The First Family: Terror, Extortion and the Birth of the American Mafia

'Under Morello's pillow we found four fully loaded revolvers; beneath Terranova's, five. That's bound to impress you. And two of Morello's guns were loaded with buckshot – three or four pellets in each cartridge. One might compare Giuseppe to a one-man war, and I frequently wondered if he didn't fear himself at times.'

Giuseppe Morello
Giuseppe Morello

When William Flynn of the US Secret Service raided Giuseppe Morello’s Manhattan apartment on 15 November 1909, he was hunting for the men who had put $100,000 of forged currency into circulation. What he found was something far more terrifying: the first boss of bosses of the American Mafia, a ruthless gangster from the fabled stronghold of Corleone in Sicily who overcame the appalling deformities that earned him the nickname 'The Clutch Hand' and made himself the founding father of organised crime in the United States.

Backed by the murderous relatives who helped to run his criminal family, Morello built himself a substantial business empire, and had his own private burial ground on a farm upstate where as many as 60 of his enemies were secretly interred. Had it not been for Morello, New York may never have heard of 'Men of Honour', ruthless protection rackets or bizarre initiation rituals.

Mike Dash is an acclaimed researcher and a master of atmospheric historical narrative. He has exhumed the long-forgotten story of the Morello family from archives across the US and Italy. The First Family is a ground-breaking piece of history that explains how a ruthless, maimed Sicilian became the most influential crime lord in the United States.