Thursday, August 25, 2011

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Feels Like the Right Day to Publish a Book

Today is my father’s birthday.  Given his nature, he wouldn’t much care for my announcing this over the internet, but this one is special and I want to tell you about it.

Many decades ago, Alex Taylor exited the Air Force and entered Tampa’s police department.  He quickly worked his way through the chain of command, eventually gaining the rank of Sergeant Detective and later chairing the department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit.  Those were the folks that investigated organized crime in tandem with the FBI and other federal agencies at the highest levels.  He was highly regarded by his peers and even respected by those he incarcerated.  My father was enjoying his perfect career while raising his young family.  Only one problem—it was the 1970s.

Mob activity and internal corruption abounded in nearly every major city across the United States.  Tampa was no exception (see Bolita’s prologue posted earlier).  My father and countless other policemen became entangled in a power struggle within their own department.  Investigations were often thwarted, entire departments shuffled, and honest cops were fired on manufactured charges.  Even so, the mob-influenced public officials couldn’t seem to shake a few of the “implacables”.  That’s when they resorted to the most drastic of violent measures—contract murder.

Reportedly, five men’s names were hastily scrawled on a notepad one afternoon sometime in the summer of 1975 at a popular (and still in business) Cuban restaurant in Ybor City.  Beside each name was a six-digit price.  My father believes his name was on that hit list after a good friend in the FBI briefed him about a missed attempt at the New Orleans airport.  After failed attempts at other marks, the (now considered) inept hitmen set their sights on one of Tampa’s most unrelenting and productive detectives—and he didn’t go quietly.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is where Bolita begins.

The story is an adapted intertwining of my father’s anecdotes and accountings of that ruthless era, combined with the story of a contract killing as told by its victim.  I talked at length with the actual sons of that detective.  As they painfully conveyed their very real and personal tragedy, it made me realize how incredibly fortunate I am that my own father survived.  I never took his presence for granted, and I certainly won’t now.  After almost two years of research, writing, and editing, Bolita is finally here.

 Happy Birthday, Dad

Bolita - The Prologue

     By autumn of 1975, the city of Tampa, Florida was in a state of near chaos.  Fresh from the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Civil Rights Movement, the pe­troleum crisis, high unemployment, and rapidly rising inflation, Tampa had yet another war to sort out.

     Although coexisting for decades, the Cracker Mob was practically on the way out while the Italian families were ever on the annex.  Drug smuggling, prostitution, gambling, racketeer­ing, extortion, contract arson, and murder-for-hire were not uncommon for both organizations.  Earlier in the 1960s when Castro destroyed their legitimate enterprises in Havana, the exiled Italians returned in full force and continued capitalizing on their existing operations.  Through the illegal lottery known as “bolita”, mafiosos had entirely taken over Florida’s gambling rings.  By the ‘70s, different mob factions mostly learned to work together under the direction of Giuseppe Cantonello, Tampa’s local don.  The only sticking point remaining was the matter of who controlled the local nightclubs.  The “Lounge Wars” raged on with numerous cases of contract arson and contract murder.

     Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy, the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO, drafted by G. Robert Blakey), gave law enforcement organizations sharp teeth in which to pursue the mobsters.  Little did the newly empowered law enforcement organizations know, their war was not only with the criminal families infesting Tampa, but also from every agency level within their own corrupted institutions.  This war culminated around the contract assassination of a controversial street detective named William “Bill” Brume.

T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita