A mob boss autobiography, a creative novel, and middle-grade scary books – the twin cities

What a good news report on the book today. We have the first complete autobiography of a mafia boss, a fictional story that begins with the shocking shock of the first Chinese woman to arrive in America, and middle-class scary stories featuring killer clowns and dead sailors.

“Sonny: The Last of the Old Mafia Bosses, John ‘Sonny’ Franzese” By SJ Peddie (Citadel Press, $27)

"Sonny: The Last of the Old Mafia Bosses, John 'Sonny' Franzese"
“Sonny: The Last of the Old Mafia Bosses, John ‘Sonny’ Franzese”

Over the years, I’ve interviewed some well-meaning gangsters, and they’re mostly not very interesting. They were greedy and violent, and there was no honor code between them. They were just outside to themselves. I knew enough to stay away.

Yet here I was, interviewing a man who had murdered and abused countless people in their pursuit of power and money, and I was intrigued.

this Award-winning journalist Sandra Bede She admitted in her book “Sonny” that even when gang member Sonny Franzese was over 100, he was charming and honest when he talked to Peddie at the nursing home.

Living in a high-ranking facility was compensation for this man who headed a crime family in Colombo and got rich through extortion, fraud and phony syndicates.

Sonny may have participated in or ordered the killing of 40 to 50 people. He went on trial in 1964 for the murder of Ernst “Hawk” Ropolo, but hit that rap. He was in and out of prison multiple times, but the law finally got him in in 1970 when he was sent to prison to serve two 25-year sentences for conspiracy to rob four banks. He was last released in 2017, and died in 2020.

As a mafia captor, Sonny worked out of his Long Island home and when he went to prison he continued his projects.

At the height of his power and charm in the mid-1960s, Sonny and his “beautiful and ruthless” second wife, Tina, set up court at the Copacabana nightclub, where he and Frank Sinatra wrangled for power over who would be the most famous and dominant. Often gracious, Sonny said he wouldn’t mind helping “the skinny kid” if he needed it.

Legendary mob boss Jun "Sony" Franzese, the head of the Colombo crime family, in an October 1966 custody photo from the New York Police Department.  Sandra Bede, an investigative reporter for Newsday Media Group, interviewed Franzese before his death in 2020 at the age of 103, to write. "Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John Sonny." (Courtesy of Sandra Pedi)
Legendary mob boss John “Sonny” Franzezi, the head of the Colombo crime family, is pictured in an October 1966 detention photo from the New York Police Department. (Courtesy of Sandra Bedi)

Sonny loved show business and they loved him. He credits himself with helping bring African-American artists such as Sammy Davis Jr. to the spotlight in Cuba. He also touched Ava Gardner in a back room while her boyfriend Sinatra was on stage.

Peddie traces Sonny’s criminal career from the time he was 14 and allegedly committed his first murder, to his rise through the ranks of the mafia.

While Sonny faced his problems with the law, his wife continued to pretend to be a happy family. She was beautifully dressed, overlooked a beautiful home and had two daughters and a son, John, who eventually became an FBI informant and reported his father by wearing a wire.

Tina’s son Michael, whose father was her first husband, made millions in a Long Island gas tax fraud. He buried his mother, who was proud of her fashionable clothes, in a hospital gown.

Bedi’s writing style is easy and she clearly tells the story of a complex man’s life, showing his failures and the magic that drew people to him. A handful of characters are included, with narration of “songbirds” who collaborated with law enforcement and detectives who have followed Sony for years.

Sandra Bede meets the legendary mob boss John "Sony" Franzese, the head of the Colombo crime family, before his death in 2020 at the age of 103.  Bedi, an investigative reporter for Newsday Media Group, author of "Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John Sonny." (Jeffrey Basinger/Courtesy of Sandra Bede)
Sandra Pedi interviews mob boss John “Sonny” Franzezi before his death in 2020 at the age of 103. (Jeffrey Basinger/Courtesy of Sandra Peddie)

Sony was admired in some gang and law enforcement circles for refusing to cooperate with the FBI after he went to prison. Regarding his law of silence, he said to Bedi, “I could never abandon a man because I knew what prison was. I would never put a dog in a prison cell.”

Bedi, a former reporter for Pioneer Press, is an investigative reporter at Newsday Media Group. She has won more than 50 awards for her work and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. She was also a member of the team that wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on police fraud in 2011.

She will discuss her book in 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 10, in Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.

“Many daughters of Avong Mui By Jamie Ford (Atria Books, $28)

"Many girls of Avong Moi"
“The Many Daughters of Avong Moi” by Jimmy Ford.

For most of her childhood, Avong believed she was a terrible man in her previous life until she was reborn as a woman. It must have been cruel, to be reborn helplessly. She must have been greedy to return as property. She must have been motionless, she must have bound her feet in this life. She must have been hardened to get her to marry an old man she had never met, she had never seen before, and unable to forget the young man she had dreamed of.

Jimmy Ford’s groundbreaking new novel, The Many Daughters of Afong Moi, is set in the past, present and future, as it traces the trauma of women descended from Afong Moi, the first Chinese woman to set her bound feet on American soil in 1836.

