4 stars is because I had problems keeping up sometimes, it was hard to follow. I wish the narrator lived more into it.

I highly recommend watching the mini series "The Making of the Mob: New York". Selwyn Raab is featured a lot in the series and he also helped writing it. So it's kinda like having parts of the book in a TV Show.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Dominick S. Scaletta
  • 25-05-2017

Good book, although a bit unprofessional.

This book is an excellent historical review, but the frequent insults describing mobsters lacks professionalism.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jimmy Shelton
  • 29-04-2016

Great book

Great book. Very detailed without becoming boring. Gives you a sense of key mobsters character. I'll probably listen to it again soon.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew
  • 14-04-2016

Interesting and well-written history

Any additional comments?

This is the first book I've listened to (or read) on the subject. Fascinating, well-written, and well-narrated.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • William
  • 18-03-2016

"Superb"

If you could sum up Five Families in three words, what would they be?

Well narrated, Interesting, informative,

What other book might you compare Five Families to, and why?

Mob Boss: The Life of Little Al D'arco, the Man Who Brought Down the Mafia, Along similar lines but different story and a different perspective of the life.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

"The Five Families: The money the lies and the killing’s from Bensonhurst to Broadway"

Any additional comments?

Superb book couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ryan cusdin
  • 04-12-2016

Exceptional

The best book I've never read. Absolutely fascinating insight into the underworld. I highly recommend this audiobook.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • RGWright
  • 12-05-2017

excellent

Massively detailed breakdown of the mafia. interesting and full of fact. learnt loads from this but I can't talk about it.😉

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • J W.
  • 03-12-2015

Excellent

Would you listen to Five Families again? Why?

I'd listen to this again Because, not only is it the best book I've ever read about the Cosa Nostra in the United States, engagingly written and well-researched, but the narration is superb.

What did you like best about this story?

The subject has always fascinated me, and in The Five Families the author, Selwyn Raab, has literally created a 'one-stop-shop' for the history of the Mafia in America.

Have you listened to any of Paul Costanzo’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I've not listened to any other of the narrator's performances, but I will. He is excellent. He doesn't try to do accents and dialects - he reads the book in a lively and thoughtful way.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

This is the one...

Any additional comments?

This is destined to be one of my favourites.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Steve
  • 16-04-2016

Interesting but 10 hours too long

After recently listening to Puzo's Godfather I thought it would be interesting to research the truth behind the stories.

This book is incredibly informative and detailed almost to a fault. The result is a very well written and narrated book that seems to go on forever. from about 20 hours in it became a bit of a slog to finish it.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Grapes of Wrath
  • 25-04-2018

Far too lengthy

The subject is interesting,but overall it is far too wordy and drawn out. Some of the time I didn’t know if I was listening to people’s names or a pasta dish. There also is too much referring to previous events to such an extent that it becomes confusing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Gary Leith
  • 31-10-2017

A serious listen!

This is a seriously indepth and long book on the New York Mafia families. I certainly enjoyed this listen but it takes a lot of concentration to keep up with all the many stories and characters mentioned throughout the book. I marked the story down to 3 as the content and length of this book was too long for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 07-09-2017

a very indepth insight into the history of the mob

from day one till now, covering the history of cosa nostra and it's 5 most influential families and figures

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Steve Aitken
  • 09-02-2017

In-depth analysis on the Mob

Excellent analysis and complete history of the Mafia, from Sicily to America. Excellently narrated also.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful