• Smalltime

  • A Story of My Family and the Mob
  • By: Russell Shorto
  • Narrated by: Russell Shorto
  • Length: 8 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (163 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Family secrets emerge as a best-selling author dives into the history of the mob in small-town America. 

Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a city in its brawny postwar prime, is where Little Joe Regino and Russ Shorto build a local gambling empire on the earnings of factory workers for whom placing a bet - on a horse or pool game, pinball or Tip seal - is their best shot at the American dream. Decades later, Russell Shorto grew up knowing that his grandfather was a small-town mobster but never thought to write about him, in keeping with an unspoken family vow of silence. Then a distant cousin prodded him: You gotta write about it.

Smalltime, the story of Shorto's search for his namesake, delves into the world of the small-town mob, an intricate web that spanned midcentury America, stitching together cities from Yonkers to Fresno. A riveting immigrant story, Smalltime is also deeply personal, as the author's ailing father, Tony, becomes his partner in piecing together their patriarch's troubled past. 

Moving, wryly funny, and richly detailed, Smalltime is an irresistible memoir by a masterful writer of historical narrative.

©2021 Russell Shorto (P)2021 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Smalltime

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Poignant and revealing history

Russell Shorto and I share our hometown where neither of us live anymore. I loved this book. I recognized almost all the names and had met, as a child, a couple of the peripheral characters. I’ve been to many of the places that were iconic Johnstown hangouts but I never knew who ran them. I grew up right around the corner from his grandparents until I was 12 but never knew the family, though I knew the name. This is a beautifully written, raw elegy for his grandparents. It’s an authentic, revealing history that lays bare the secrets of the author’s family and our hometown that were hiding in plain sight. It explains where we Johnstowners came from, and in small part, how the town got where it is today: a dying though historic place with still nice neighborhoods in which to raise kids who have to leave to get better jobs and better lives. It was largely built and pulled apart by the greed of the steel magnates and the mob. I wish my grandparents and parents were still around to question about those days. I know they could add to Mr. Shorto’s story. Highly, highly recommend.

3 people found this helpful

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Must listen. Incredible story

Incredible insights into the history of america, woven into a deep and touching story of family

2 people found this helpful

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Great rendition of a family and small city

I was attracted to this book because I grew up in Johnstown PA and my family lived on Church Avenue from the 1800s until 2003 when my mother passed away. My father was a longtime patron of the Clinton Street poolroom. Being very familiar with the people in the book, they were brought back to life for me by Russell Shortlo’s wonderful account of his family and theirs and my home. This book is outstanding.

2 people found this helpful

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Those stories about Great Uncle Joey are true

I can't resist books about organized crime.

What's cool about Shorto's book is that he shows just how small time the mob was in small, midwestern cities. It was about betting on pinball outcomes and bar dice, laundering a little money in a neighborhood tavern, and doing off the books favors for friends. He really shows what it was like before drugs, gangs, and bigger stakes got involved. Those stories your family told you about great-uncle Joey running a hot pillow joint on the third floor over the bar back in the day are probably true.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely phenomenal!

Being from Johnstown this book was extra special for me. My Dad grew up in Roxbury around the time the author did but Dad isn’t around anymore to ask. I bet he knew or heard of many of the people in this book. Overall, the book is very well done and the authors performance was top notch! The only bad thing about this book is that I wish it would have lasted longer. A must have book for sure!

1 person found this helpful

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Very Different Mob Story

If you are thinking Goodfellas or The Godfather think again. This is a story about families and more specifically the relationships between fathers and sons. The mafia portion is secondary although relatable if you are from small town Western Pa as I am. My earliest memories are visiting a great aunt who lived in Johnstown in the mid 70’s.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent book

Great to hear accurate researched well written material about the real history of Johnstown I definitely recommend and will enjoy this story a few more times

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Great historical read of Johnstown's own LCN

As an Italian American son growing up in Cambria County, I'd hear stories of these days gone by, of the men who ran Jtown behind the scenes, of the places and persons no longer here to share. The author does an amazing job bringing this era back to life. Great read, shared in a captivating way.

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History of mid 20th century small town mob life

This book tells the history of the Sicilian mob through the lens of one small town mob bosses life.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of 20th century America.

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A very interesting take on a very American story

This gave a very good introduction to organize crime in the United States that’s different from the most celebrated books, but fascinating nonetheless.

It spends an inordinate amount of time as more or less a family narrative, and maybe not as much about organized crime per se as one would like, but it’s absolutely worth the listen.

As a result of listening to this, I’ll probably listen to other historical narratives by the author.