When Afong’s fiancée is murdered in China, the young woman is forced to marry an older man whose family sends her away due to her misfortune. She became a sensation on the American stage as she traveled across the country, singing while seated on a throne-like chair. But she’s not considered human, as she finds out when white doctors take off her clothes, including her lotus shoes, and beat her bare body in and out, breaking the tiny bones of her feet that had already been broken several times.

Afong’s daughter, Lai King, was burned to the ground in Chinatown in 1898 as authorities try to contain the spread of the plague.

Then there’s Faye, who in 1942 was a nurse in love with a dying young pilot who left her a watch with a picture cut out of a newspaper. It’s a picture of the younger Fay, and when she turns the paper over she sees, in her handwriting, the words FIND ME.

Greta, in 2014, is an award winning dating app that loses it all. Zoe, in 1927, is a student at a luxury boarding school.

This is how Ford presents his characters – not in a linear fashion but jumping from decade to decade. The lives of these women culminate in the experiences of Dorothy who lives in the present day. Dorothy has emotional issues, and for the sake of her daughter Annabelle, she undergoes an experimental treatment that involves breaking the grip of generational trauma.

It ends in the year 2086 with Annabelle benefiting from her mother’s treatment. She opens her hotel room door to confront a man who appears to be in her mentally healthy future.

Ford, who lives in Montana, is the grandson of a Nevada mining pioneer who immigrated from China to San Francisco in 1865. Ford’s first novel, “A Hotel in a Bitter and Sweet Corner,” spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list.

The author will discuss “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 9 at Grace-Trinity Church, 1430 W. 28th St., Mpls., Hosted by Valley Bookseller of Stillwater, with co-hosts The China Center at the University of Minnesota, the Sino-American Cultural Exchange Association, and the Sino-American Friendship Society. Tickets, which include a signed copy of the book, are $33 plus taxes. Tickets can be purchased from valleybookseller.com.

“Monsters in the Mist” By Juliana Brandt (Sourcebooks Young Readers, $16.99)

Book cover
“Monsters in the Mist” by Juliana Brant (courtesy of Sourcebooks Young Readers).

The problem with ghosts is that they are not easy to dodge when they enter their territory. The dead claimed Lake Superior, and when the living sailed on its waters, they risked becoming one of the dead, too.

Glennon’s father Mackie takes a job overseas and Glennon travels with his mother and sister to Uncle Job’s home on Lake Superior, where he works as a lighthouse keeper on an island not on any maps.

There’s something creepy about the island, as when Glennon (not Glenn) sees a shipwreck in which the sailors disappear under cold water, except for two men and a boy, Kate, who grabs a rope to pull the cliff to safety. Who is Kate, who can be in two places at once? Why is a sailor so threatened? And who casts a spell on Glennon’s mom that keeps her drained of strength and in bed?

Glennon’s allies are Kit and Lee, who live in a lighthouse on the other side of the island and seem to know all about its history.

Is the big lake throwing its haunted death? Is everyone on the island a ghost?

Smart young readers will discover the subtext of this story; The implied emotional trauma at the Glennon family’s home in Minneapolis. The father feels a rage coming out of nowhere, breaks things, gets angry at his family, and tells his son that he’s not smart.

Brandt, A kindergarten teacher living in MinnesotaA must-read for all middle school students. She writes beautifully while conveying the feelings of young teens and bringing Lake Superior to life in all her moods. Like her previous novels, “The Wolf of Cape Finn” and “The Magic of Wilder”, this novel is very scary but ultimately shows characters who have grown emotionally and mentally.

“Class Clown” by Alan Evans (Timeless Works, paperback $14.99)

Book cover
“Class Clown” by Alan Evans (courtesy of Immortal Works).

Other circus clowns were terrified of him. It should have been information to me. When a clown was afraid of another clown, you know something wasn’t right.

There is an apocalypse clowne At Pine Ridge High School (fictional Mahtomede) and that’s kind of Abe’s fault. She is a ghost magnet and although she has been seeing ghosts in different shapes most of her life, these clowns are scary.

Abbey is introduced in Evans’ earlier book, “Abnormally Abbey,” where she was supposed to go to church camp but ended up in a tough boot camp for troubled teens. Now, she is dealing with clowns she saw on a visit to a circus, where her father was researching an essay on clowns.

Some comedians are benign, but some are terrifying in their flashy makeup, and Abby understands why some people fear them. A tall clown with an evil face is especially painful, and when Abby’s friend disappears, she fears the tall ghost will capture them. Meanwhile, clowns are only shown to her walking through the classroom door at her new school in Woodbury.

With the help of her new friend Max, Abby must return to the circus and confront the clowns, whether they die or not.

When Abby can’t resist ghosts, she plays soccer. Evans writes vividly about her team games, which show that girls can be just as physical and tough as boys on the court, even when they’re covered in mud.

Son of Twin Cities jazz musician Doc Evans, Evans credits John Sandford (John Camp) for inspiring him to start writing because of Sandford’s “amazing storytelling.” Evans is also the author of Killer Blonde.

The copies of “Class Clown” will be signed from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on August 26 at Lake Country Barrow Books4766 Washington Square, White Bear Lake.

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