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Book Review: Breakshot: A Life in the 21st Century American Mafia by Kenny Gallo and Matthew Randazzo V

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For the past few years, Kenny Gallo has been spreading his tales of infiltrating the LA and NY Mafia on the Internet through his website Hollywood Mafia (which, often comically, dishes dirt on the mob in California) or on one of the various mob history forums. From the start, he was viewed with some skepticism and outright hostility. How could a half-Japanese guy from California become a high level associate and confidant of Mafioso? Kenny, along with author Matthew Randazzo V, tells how that happened in the new true crime book Breakshot.

The book tells Kenny’s story in his own words, from a teenage drug kingpin to an FBI informant against the Mafia and other assorted criminals, con men, and wannabes. Breakshot differs from other mobster tell-alls in a few ways. For one, Kenny palled around with an interesting mix of Colombian cartel members, Jewish porn kingpins, the Mickey Mouse Mafia family (the pejorative nickname given to the LA mob family by local law enforcement), and the dysfunctional Colombo crime family out of Brooklyn. It also gives some introspection into Kenny as a person, something a lot of mobsters are loathe to do, even in print.

Kenny comes across as a brash, cocky, arrogant, know-it-all who’s above everyone else and likes to throw his weight around. In other words, like a real wiseguy. But there are hints of another side, and that comes out mainly in the parts of the book dealing with his one true lost love, a girl named Tara whom he dated right when he was getting his free-wheeling drug empire going. He isn’t afraid to show some vulnerability. Frankly, with the terror he inflicted on those who crossed him, the story needed an emotional counterweight.

After running with the drug crowd, Kenny gets involved in the porn industry and by default, the Mafia. Kenny was initially dismissive of the Mafia. “When it came to doing business with the Mob, I had a unique mind-set: I didn’t respect them.” But as his dealings with the LA Mafia family unfold, he genuinely comes to like some of the elderly gangsters, like Jimmy Caci and Louis Gelfuso, and finds himself spending more time with the mobsters he doesn’t hold in high regard than the narco-terrorists that he made his mark with. Breakshot throws in some interesting mob teasers, like a meeting with a Paul, the supposed boss of Denver in the 1990s (likely the late Paul Villano) and Tony Ripes Civella, head of the Kansas City crime family. Kenny also gives the inside track on the 1997 murder of Herbie Blitzstein in Las Vegas and how the FBI could have easily prevented it from happening. Kenny is not afraid to pull punches when it comes to his law enforcement saviors either.

Gallo also pulls no punches in his take on the porn industry. He shatters any kind of myth about the business and way the women really make their money. There’s an inherent sleaziness to the proceedings that Kenny brings to the surface. “Porn stars are hookers — I was around the business from 1988 to 2004, and I do not recall a single major female porn star who was not open to turning tricks at some point.”

To capture Kenny’s story, author Matthew Randazzo V does a good job of reining in tangential stories, concentrating on the underlying narrative flow. You can hardly tell where his research was integrated with Kenny’s recollections. The book doesn’t suffer from too many self-congratulatory delusions. Randazzo wisely chooses to let Kenny drive the story to a point, but keeps things clear and concise. The only things that could have added to the book would be an index or a cast of characters, or preferably both.

It’s not all accolades. The end comes rather quickly, leaving some loose ends and unanswered questions. The book also fails to go into any of the cases that stemmed from Kenny’s cooperation with authorities. However, even with those shortcomings, Breakshot joins the canon of better Mafia books, and among the sub-genre of Mafia tell-alls, it’s one of the strongest in recent years.

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About Scott Deitche