The Mafia Hitman’s Daughter-Linda Scarpa with Linda Rosencranci
Brooklyn, New York is one of the most famous places in the world. The place where I was born and currently call home, has seen a rise in gentrification and an explosion in renovation and construction which has turned the borough once called the home of the coffin into a thriving metropolis attracting people from all over the world. Many natives reminisce about the old days of Brooklyn and the good times that have long passed. Some had moved out, looking for greener pastures in nearby New Jersey and other parts of the country. In the area known as South Brooklyn, in the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, Italian-Americans laid claim to the area making them a stronghold of Italian culture. But with this culture came an underworld that turned the streets of Brooklyn into a shooting gallery claiming the lives of dozens of men entrenched into the life of organized crime. Murders, robberies, shootings and criminal trials, highlighted the dangerous lifestyle exemplified by the participants and shed light of the inner workings of the Italian-American mafia. Among these legendary and feared figures existed a man who was one of the most feared killers on the streets of Brooklyn, Greg Scarpa, Sr., known on the streets as the Grim Reaper.
This book is not by any means, an investigative report into Scarpa’s activities. For the full story on his crimes, relationship with the FBI and its aftermath, the best book that comes to mind is Peter Lance’s ‘Deal With The Devil‘ which chronicles Scarpa’s working relationship with the bureau which spanned several decades. This is his daughter Linda’s story infused with the recollections a few selected family members and a friend of the family. The book serves as her journal of what life was like under the roof of the feared mobster whose name sent chills down the spine of many. Similar to Albert DeMeo, Phil Leonetti and Anthony Colombo, Linda’s story reveals the ugly and tragic truth of life in a mafia family. And what we learn through Linda is that no one escapes that life unharmed in some sort of way whether it’s mentally, physically or emotionally. Prison, murder and other acts of violence become routine occurrences, leaving the surviving family members to grieve for those lost in street wars and deadly encounters of other sorts.
Scarpa, like most other mobsters, did protect his family from the life he led up to a point. And as we see with Linda, as she ages and learns more about the streets and the life her father has chosen, the stark reality of “the life” hits home awakening her to the bitter truth surrounding the nature of her father’s business. She is frank with what she knew and what she felt and through her words, we are to see the level of dysfunction plaguing their social circle resulting in a deadly web of violence. And as the internal struggle for power escalated into an all out war, she is forced to confront even more, the knowledge that her father has murdered men and will murder many more before his own demise from AIDS related complications in June, 1994.
A good portion of the book is narrated by Linda’s mother, “Big” Linda, Scarpa’s widow. And through her recollections, we learn about the true nature of the relationship between Scarpa and the FBI. A valuable asset during the civil rights era, Scarpa never received pubic credit for his role in breaking those cases, but Linda sets the record straight as she traveled with him on more than one occasion. And sadly, he was left out of the movie “Mississippi Burning” due to the highly sensitive nature of his working relationship with the bureau. Former FBI Agent Lin DeVecchio was charged with being complicit in murders carried out by Scarpa, but was acquitted on all charges. The nature of his relationship with Scarpa came under close scrutiny and in this book, that topic is also discussed freely by both mother and daughter. It is left up to the reader to decide the level of DeVecchio’s complicity in Scarpa’s activities.
This story by his daughter is moving and filled with all of the elements that could make a modern-day gangster film. Marriage, divorce, mistresses, money, power and violence all make an appearance throughout the book. But the one thing that stands out is that nothing is glorified. There is no glamour or gloating and she is pointedly clear that there are no winners. What is left are her, her mother and other relatives trying to put their lives back together and even though more than 20 years have passed, their lives continue to be in need of repair. For some, that healing may never come and others go on trying to live the best life that they can. Her father is long gone as is her brother Joey, tragically murdered himself on the same Brooklyn streets his father once ran. For Linda, life will never be the same again and through this, she shares her story to inform others of the risk taken by a life of crime and violence and reminds us that not only do our actions affects us, but they also can affect everyone around us even after we’re long gone from this earth.