Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Life We Chose: A Look Back At Mob Boss Russell Bufalino And His Successor

 I’m reading Matt Birkbeck's The Life We Chose: William “Big Billy” D’Elia and the Last Secrets of America’s Most Powerful Crime Family. 

I wanted to read the book as I’m interested in Russell Bufalino, who was portrayed by Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and because part of the book is about the South Philly Cosa Nostra crime family. 

I grew up and still live in South Philly, and as a writer, I’ve covered the local mob for a good number of years. 

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia’s review of the book appeared in JerseyMan magazine. 

Back in 1994 when John Stanfa was under indictment and headed for a life prison sentence, he asked William “Big Billy” D’Elia to take over as boss of the Philadelphia mob.

Big Billy said no thank you.

“I didn’t want to put a target on my back,” D’Elia said by way of explanation.

It was the smart move. But then D’Elia was nothing if not smart. By that point, he had been schooled for more than 30 years in the ways of the underworld by one of the masters of that universe. It was an apprenticeship like no other and he came away much the wiser.

D’Elia has now put it all on the record in an intriguing and entertaining new book written by journalist Matt Birkbeck.

The Life We Chose comes out this month. It’s the story of D’Elia’s coming of age in an underworld that was coming undone. The situation in Philadelphia in the 1990s was a prime example and it was captured perfectly in one of the most succinct and telling lines written by Birkbeck… D’Elia watched the murder and mayhem that racked the Philadelphia crime family for years and that reached a crescendo during the war between old-world mob boss Stanfa and the young and precocious Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino.

D’Elia’s thoughts, according to Birkbeck: “The propensity for violence there reminded him of spoiled children with guns.”

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

The Life We Chose | JerseyMan Magazine

You can also read my Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat column on George Anastasia below:

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