Read advance reader review of Smalltime by Russell Shorto

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A Story of My Family and the Mob

by Russell Shorto

Smalltime by Russell Shorto X
Smalltime by Russell Shorto
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  • Published Feb 2021
    272 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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There are currently 27 member reviews
for Smalltime
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  • Frances M. (Shaker Heights, OH)
    Mob in Central PA
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading about small time mob activity in PA. This book gives a view of the evolution of the Shorto family from info collected by a grandson from interviews and historical records in Johnstown. Of particular interest is the relationship between the authors father and his grandfather and questions that were left unanswered by the research done. In reading this book, I felt like I was a fly on the wall witnessing mid century small town America in action. Wouldn't we all like to hear of the historical day to day evolution of our own families?
  • Elizabeth (Salem, OR)
    I really enjoyed the book despite not having any connection to Italy, Pennsylvania, the Mafia, or deeply dysfunctional families! Even if you are not interested in the life of second and third generation Italian immigrants, the author's journey to understanding his father was quite affecting and universal. The writing was very good and the author wove the story strands together effectively.
  • Liz D. (East Falmouth, MA)
    Johnstown Memories
    Smalltime by Russ Shorto like a trip back in time when we would sit around the kitchen table and listen as my sister's husband would regale us with stories of his Italian family.
    I am a Pittsburgh native so stories about the mob were quite common in the 50's growing up.
    Russ made this history of the small time Italian mob
    Very accessible and understandable with his story of his grandfather's life and the history of Johnstown after the war. Johnstown was in the midst of the Golden Age of steel production. The Italian immigrants so long downtrodden as less than others took the opportunity to gain power with gambling and rackets.
    Mr. Short brings that history to life and honors both his father and grandfather at the same time.
    The book is a smooth read moving easily between the past and present the Italian with lots of great stories along the way. I was sorry to see Smalltime end, I could have listened to more stories. Very Enjoyable book!
  • Laure R. (Fresno, CA)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this true story of Italian immigrants beginning a new life in a small western Pennsylvania town and their evolution from low level steel mill workers to organized crime.

    The author, Russel Shorto, researched the history of his family and the "mob" through interviews with senior relatives, their friends and associates in addition to researching documents, newspaper accounts, etc . It encompasses the era of prohibition to present day. It all provided him answers to many mysteries, large and small, existing between family members and great insight to their character.
    The finished product is a beautifully written story of both his family and the mob. I found the history of the 1930's and details of various "business ventures" of the mob fascinating. The inclusion of several photos of his family members added to my enjoyment and I appreciated it.

    I recommend this book to all.
  • Michelle M. (Palm City, FL)
    To know One is to Love One
    This book brought back memories from my childhood. My father is from Italy and my Mom from France so the work ethic that I grew up with I found in this book. Also my husband grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and was very familiar with The Patriarca Family. Many instances in this book about mob activities described hit their mark. I will not explain why.

    I love the way the author weaves history in his books. I so enjoyed " The Island at the Center of the World ". My husband had an apartment in Manhattan so we explored many historical sites there. They seemed to come more alive after reading that book.

    I would love for Mr. Shorto to write more about his time growing up. Italian families are so entertaining. Liked the gravy recipe with the meatballs. Can't wait for my husband to read this book and try the recipe.
  • Carrie M. (Rahway, NJ)
    Smalltime A story of My Family and the Mob
    Russel Shorto's Smalltime, is a captivating and engaging family story of Russell Shorto's relatives' and friends' deep involvement, even if involuntary at times, with the mob. The story stretches from the immigration of great-grandfather, who leaves Italy and his life and family to find a new one in Johnstown Pennsylvania, and progresses through the next generations and how they survived and strives with the help of the mob in small town America, but not without disappointments and hardships.

    What makes the book so engrossing is the author's research and reliance especially on his father, who a forms writing partnership with the author to explore family memories, and interviews not only with his family and friends, but with others who knew the author's ancestors and their associates who were helped by the family though time and if they had any association with the mob.

    Amazingly the author admits to missing pieces of the story. A highly recommended memoir that is rich in detail but offers humor and is written in a pace that keeps the reader involved and discovering and appreciating the strength of the family. An interesting side note while looking biographical information on the author, I found an interesting interview in BookPage (, in which Russell Shorto discusses eight true factors that led to the growth of the mob in America.
  • Lynn D. (Kingston, NY)
    Mobsters in the Family
    I enjoyed this book a lot. Shorto begins the story of his grandfather's years as a smalltime racketeer in PA by tracing his family back to their Sicilian roots. The 20th century Italian-American experience is central to this story. Shorto engages the reader by framing the story with his journey of learning about his grandfather, his father, and ultimately, himself. Highly recommended.

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