This month, I’m reviewing something a little bit different for me for the November meeting of “The Book Review Club.” I’ve chosen a nonfiction book, Godfather of Night: A Greek Mafia Father, a Drug Runner Son, and an Unexpected Shot at Redemption by Kevin Pappas.
First, I’ll post the description found on amazon.com, and then I’ll tell you why I chose this book at the end.
What if you belonged nowhere and to no one? What if you learned as a teenager that the father who had mistreated you for years wasn’t your father at all–and that you were actually born to the mistress of a Greek gangster? And what if the only way to connect with your real father was to become his fiercest rival?
Kevin Cunningham grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, just another kid from the wrong side of the tracks. But from his first days, Kevin gravitated toward power, and in Tarpon Springs that meant local crime boss Lukie Pappas. As a boy, Kevin hung out at the Pappas Restaurant, and he saw how the townspeople approached Lukie. How they respected him. How they came to him for help. How they called him nounos–Greek for “godfather.” From the shadows, Kevin admired it all.
When he turned seventeen, Kevin’s world flipped upside down. His dying father confessed that Kevin was the son of another man–and not just any man. He was the son of Lukie Pappas. Suddenly, Kevin’s destiny was clear. His lineage became his fate. His rightful place was beside the Greek godfather who ruled his hometown.
But Lukie coldly rejected him, as both a son and a colleague. Fueled by rage and pride, Kevin claimed the Pappas name as his own and embarked on his own criminal enterprise. From two-bit swindling he rose quickly to high-stakes drug trafficking. Money laundering, gunrunning, and racketeering polished his underworld résumé, even as they placed him squarely in the crosshairs of every federal agency with three initials and a most-wanted list. And when he got caught, Kevin’s time behind bars only honed his criminal instinct, hardened his resolve, and cemented his reputation as a larger-than-life outlaw who sometimes went down but could never be taken out.
Still in his early twenties but as powerful as any crime boss, Kevin surrounded himself with an elite group, a posse that called itself the Band of Five. Flush with fast cars, boats, planes, and women, they wanted for nothing, but their antics invited violent attempts to bring Kevin to his senses–or at least to his knees.
More than a gripping tale, Godfather of Night unveils the Greek American crime syndicate and its close alignment to power and takes readers to a dark place where family secrets collide with high-level crime and corruption. Kevin Pappas’s story is a true-crime epic for a new generation of wiseguys–full of the harrowing war stories and hard-won wisdom of a man who lived by his own rules, broke everyone else’s, and dared the world to try to stop him.
Why I Chose This Book
I was reading the Tampa paper on my iPhone, and found a story about this book, which was causing quite a stir among the locals. The good people of Tarpon Springs didn’t want to believe it was true and insisted it wasn’t. Having lived not too far from this town, I was extremely curious about the book.
So, hubby purchased it on Kindle, and we both read it. Now I don’t usually read books with “Good Fellas” and “The Sopranos” type of language, but I couldn’t resist skimming this book for two reasons: (1) he was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and (2) he didn’t know his father growing up. I can relate to both, having met my father for the first time after the age of 40 (although there are rumors I saw him when I was 3.)
What really touched me was how desperate he was for his father to acknowledge him. Thank goodness my own father wasn’t a “wise guy” type because that type of internal desperation led him to live a life of crime and fear. But he also validated what I’ve been trying to express about my own experience – that biological fathers are very important to people – both sons and daughters – even if you’ve never met them – especially if you’ve never met them. And to deny your child is cruel; plain and simple.
Growing up in his mother’s religion (Jehovah’s Witness), he had two choices: either use the manipulative tools they use to control people to control people for your own use, or live a small life of repressed submission. He chose the former; I chose the latter. Thankfully, we both broke free. But the part that disappointed me in his “redemption” is that he never found God. But with two negative religious influences (and I’m disappointed the Greek Orthodox Church allegedly allowed the Greek Mafia influence into the church), it’s not surprising. Many who have had such a negative experience with religion leave, and often do not find their way back.
But many do find God, and for a small sample of conversion stories, you might want to check out my link here.
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Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.