WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Author Matt Birkbeck’s book, “The Quiet Don: The Untold Story of Mafia Kingpin Russell Bufalino,” is much more than a recitation of the criminal pursuits of Mafia boss Russell Bufalino, it’s also a reflection on local, national and global events that set the stage for organized crime.
Nearly 200 attendees of a book signing held at Barnes & Noble at the Arena Hub Plaza on Saturday were eager both to read the book and to meet its author. Several said they had personally met Bufalino, piquing their interest about the nature of his criminal activity in our area.
“I remember him as an almost grandfatherly presence,” said Diana Novosel, Wilkes-Barre. “He lived a modest home in Kingston, and was always a good neighbor.”
“I remember him as being a wonderful family man,” added another attendee.
But the book documents Bufalino’s possible involvement in the disappearance of the late Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa and in an attempt to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It also documents the Mafia’s connection to the CIA.
The gentleman who was always willing to entertain and assist his neighbors was also capable of ordering hits and sanctioning high level political corruption, according to the book.
Chuck Steever’s interest in organized crime prompted his attendance at Saturday’s signing. He said he thought the book was extremely well written and accurate, as compared to other books on the same subject.
Despite the book’s heavy-duty theme, many of those who attended the book signing said “The Quiet Don” was an “easy read.”
The book opens with Bufalino as an old man testifying in federal court “pretending to be a nobody.” From that point forward, the book draws the reader in chapter by chapter.
“I’m really not a reader,” said Fred Parry of Dallas, “but I couldn’t put it down.”
Marcia Ebert thought highly of the literary offering and bought 10 copies of the book for family, friends and members of her bridge group, sure they would enjoy it.
The book is not without controversy. Several at the signing addressed state Supreme Court’s assertion that facts in the book as related to the stalling of an investigation of perjury charges against businessman Louie DeNaples of Dunmore were erroneous.
“I believe the book is absolutely accurate,” said one attendee, “and I have reason to know.”
Birkbeck’s research included review of FBI files, U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations reports, and Pennsylvania Crime Commission reports.
Birkbeck said this was a book that “simply needed to be written.” He wanted to tell the story of the power and influence one man had, almost without being noticed. He said the remnants of that legacy still continue to live on in local businessmen and community leaders connected the the Mafia.
Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager Donna Wench said she was delighted at attendance at the event that she attributed to the quality of the work and its reference to the local area.
Those interested in Birbeck’s work may access his website at http://www.mattbirkbeck.com. Birbeck will be hosting a book signing Dec. 4 in West Pittston.