The Life and Times of Frank Balistrieri | Audio Book Club

Welcome to a special edition of the Book Club! Today we’re breaking new ground into… audio book reviews! The written word is indeed important, but there are a bounty of practical and convenient reasons to consider listening to books as well. We’ve never formally reviewed an audio book, so bear with us as we attempt to take on a new medium. We’ll be reviewing the hard copy of this one in the near future, so we’ll try our best to keep the thoughts strictly on the spoken word. Let’s not waste another second, we’re hitting the road and taking a listen to some interesting criminal history. Join us, won’t you?

The Life and Times of Frank Balistrieri: The Last, Most Powerful Godfather of Milwaukee by Wayne Clingman and Zach Long, with Narration by John Campagna is a look at the less romanticized arms of the criminal underworld in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Frank Balistrieri may not jump to mind when you think about the big names in organized crime, but this in depth exploration makes the case that The Godfather of Milwaukee was equally as successful and just as dangerous as any mafioso we see on the big screens. Known among other things as “The Mad Bomber” Balistrieri rose to power in the Midwest and eventually made the trip west to a nice slice of the illegitimate bookkeeping known as “Casino Skim” that was the national pastime of the mafia during the 1970’s. While the story is exciting in itself, we want to make sure the audio portion is properly reviewed. So how does it stack up against the source material?

The narration by John Campagna is engaging and suitable to the tone of the written material. I’ll call it the way I hear it: the gentleman sounds quite a bit like the late Dennis Farina, and I mean that as a compliment. The voice is clear if only for a few enunciation issues, and the gravely tinge gives the effect that we’re possibly listening to someone explain the story from a first hand account. My wife and I listened to the book on a car ride, and even with the lack of 100% focus, I was able to fully enjoy and comprehend what was being read. The narration makes mention of footnotes and additional comments relevant in the source material, and from a consumer’s view the whole proceeding makes me want to give the text version a try in the near future. I’m looking forward to reading more about the casino skim, and this verbal reading was a great introduction to it.

Verdict: The Life and Times of Frank Balistrieri by Wayne Clingman and Zach Long with Narration by John Campagna is an engaging audio book that presents the source material in a manner that does proper service to both the genre and concept. While imperfect in some flow and enunciations, the reading feels right to the issues and topics being written, and as a listener I feel a little bit closer to the great Don of Cream City. I’m not sure if I’m ready to help with the next great casino skim, but I’ll do my part for the Godfather and stay a good earner. Non ci piove!

Special thanks to Wayne Clingman for providing an audio copy of The Life and Time of Frank Balistrieri for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Author’s Twitter: @themilwaukeemob
Purchase Link: Amazon (via Audible)

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