Moving Day and Other Bits and Pieces

Posted by Mark Morell on February 01, 2010 | Permalink

MOVING DAY AND OTHER BITS AND PIECES

Barricade Books is moving. As of February 1, we are not going far—just next to our current space in the same office building One change—we are no longer in Suite 308A. The new address is Suite 309,185 Bridge Plaza North, Ft. Lee NJ 07024. For anyone (like me) who still keeps a Rolodex, make note of this.

WHAT’S NEW IN THE FUTURE OF BOOKS?

EBooks, Kindle, Sony Reader, The Tablet, The Nook, PDFs, etc. Is there any topic of greater speculation in publishing than rights to electronic books?

I attended a large group of publishers, writers, literary agents and other assorted people in the industry recently held by The Author’s Guild at Scandinavian House in New York City to explore and discuss where this new medium will lead us. It seems to me that no one knows what the impact will be on the industry, but all were sure that it will—and already is—significant. My opinion, for the record, is we are all racing to catch up and be there—wherever “there” is. Our authors want their books on the devices—but how many know how little money is involved? Publishers can’t fix the prices for which books are sold. The Kindle sells most books for $9.99. Lately, it’s been written about how some books are given away free. It's just been reported that Amazon, bowing to pressure from Macmillan will adjust its pricing policy.

Add to the mix the many thousands of self-published books where authors can produce their own PDFs and get them up on a variety of Web sites, Amazon, Banes & Noble, etc., not to exclude their own sites. We too are eager to be in the game and will soon have our Web site equipped to not only sell our actual books direct to the consumer, we will also be able to make some books available for downloads, only from Barricade Books.

The wisest comment of the evening was from Susan Cheever. Cheever was the “author” on a panel made up of a literary agent, publisher and marketer of electronic books. Cheever pointed out that it’s still up to the author to create the book in the first place. Ebooks are here, and they appear to be staying. They offer a new opportunity to market our books. But here’s to the authors, let them continue to write new books, and let’s hope readers will continue to read.  Today it was reported that Amazon agreed to change their pricing policy for books available on Kindle, responding to pressure from Macmillan.

What of the actual bookstores? The New York Times just reported the closing of Skyline Books after 20 years in business on West 18th Street in New York City. The owner, Rob Warren, can’t afford the rent increases or “behemoth bookstores and Web sites.” So he will begin selling online. There goes, as a customer called Skyline Books, “…the best bookstore on the East Coast.”

IN THE EARLY DAYS

Before we would grow to be one of the major publishers of mafia/true crime books, we met Rick Porello. Rick had been researching the murders of his notorious grandfather and three uncles—members of the Mafia. After nine years, he put his work together, and the result was THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA.

Barricade published his book in 1995 in cloth, and it eventually went into a paperback format. Fifteen years later, it is still in print and has been one of our best-selling titles in the series. The story of Rick Porello and his family changed his life and started us on the path to publish more than 22 true-crime titles. Below, in Rick Porello’s words, you can follow his journey from Mafia family member to author.

Angelo “Big Ange” Lonardo and The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia

Even by the time that Licata, Italy, had served as an Allied landing point during the 1943 World War II invasion of Sicily, its distinction as having produced some of the most powerful men in the Italian-American Mafia, one in particular, was still unknown. Then in 1995, I memorialized the bloodshed that cursed my ancestors and revealed the significance of two cities, one American, one Sicilian, and their progeny in the history of the Mafia. The book: The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia. Its subjects are my grandfather, his six brothers, and their four Licatese countrymen, the Lonardos. By 1920. they had settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and stood apart from thousands of other immigrants seeking the freedom of America and working hard and patiently toward success. By 1927, the sons of Licata and Cleveland were wealthy, powerful and feared purveyors of corn sugar, a key ingredient of bootleg whiskey. The fortune and reign of the brothers Porrello and Lonardo among America’s first Mafiosi didn’t last long. By 1932, my grandfather was dead of a single bullet to the brain. Three of his brothers shared his fate. Three Lonardos, also.

As the sugar war closed, one teenager, Angelo Lonardo, avenged his father’s murder and thus sealed his own fate, swearing, above God himself, his allegiance to that dark and secret organization.

Fast forward to 1977, the murder of another ethnic mobster, the Irishman—Danny Greene—and unprecedented convictions across the U.S. Facing life in prison, the once powerful don Lonardo shocked family and friends and betrayed omerta. From a witness stand, he bought his freedom. And dozens of his brethren lost theirs. By the time don Lonardo died a very old man, the Italian-American Mafia had become public and penetrable, the very antithesis of the once-mighty society brought to Cleveland from Licata.

The above story was only the beginning of Rick’s adventure. Going in a different direction from his family, Rick was a veteran of a Cleveland policy agency with a degree in criminal justice. Today, he is a Cleveland-area police chief and author of three books about organized crime.

After THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA, Rick started publishing his own books. His second book, To Kill the Irishman—the War that Crippled the Mafia, is now a major motion picture starring Ray Stevenson, Chris Walken, Val Kilmer and Paul Sorvino due to be released later this year. Visit http://www.movieset.com/theirishman

 We plan to take publishing advantage by bringing an updated edition of THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA when the movie opens.

A little family note: Eileen Brand, Lyle’s sister-in-law, edited THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA. Last year, at age 91, she self-published The Bodacious Ballot Box Burglary and Other Mysteries of My First Ninety-one Years. An engaging and insightful read. Go to http://ballotboxburglary.com/ to download it for free or to order a paperback copy.

Another little family note: Grandson Aaron Jaffe designed the Web site. Let me know if you’re interested in working with him.

BRRR. IT’S COLD OUT THERE . . .

On February 20, good friend, Steven Lidsky—my Columbia County pal—is taking a plunge—in Upper Rhoda Point at Camp Mohican in Copake, New York. This is the second leap in the lake for Steven and, he promises, the last—all for charity.

Steven is service coordinator supervisor of COARC. COARC (Columbia County ARC) is a nonprofit agency, now in its 45th year, which creates opportunities for developmentally disabled adults and children in Columbia County, N.Y. Part of the statewide NYSARC, they run residential group homes and apartments, a sheltered workshop, supported employment (job coaches), adult day programs and various children's services such as a preschool and summer camp.

Last year, the Polar Bear Plunge was held to raise money for activities at COARC’s summer camp for developmentally disabled children. This year, it is to raise funds for a new playground for their integrated preschool. If you want to contribute, mail a check made out to COARC to Steven Lidsky, COARC, 65 Prospect Ave Hudson, NY 12534. For additional information, please phone Steven at (518) 828-6043, ext. 100 or e-mail: Steve1@COARC.org

FRANK SERPICO STILL BEARDED, HANDSOME AND FASCINATING

The New York Times recently did a long piece about Frank Serpico, made famous when Al Pacino portrayed him in Sidney Lumet’s brilliant film of the same name. As many will remember, Serpico was an unusual cop, dressing in disguises from street vagrant to butcher to orthodox rabbi. He became an outcast from the NYPD when he turned whistle blower exposing widespread corruption in the New York Police Department and testified at the Knapp Commission hearings that shook up the department. We met years ago when he lived quietly and out of public eye by choice. He was, and still is, quite the flamboyant fellow, dressing in unusual clothing. At the time we met, he had a very large Great Dane, a gentle giant of a dog. He told an amusing story of the filming of Serpico where he was on the set as an adviser. Lumet was filming a dramatic scene that took place in the bathroom of a rundown apartment. The victim of this scene was having his face pushed repeatedly into a toilet—a dramatic style of interrogation.

Frank went to Lumet and said, “Sidney, that’s not how it happened.”

Lumet, without missing a beat, replied, “Pussycat, it’s a movie.”

Years later, I was surprised to see Frank at one of my favorite tango parlors. He was surprised to see me, too. In the Times article, it refers to some of his interests, including tango. (Message to Frank—I’d love to take a few turns around the floor with you.)

FLOYD ABRAMS AND FREE SPEECH

Floyd Abrams deserves the acclaim he has achieved as a First Amendment lawyer. He recently spoke about press freedom on a panel that took place at the New York Times, which was written about, in the January 30-31 issue of the Wall Street Journal by reporter James Taranto. Lyle and I met with Abrams when we were facing a long, expensive libel action against Barricade Books, which I don’t care to discuss here lest it bring back bad memories. It was in our opinion a First Amendment issue, and you couldn’t do better than have Floyd Abrams represent you in such a case. Abrams was elegant, smart and gracious. He was also thoughtful about our plight and amiably pointed out that we could not afford to hire his firm at their rarefied rates. He had a few suggestions including looking for a patron. Alas, that did not happen. Nevertheless, he was a gentleman. This long, very good piece in the Wall Street Journal discusses how Abrams has represented the New York Times Co. from time to time, notably in the Pentagon Papers case of 1971. Now, he was on the opposite side against the Times in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission where the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision invalidated federal laws that made certain political speech a crime.

This was not Abrams’ case but he took interest in it because it overturned a case he lost, McConnell v. FEC, where a 5-4 majority upheld provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, including one that criminalized corporate funding of “electioneering communication” within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. He now supported Citizens United, which produced the critical documentary about Hillary Clinton, saying it was a very committed conservative entity and should have the same protection of speech by the First Amendment no matter how disdainful their expression for a candidate is. It’s the unpopular (as seen by some) expression that needs the protection of the First Amendment.

He went on to talk about restrictions on campaign contributions, which he was in favor of. Abrams thought there was room for more government involvement about contributions because “. . . there is a greater risk of something in the order of quid pro quo corruption . . . As of right now, the court has struck the balance pretty well.”

The article was written before the Supreme Court overturned the limit on campaign contributions.

Until next time,

Carole

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