Gangsters of Miami by Ron Chepesiuk (Barricade Books, 304 pages, $23.95). Ron Chepesiuk (pronounced CHEP-sik), formerly a college professor as well as an archivist at Winthrop U. in Rock Hill, is pretty mild-mannered, but that hasn't kept him from a fascination with outlaws, mobsters, drug kingpins and gangsters. Result? Several gangster-related books, resulting in his post as a consultant for the History Channel's Gangland series. His latest book, Gangsters of Miami, may be his best one yet.
If you think Scarface's Tony Montana and the rest of the "cocaine cowboys" of the 1980s were the beginning of Miami's underworld, well, think again. From its very beginnings as a tourist destination in the late 19th century, Miami has also been a favored spot for mob-controlled gambling, later expanded to include bootlegging and corruption of all kinds. The Mafia hit its peak in Miami during its incredibly lucrative heyday in pre-Castro Cuba. They were followed by the Colombian cocaine cartels who turned out to be so crazy/violent, they made the Mafia look like pacifists. Since then, the Russian Mafia has dipped its toe in Miami's tropical waters, although currently, it's murderous street gangs who are currently afflicting the city, plying their massive crack business.
Chepesiuk has a quick, crisp writing style, and a knack for digging up the most pertinent, interesting details, all in the service of presenting lively portraits of some of the most colorful (and did we mention ultra-violent?) criminals you'll ever read about. This is a rare quality read for fans of true crime, and a welcome jolt for history buffs.