A syndicated columnist for over 40 years and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary (awarded in 1986), Jimmy Breslin is a New York legend. In his latest New York Times best-selling book, The Good Rat: A True Story (Ecco), he brings together the most recent, most memorable, and the long forgotten stories to create a sharp-eyed portrait of the mob as it lived and breathed, and as it tries to survive. A sought after keynote speaker, Breslin has spoken at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, The University of Chicago, Kodak, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Young President's Club (YPO), and libraries and historical societies across the United States.
Breslin was born in Jamaica, Queens, on October 17, 1930 and began his newspaper career as a copy boy at the Long Island Press in 1948. He became a columnist for the legendary New York Herald Tribune in 1963, moving on to the New York Post in 1968 where he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary in 1986. In 1988 he joined Newsday where he has been a frequent contributor despite officially retiring in 2004. In addition to his recognition as a nationally syndicated columnist, Breslin also became a household name in 1969 when he ran for New York City councilman on the same ticket that featured Norman Mailer as the city's mayoral candidate, and in 1977 when serial killer David Berkowitz, known as Son of Sam, began corresponding with him. His best-selling and critically acclaimed books include a biography of Damon Runyon, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, Can't Anybody Here Play this Game?, The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutiérrez,several anthologies, and the memoir I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me.
A riveting raconteur on the page and at the podium, Breslin shares a legendary career in New York journalism chronicling life on his city's mean streets and the fascinating stories of the mafia's streetwise sagas. In his Good Rat talks, he gives audiences a guided tour through the death-for-hire industry - from its golden era to its decadent demise. In his inimitable New York voice, he talks about the people and places that define the Mafia. With characters like Sammy the Bull, Gaspipe Casso (named for his weapon of choice), Thomas (Three-Finger Brown) Luchese, and Jimmy (The Clam) Eppolito, and hangouts like Pep McGuire's, where a race horse is lapping a bucket of water at the bar, Breslin captures the moments in which the Mafia was made and broken. Woven throughout Breslin's stories is Burt Kaplan, the star witness in the trial of the two New York detectives convicted as hired hit men for the mob. Kaplan was a former handler for the Luchese crime family who owed the law 18 years in the penitentiary, and, like all rats, he knew when to flee a sinking ship. This is recounted in absorbing detail.
Most compelling of all, Breslin recounts the moments in which the Mafia was made and broken - he was there the night John Gotti celebrated his acquittal at his Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry, having bribed his way to innocence, only to incite the wrath of the FBI, who would later crush Gotti and others with the full force of the RICO laws. Breslin brings together these real-life and long forgotten Mafia stories to brilliantly create a sharp-eyed portrait of the mob as it lived and breathed, as it sounded and survived.
Breslin lives in New York City.
Praise for The Good Rat:
"Cleverly constructed, opening with an annotated cast of characters, and it delivers canny anthropological insights into organized crime. Every page reveals his talent for putting a twinkle in your mind's eye. The book is Jimmy Breslin at his best."
-- New York Times
"Only Jimmy Breslin could find Raskolnikov's DNA in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. His book, The Good Rat, tells us about the corkscrew workings of the criminal mind where Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment left off."
-- Nicholas Pileggi, New York Times best-selling author of Wiseguy
"Bad cops, good crook, great story."
-- USA Today
"Jimmy Breslin still hits the high notes... The Good Rat is ostensibly about the trial of two Mafia-connected cops who disgrace their profession, but while presiding over their demise Breslin lets his memory wander over a lifetime's worth of Mob anecdotes. The result is entertaining, insightful and 100% Grade-A Breslin."
-- T.J. English, author of Paddy Whacked and The Westies
"Breslin chronicles the cops' sordid tales with a mixture of awe, repugnance and perfect diabolical detail. He remains a master at transforming crookery into opera."
-- New York Times Book Review
"Breslin returns to us from brain surgery intact, writing the way he writes, which is very good stuff indeed."
-- Pete Dexter, National Book Award-winning author of Paris Trout and Paper Trails
"Breslin is a writer of the heart. It's hard to name another author who demonstrates a better understanding of the passions of urban misrule."
"The ineffable Breslin, the mob's Homer, may not have done much to ensure Kaplan's longevity, but he has surely granted him immortality."
-- Boston Globe
"Completely sure of what he's doing, the author knows how to hook a reader."
-- New York Observer
"Breslin put his notes to brilliant use in a colorfully nuanced depiction of Burt Kaplan. Kaplan is 'The Good Rat,' and while Breslin doesn't put a gloss on his crimes, he uses him wisely and well to tell us once again about New York's underbelly. And, in such memorable terms."
-- New York Daily News
"A great look at the ugly and anything-but-glamorous truth of organized crime. This is Breslin at his Runyonesque best."
-- Rocky Mountain News
"Breslin, who knows the Mafia better than it knows itself, has delicately kneaded his keyboard with ingredients provided by a federal witness who can hit the high notes of betrayal as he sings for his supper on the witness stand. Kaplan hits the high notes as only a rodent can, but so does Breslin as only an accomplished wordsmith can."
-- Buffalo News
"A classic. It is a fascinating and compelling read made even better by one of America's greatest writers working his craft at the top of his game. Breslin does not just write sentences - he chisels them as if working in stone. This has become a lost art in corporate journalism today and especially on the Internet. Writers have copied his style for decades, but nobody has his distinctive voice. The Good Rat is one of his best books. Read and enjoy it. A new work by Breslin is an event to celebrate and cherish."
"Buck up, Sopranos buffs: Tony and the gang may be gone, but Breslin's steely look at mob life in the glory - and gory - days will take some of the sting away. Smart and stinging - Breslin is in fine form, which means a winner."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"His writing, like the Mafia itself, breezily transitions from humorous to horrifying. Breslin's storytelling is set to sweet background music of one of the mob's biggest canaries, Burton Kaplan, as he sings to a grand jury."
-- Publishers Weekly