Call me old-fashioned but I believe Greek-American history should be based on the actions of real individuals and reliably documented events. By no means does this imply you cannot have your own ideas and understandings of say the early patrone system many Greek immigrants worked under, or what role(s) Greek immigrants occupied in the long history of the American labor movement or even the complicated but today overlooked Greek War Relief campaign of World War II. Nevertheless, documented publicly available facts – and I would include here oral histories collected from individuals as well as those passed down through families – must form the very core of a Greek-American history. Sounds logical, right? Yet, for some reason, not when it comes to crime. Fantasy rather than fact forms the basis for the vast majority of all published accounts on Greek criminals in America.
First let us deal with works of fiction and then discuss some real world documented Greek criminal collectives. From what I just proposed it may seem out of place to begin a consideration of Greek-American criminals with fiction before fact. But I am following what has been offered the general public.
My Father's Son: The Story Behind the Greek Mafia in Houston, written by Greek-American author Alex Keaton (Emerald Ink Printing: Houston, TX; 2000) is readily available to one and all. Various authors and several websites have cited directly from its pages in their delineation of the Kouvalakis crime family and its domination of crime in southern Texas. I own and have read this tale cover-to-cover.
Greek Mafia: Houston Inherits Greek Godfather by Nick Christophers (June 6, 2009 GreekReporter.com) is the fullest account on the Internet with careful and lengthy details taken directly from Keaton's account on the Houston Greek gangsters. Accepting Christophers’ account as valid reporting on this organization and the individuals who form its ranks has filtered through to entries on Greek Mafia – Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com) where Kouvalakis and various cohorts are mentioned by name in response to ‘Greek Mafia' (en.wikipedia.org› wiki › Greek_mafia) which does not mention the Houston Greek gangsters by name but who can nonetheless be found in other referenced sources cited in its account.
Now, you may well ask why do I say, “accepting Christophers’ account as valid?” That is because, My Father's Son: The Story Behind the Greek Mafia in Houston is a fictional account. Given the detail Christopher provides it is hard to believe he did not actual read this novel. And you can't miss that this is a work of fiction. The word 'Fiction' appears at the top of this book's back cover. So what exactly is the point of all this fabrication of Greek criminals in North America?
Yes, individual Greek immigrants as well as individuals from every subsequent generation of Greek-Americans have committed every imaginable crime one can name. There is even an example from 1872 of a fake news report that created such turmoil in the national press that the President of the United States denied ships flying Greek flags from docking at American ports until it was discovered to be just a hoax. And this points to what disturbs me most about the public presentation of a 'real' Houston Greek mob. So much material exists on actual Greek criminals no fairy tales are necessary.
Two convicted Greek-American criminals Nick Pirovolos and Donald Frankos have both collaborated with professional writers to issue books that document their real world crimes: Too Mean to Die by Nick Pirovolos and William Proctor (Living Books: Wheaton IL 1982) and Contract Killer: The Explosive Story of the Mafia's Most Notorious Hitman by Donald ‘Tony the Greek’ Frankos with William Hoffman and Lake Headley (Thunder's Mouth Press, January 1, 1993). An audio edition of this book was issued on December 22, 1992.
Then, we have yet another fake-historical account posing as 'real' history, Godfather of Night: A Greek Mafia Father, a Drug Runner Son, and an Unexpected Shot at Redemption by Kevin Pappas (First issued August 11, 2009 (this account has also been issued as an audio-book on July 17, 2013 by Brian Troxell, Kevin Pappas and Stephan Talty). This volume asserts that it is a factual account of how the Greek gangsters really control the Italian mob from behind the scenes.
Not only is this book a fake, it defames the Greek-American in general.
Nick Christophers’ Godfathers Of The Night, In the Shadow of The Mafia (Independently Published 2018) and Mafia Ties – The Greek Syndicates (Independently published July 16, 2020) are two of the latest 'Greek mob' books. The Amazon.com book site offers this description of Godfathers of the Night that essentially is the same explanation for his Mafia Ties account.
“For past generations, we’ve been intrigued and mesmerized by hidden roots of the 'Cosa Nostra'. While the infamous life of the Italian Mafia has been the forefront of these stories, there is a hidden gem of an untold organization of world domination crime, Godfathers of the Night, organized criminal groups well-entrenched in the largest Greek urban centers. The silent partners of the mob world, have operated internationally for decades, and have been instrumental in many ways. Yet only known of behind the closed doors with the traditional mafia. The ice breaking thriller, Godfathers of the Night, In the Shadow of the Mafia takes you behind those closed doors on a historical and terrifying journey, of this crime syndicate. The names of Spiro Velentzas, Willie Kazonis, and Harry Peetros, traditionally are not the household names that come to mind, when we think 'Mafia'.”
The account continues: “The front-page legacies of John Gotti, Jimmy Coonan, Tony Accardo, Angelo Bruno and Jerry Angulio, have had mobster fans captivated for generations and all have worked with the Greek crime element. But behind the veil of Mafia secrecy lies an old-world culture of Mafia, the untold story of the other godfathers, from Philadelphia to Athens. Within the pages of, Godfathers of the Night, In the Shadow of the Mafia is a raw and captivating look in the window of their organizations that stems from Greece across the oceans to Australia and into Canada. A shadowy crime element that has remained an unpublished tale, until now. Within the pages of this book are personalized accounts and stories from leaders, and mobsters, who’ve worked with the Godfathers of the Night, including FBI recordings that depict a brutal imagery into their operations, and connections to various Italian and Irish Mafia families.”
Fine. Criminal organizations exist in Greece and among the Greek communities in Australia. But unless there is a direct connection between Greek criminals (and their organizations) from outside the United States, unless they are in direct contact in criminal ventures with Greek-American criminals, why bring this obvious point of their existence to our attention?
That individual Greek-Americans have worked with/for or in some form of collaboration with other American criminals is undeniable, but once again, what does that occasional, dare I say 'work-related' contact demonstrate?
Let's be clear, yes, there have always been individual Greeks who were (or are) criminals in North America. My main and really only question, here in terms of these specific books, is how are they organized? Do the Greek criminals work alone? Or do they work in consort with other criminals in self-identified groups? I don't care how ethnic Greek criminals are organized anywhere else on the planet …Greece, Australia, north Africa or elsewhere. My concerns are strictly with Greek criminals in North America.
The reason I take issue with those who currently write about Greek-American crime is that their work is not based on recorded fact/s. There are and have been Greek criminal 'organizations' in America composed of individual extended families since Hellenes first arrived to this country. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to write fictional accounts. The newspapers and court records are filled with extremely detailed accounts of such Greek family based groups. One pioneering nationally recognized reporter, Helen Stocking Waterhouse, found out that “Big Serbian and Greek gangster funerals brought Mrs. Waterhouse some uncomfortable experiences when the families of the victims objected to publicity she inevitably provided for these once huge public events (Piqua Daily Call (Piqua OH) November 21, 1936).” An internationally recognized reporter in her day, Waterhouse (1892-1965) “was a well-known pioneering female aviation reporter for the Knight- Ridder newspaper chain, including the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal June 14, 1965)” for nearly 40 years.
Clearly Francis Ford Coppola's and Martin Scorsese's cinematic glamorization of a class of human beings that can only under the best of circumstances be described as consummate degenerates fuels the need some writers now feel to write about criminals. Then, all I ask is that these writers draw the line between fiction and what is effortlessly available in the historical record.