The Mafia, Cosa Nostra, the Mob, the Family, the Outfit, the Syndicate, call them whatever you like, it’s hard to overstate the influence organised crime had over pulp fiction.
My post on the Andrew Dominik movie Killing Them Softly earlier this week, got me thinking about how the Mafia have been portrayed in popular fiction and film.
One of the aspects of Killing Me Softly I found so interesting was its depiction of organised crime in the traditional sense as being just a shadow of its former glory. For the most part, the gangsters were a bunch of clapped out old men and cautious time servers, clinging desperately to the last trappings of their power base.
It wasn’t always so. Stretching right back to the late forties, organised crime was one of the central pre-occupations of pulp writers. The phenomenal success of Mario Puzo’s book, The Godfather, published in 1969 and the subsequent movie version by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972, saw pulp’s fascination with the Mafia stretch well into the seventies.
In addition to novels examining every aspect of the Mafia’s rituals and existence, so all pervasive and powerful was the Mafia’s reach, pulp writers invented a series of characters that existed just to fight it.
Robert Briganti or ‘the Assassin’ as he is known, “lives only to destroy the Mafia.”
The Marksman, real name was Philip Magellan, was a man who “stalks the Mafia killers through the deadly jungle of the big city underworld”.
But the best known was Don Pendleton’s creation Mack Boland, “the Executioner”, an ex-Vietnam veteran who came home to find his family murdered by the Mob. He then fought the Mafia in nearly 40 books in locations all over the world.
You’ll find more Mafia related pulp on my Pinterest site.