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Non-Fiction Review – Homicide is my Business

Homicide Is My Business: Luigi the Zip: A Hitman’s Quest for Honor by Jerry Schmetterer and Michael Vecchione

Review by jjares

This is the fascinating and highly readable story of Luigi Ronsisvalle, a professional New York Bonano family hitman. We hear Luigi’s story because he never reached his goal of becoming a Mafia “made man.” Disappointed, Luigi did everything his bosses asked of him (including killing thirteen men), yet they never deemed him good enough to be a made man.* Short, balding, and with broken English, Luigi was not someone you would expect to be a Mafioso. He killed thirteen men (6 in Sicily and 8 in America).

There was another reason for Luigi’s defection (besides not rising to ‘made man’). The Mafia had given a contract to kill Luigi to the most dangerous hitman around. So Luigi came to the police and turned himself in to protect his wife and three daughters. As part of his plea agreement, he had to answer all questions honestly.

The coauthor, Michael Vecchione, spent months interviewing Luigi to understand the Sicilian and American Mafias. They met in Vecchione’s DA office, while Luigi ate veal parmesan sandwiches with beer. It was amazing how many important actions Luigi was part of during his time in the Mafia.

Luigi knew a lot about the French Connection of importing heroin into the US (a movie was made of this with Gene Hackman) and the Pizza Connection (trafficking drugs in the dough for pizzas). Luigi knew important details about the murder of mob boss Carmine Galante. He was also in the know about the schemes of an Italian banker suspected of stealing from the Vatican.

What is interesting about this story is that Luigi tells his life story through the lens of his Mafia associations, from Sicily to America. He had an interesting code of honor: He never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it. He had a code of paying his debts, treating his workers with respect, leaving the working man alone, and only going after those that deserved it. He was very disappointed in the American Mafia because they didn’t believe in those old-time Sicilian values. They were in it for the money. Period.

Luigi tells his story of being a hitman by meticulously watching and planning the hit. He was a respected assassin in Sicily because of this and was imported to America because of his skill in killing — and not getting caught. He was eventually convicted in 1976, but just spent five years in jail before disappearing in the federal witness protection program. In 1985, Luigi was the star witness in the President’s Commission on Organized Crime under President Ronald Reagan. He fascinated everyone. Later, the coauthor reports that he heard that Luigi committed suicide while in witness protection, but he is not sure if that is accurate. Overall score = 4.5 stars.

* A made man is a fully-initiated Mafia member. A made man demands respect and cannot be killed without a don’s permission.

An aside: What does “Luigi the Zip” refer to? Zip was a derogatory slur in early 20th century times by Italian American and Sicilian American mobsters in reference to younger immigrant Sicilian and Italian mobsters. Second-generation mobsters were directly imported from Sicily because they were already indoctrinated into the Maria mindset. However, Mafia members already in America thought they were yokels.



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