Picks and Pans Review: Mafia Princess

updated 05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/21/1984 01:00AM

by Antoinette Giancana and Thomas C. Renner

"I had riches, luxuries, a nice house, fur coats, private schools, but I paid for it all in one way or another," writes Giancana, 48, oldest daughter of Chicago's top mobster, Sam Giancana. "I'm still paying for it." Nobody ever said being a goddaughter was easy. Sam was gunned down at home in 1975, and it wasn't until he died that Antoinette (with help from FBI documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act) began to "understand" her ruthless father. She and co-author Thomas C. Renner, a veteran Newsday reporter and organized-crime specialist, offer two books in one: a rare behind-the-scenes peek at the underworld, and the daughter's saga of life with father and its terrifying impact on her. Yet this is no Daddy Dearest. In fact, Antoinette strains to show a generous side to a man who "probably violated all Ten Commandments by the age of 18." He donated thousands to charity, had a valuable art collection and tried to secure religious training for his three daughters. But his temper was often savage. He once beat Antoinette with his belt for accidentally breaking a prized figurine. The book contains titillating references to Giancana's alleged part in the CIA plot to murder Fidel Castro, his feud with then Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, his friendship with Frank Sinatra—there's enough name-dropping to satisfy any gossip. But the tiny details of her growing up are what make her story intriguing. Sam's "trust no one, take no chances" formula for survival meant that no one—least of all Sam—answered the door at home until visitors were screened by her mother. Antoinette dutifully attended wakes for slain friends of her father, only to suspect that often it was he who had ordered the execution. Sam never admitted that he was a mafioso, and mention of the family's business was forbidden at home. But her father had friends with nicknames like Greasy Thumb, Three Fingers and the Lackey, and it was a sure bet they weren't members of the bridge club. At 15, Antoinette turned to a family priest for advice on the birds and the bees and, she claims, he wound up seducing her. She tells of two abortions, nervous breakdowns that led to institutionalization and shock therapy, alcoholism, a failed marriage in which she was regularly beaten and the final split with her father. Antoinette, the mother of five, is now remarried and living near Chicago. What she wanted most of her life, though, was the one thing money and power couldn't buy: her father's love. (Morrow, $15.95)

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