Cookie Curci’s review of the latest book about Al Capone
Also included is a full interview with his niece, the book’s author and historian, Dierdre Marie Capone. Al Capone was her infamous Uncle Al.
This is not your grandma’s Al Capone. No, you won’t find that notorious image in this book. He’s not the Al Capone we’ve seen in countless films, documentaries and TV programs, not the Al Capone (1899-1947) who ruled the Chicago underworld during the “Roaring Twenties” or masterminded the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. No, that’s not the man you’ll read about in this book…not the kingpin mobster pursued each week by FBI Agent Elliot Ness on the 1950’s TV series the “Untouchables.”
In this revolutionary new book, you’ll read of a different Al Capone, one who is remembered through the eyes of a little girl who recalls what it was like to be a part of his real life Italian American family. And because of her Uncle Al and her Grandfather,( his brother) Ralph Gabriel Capone, (public enemy #3) she would carry the legacy of that family name throughout her life like a heavy,restraining, lead anchor.
The author of this book is Deirdre Marie Capone, she is the last living member of the Capone family to carry the name. Wanting to finally set the record straight about her infamous Uncle she has written this book, a book full of family stories, memories, wonderful family recipes, and how her life was burdened and changed forever by the name that became synonymous with the mob …CAPONE!
Deirdre’s father, Ralph Gabriel, was only 33 years old and in the process of writing a book all about “the family,” which he called “Sins of the Father” when he died unexpectedly. The official cause of death was determined to be suicide. Hedda Hopper mentioned the episode in her gossip column and the fact that he was working on the manuscript. So, there was a lot of speculation in the years after his death that perhaps it wasn’t suicide. Perhaps he had been murdered-not by any member of the family, but by some other member of either the Outfit or politics who was worried about being implicated with the Capones.
There are many Al Capone quotes from this book and I find this one the most timely, “A crook is a crook, and there’s something healthy about his frankness in the matter. But any guy who pretends he is enforcing the law and steals on his authority is a swell snake. The worst type of these punks is the big politician. You can only get a little of his time because he spends so much time covering up that no one will know that he is a thief. A hard-working crook will – and can – get those birds by the dozen, but right down in his heart he won’t depend on them – hates the sight of them.”
The author of this successful book has graciously allowed me to ask her some very personal questions. So lets get to this fascinating lady and her revealing answers.
Cookie: Hello Deirdre and welcome. Thank you for giving us your time so that we might know more about your book and your famous Uncle. I noticed in your dedication of your book you mentioned your Dad and how you hoped that your success with this novel would help give his short life more meaning. Would you please expound on that for us?
Deirdre: My father’s life ended at the age of 33. My dedication was my way of saying that his short life produced me and I in turn produced 4 great children and 14 wonderful grandchildren all his descendants.
Cookie: You began writing this book as far back as the 1950s. With such an interesting frame of reference why did it take you so long to get it written and published?
Deirdre: I began keeping a diary as a young girl to record the facts as they were given to me. I began in earnest to write this book in 2000, but I came down with cancer in 2001. I needed to get myself strong and healthy first before I could take on the stress of reliving my past. It took me three years to write the book. It was released in December 2010.
Cookie: One of the things you mention in your book that caused you great anguish was the evil connotations attached to the Capone family name. Your early years were haunted by the name and you suffered because of it, would you please share some of the ways being a “Capone” negatively affected your life.
Deirdre: Everyone in my core family changed their last name to escape. My family thought that since I was a girl, and would probably marry one day (and take my husband’s last name) they would not go to the expense of changing my name. Children could not play with me after their parents found out who I was. The many lost jobs, how I was fired when my employer found out who I was.
Cookie: As we all know there has been so much information printed about AL Capone the mobster, in films, documentaries, books, plays, TV shows. In what way would you say your book differs the most from all these previous written works?
Deirdre: My book, out of the 100 other books, is the only one written by someone who actually knew Al Capone. I saw him laugh, I saw him cry, I saw him sleep, I saw him swim, I ate with him and prayed with him. We sang together, We cooked together.
Cookie: Deirdre, you lost both your father and brother to suicide. In your book you suggest the Capone legacy was responsible in many ways for both of these tragedies?
Deirdre: Yes, Cookie, there are many instances where the name of Capone put an end to a plan or dream they were working on. My father was working on a manuscript when he died. It was titled: “Sins of the Father.” It was never finished.
Cookie: Do you feel there was a connection to your Dad’s death and the manuscript he was writing?
Deirdre: Yes I do. My grandfather Ralph brought about an inquest. I have that transcript.
One point I want to make to you. The vendetta against Capone was started by a group of business men in Chicago. They called themselves ‘The Secret Six.’ They started a very calculated war primarily because Capone was Italian. Joe Kennedy was the same sort of man in the same business as my family and there was no war against him, he was Irish. The same for the Rockerfeller family.
Cookie: Throughout your life you have had to hide your identity as the niece of Al Capone. You hid this fact from your children as well. But along came the day when you finally had to tell them the truth. How did this revelation come about and what was their reaction?
Deirdre: One of my sons came home from school one day. When asked what he learned that day, he replied “We are studying about this gangster called Al Capone.” I knew it was time to reveal their heritage and it scared me. When they found out the four of them in unison went “Cool, Mom.”
Cookie: One of the most pleasant segments in your book deals with traditional family recipes and wonderful Italian food. Do you have a favorite among them?
Deirdre: Yes my two favorite are the meat balls and the lasagna.( recipes in the book for both of these delicious dishes)
Cookie: Deirdre, do you plan on continuing with your successful writing career. If so, will you share with us the subject of your next book?
Deirdre: I am an accomplished author in my married life. I am now 71 and have no plans to do any further writing.
Cookie: Thank you Deirdre, it’s been a pleasure getting a fresh perspective on this most infamous of crime bosses and how his notoriety painfully affected his loving family. We wish you the best of luck in all you do, Grazie e’ bouna fortuna,
Dierdre: Thank you Cookie. And thank you for helping me tell a side of this story no one has ever heard before.