Simply labeled Mafia, a dusty old compilation of American gangsters recently surfaced. It was assembled by the Bureau of Narcotics in the early ’60s (meanwhile the FBI outwardly insisted the ‘Mafia’ didn’t exist). One of just 50 copies, Mafia intimately detailed the lives of over 800 organized criminals.

A product of its time, this massive compendium charmingly lacked the panache of PowerPoint, assembled with a plain black three-ring binder, typed pages and black cloth binding. It’s just been recreated and published in that quaint format, almost identical to the original. The effect is eye-catching – so old it’s new.

The book’s history alone is fascinating, but the nasties featured are hideously compelling. Mug shots and histories of made guys with names like Vincent “the Chin” Gigante and “Tony Bones” Castaldi; fact sheets coldly list everything from mobsters’ aliases to their uglier proclivities and criminal records.

Being a who’s-who, Mafia doesn’t make for linear bedtime reading. But pick it up to browse – imagine some terrifying set of pre-publication proofs for a criminals’ yearbook – and you won’t put it down for awhile.

Normally we don’t talk about great gift ideas because we’re guys and we shop at the last minute at whatever’s open. (“Christmas lights and a foot massager! How did you know?”) But rules were made to be broken. Consider Mafia a great gift – maybe not for your girlfriend. It’s a sure-fire conversation starter, and does it look good on the coffee table?


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