To the Editor:
In his review of my book, Black Mafia: Ethnic Succession in Organized Crime [Books in Review, February], B. Bruce-Briggs concludes that the evidence I offer does not support my thesis of changing control in organized crime. It is, of course, always possible for two or more analysts to look at the same evidence and reach different conclusions, but I think there is some question as to the care with which Mr. Bruce-Briggs examined my evidence in this case. In the second paragraph of his review, he identifies one of the crime networks I describe as follows: “. . . a single organization in ‘Patterson’ (all individual names are fictional; one must assume that places are too). . . .” After reading the review, I re-examined my book (and the paperback edition as well) and I cannot find the spelling “Patterson” anywhere. Neither can I find any reason why one must assume the place names are fictional since I state quite clearly in the introduction that they are real and spend some fifteen pages identifying and describing the city of Paterson, New Jersey, its demography, its history, its political role as the county seat of Passaic County, and nowhere do I call it anything other than Paterson. Even the chapter in which the material appears is called “Paterson, New Jersey.” I find Mr. Bruce-Briggs’s assumption that “Patterson” is fictional all the more astounding since he is identified in the author’s note as someone who is writing a book on (of all things) the future of cities.
Francis A. J. Ianni
New York City
Mr. Bruce-Briggs writes:
Since no one has a complete picture of a private activity such as organized crime, the publishing of precise information is evidence of the source of the information. For this reason, police and intelligence organizations are loath to let it be known what they know, lest the other side learn who informed them. Since Black Mafia describes a capable and ruthless criminal organization in sufficient detail to be helpful to police and competitors, “one must assume” that “Paterson” is a cover name; the alternative interpretations are that the entire account is fictitious, or that the author has been dangerously irresponsible in risking life and limb of his informants.