Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

    QUESTION: What motivated you to let Gay Talese have your story?

    Bill Bonanno: Gay Talese was a very insistent correspondent for The New York Times at the time.
    The New York Times, he told me, doesn't have reporters, they have correspondents. And he just
    didn't give up. He was very tenacious. He hounded me for about four or five months until I said
    OK, you can have the story, provided that we have an understanding: that you will get it a little bit
    at a time whenever I can. I couldn't very well tell him that at the time I was involved in a shooting
    war in New York.

One of the stupider criticisms, amidst many legitimate ones, of George W. Bush in this 2000 Presidential campaign is that he is merely following in his Dad's footsteps; as if this was unusual?  John McCain went to the Naval Academy--his father and grandfather were admirals.  Steve Forbes runs Forbes magazine--here's a shocker for you, he wasn't the founder.  Al Gore was nicknamed Prince Albert because he was so patently aping his old man's career.  (Bradley is the exception here, thanks to the freak gift of athletic ability).  And, your intrepid correspondent, the fifth of six consecutive Orrin Judds, attended the alma mater of three of the four, went to law school like the third and, barring a strict prohibition from my wife, would even now be attending seminary like the first and fourth.  This is what men do, we follow in our fathers footsteps.  In Honor Thy Father, Gay Talese offers a fascinating real-life account of what happens when the family business turns out to be the Mafia.

Talese was still a beat writer for the New York Times in 1965 when he was sent to the federal courthouse in Manhattan to cover the arrest of Bill Bonanno, an intelligent, affable young mobster who had been wanted for questioning in the disappearance of his father, mob boss Joseph Bonanno.  Talese, himself of Italian descent, had long wondered what life was like for real mafiosi.  He approached Bill Bonanno, who was his own age and was college educated (though he never finished) and asked him if he would sit down for a series of interviews which would lead to a book on growing up the son of a Don.  Over the next five years, while Bonanno dealt with the disappearance and reappearance of his father, fought his way through a mob war (the Banana War) and ended up going to prison for credit card fraud, Talese gained unprecedented access to Bonanno and family and friends.  The result is this fascinating novelistic account of life inside the Mob, with a particular focus on how this bright, articulate, modern man was drawn into his father's brutal and backwards business.

It all makes for riveting reading.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Gay Talese Links:

    -ESSAY: The Silent Season of a Hero (Gay Talese, July 1966, Esquire)
    -PROFILE: Gay Talese on Resisting His Frank Sinatra Assignment, and What Really Matters in a Marriage (Daily Beast, September 16, 2023)
    -REVIEW: of The Gay Talese Reader (Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly)     -Gay Talese (author's website)
    -Encyclopaedia Britannica:  Your search: "gay talese"
    -Creative Nonfiction:  Writers and Their Works
    -ESSAY: Where Are the Italian-American Novelists? (Gay Talese, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: "When I Was 25"  (Gay Talese, POV)
    -REVIEW: of   THE SICILIAN By Mario Puzo (Gay Talese, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of MAYOR By Edward I. Koch with William Rauch  (Gay Talese, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of LA MERICA: Images of Italian Greenhorn Experience. By Michael La Sorte (Gay Talese, NY Times Book Review)
    -INTERVIEW: with Gay Talese (Glynnis Wilson , The Southerner:  Willie Morris Tribute)
    -DISCUSSION: The Sopranos: Art Imitating Art?  including Talese (WNYC Radio)
    -PROFILE:  From Ocean City 'Outsider' to Author Who Learned to Listen  (SHIRLEY HORNER, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE: Getting writing lessons from a master: Talese (Stephan Salisbury, The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 1999)
    -REVIEW: Wilfrid Sheed: Everybody's Mafia, NY Review of Books
        The American Mafia: Genesis of a Legend by Joseph L. Albini
        The Mafia Is Not an Equal Opportunity Employer by Nicholas Gage
        Honor Thy Father: The Inside Book on the Mafia by Gay Talese
        The Godfather by Mario Puzo
        The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola
    -REVIEW: of Honor Thy Father (Gang Land)
    -REVIEW: Alexander Cockburn: Mr. P, Mrs. V, and Mr. T, NY Review if Books
        Thy Neighbor's Wife by Gay Talese
    -REVIEW: of UNTO THE SONS By Gay Talese (William Murray, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of UNTO THE SONS By Gay Talese (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: starred review of The Best American Sports Writing of the Century. Ed. by David Halberstam and Glenn Stout includes Talese's profile of DiMaggio (ALA Booklist)
    -ESSAY: In Search of Italian American Writers (Fred Gardaphé)
    -ESSAY: on Talese USF MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING PROGRAM  Literary Journalism Class: Week 1 (Pat Soberanis)
    -ESSAY: Poet on a Fuzzy Toilet Seat Cover (R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., American Spectator)
    -ESSAY: How Muhammad Ali Changed the Press (David Remnick, SportsJones Magazine)
    -Polyamory-Related Books: Poly Journalism:  Journalistic works that discuss polyamory...  Thy Neighbor's Wife  Gay Talese
    -'Best American Journalism' Top 100 (New York University school of journalism)
        #43. Gay Talese Fame and Obscurity: Portraits by Gay Talese Collected articles 1970

    -REVIEW: Bonanno, Bill. Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story (Library Journal)
    -INTERVIEW:  A Chat You Can't Refuse: Former Consigliere Bill Bonanno  (TIME, Transcript from May 11, 1999)
    -Jerry Capeci's Gang Land

    -REVIEW: of  IT WASN'T PRETTY, FOLKS, BUT DIDN'T WE HAVE FUN? Esquire in the Sixties. By Carol Polsgrove (Timothy Foote, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Dwight Macdonald: Parajournalism, or Tom Wolfe & His Magic Writing Machine
        The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby by Tom Wolfe
    -ESSAY: When Fact Is Treated as Fiction (JAMES ATLAS, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Stranger Than Fiction (JAMES ATLAS, NY Times Book Review)
    -Creative Nonfiction:  Writers and Their Works

Book-related and General Links: