The Beast of Corleone: The Bloodthirsty Reign of the Cosa Nostra Godfather

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“The chance… the family never had much of it, so we won’t let it slip away when we come across it.” These are the words of Salvatore Riina’s father, when in 1943 he discovered an unexploded shell in the fields. A gold mine for this family of Sicilian peasants from Corleone, who saw in this ominous relic an opportunity to recover the powder, copper, and iron to sell. However, destiny had other plans.

The shell exploded, killing the father, injuring the eldest brother, and leaving his pregnant wife. On September 11, 1943, at the age of 13, Toto Riina became the sole supporter of the family, marking the birth of the godfather of Cosa Nostra. Refusing to succumb to the poverty of becoming a mere “peasant” at the service of the powerful, the young boy embarked on the path of organized crime, eventually becoming its supreme leader. “The Beast of Corleone” brilliantly illustrates this journey.

Toto Riina has entered the annals of organized crime with a grim record: 28 life sentences, 150 murders (just the tip of the iceberg), assassination of judges, police officers, politicians, mastermind of numerous car bomb attacks including those against judges Falcone and Borsellino, and 24 years on the run. Nicknamed “the Beast,” described by his own henchmen as a man of relentless coldness and cruelty, the godfather of godfathers relentlessly climbed the ranks of Cosa Nostra by spreading unquenchable violence. With precision, dynamism, and creativity, Jean-David Morvan has unraveled the complex mechanisms of this ascent. The writer depicts post-war poverty, the daring spirit of the young boy who doesn’t hesitate to defy the henchmen of the local godfather, his initiation rite, his first murder at 19 followed by incarceration, the escalation in violence, torture, murder, betrayals, bloodshed, and clandestinity.

He portrays a dark man devoid of mercy, obsessed with his thirst for power, his ease at killing and disposing of troublemakers, even reaching the highest echelons of the state. In an original staging, Morvan imagines the mafioso on the eve of his death in 2017, in his prison in Parme, engaged in self-examination. He confronts him with an imaginary double, the honest man he could have been if his father hadn’t died prematurely. Faced with this unyielding double, the old man tries to justify his actions, portraying violence as a necessary evil to exist in the criminal organization.

Implicitly, the album shows a certain social reality: for many young people, the mafia represents the only way to rise in society and earn respect. The album addresses the rivalry with Palermo, secret negotiations, clan wars, and the Maxi Trial that led to 360 convictions in 1987, following revelations from the repentant Tommaso Buscetta, whose family was decimated by Toto Riina. Enhanced by the sublime charcoal graphics of Argentinean Facundo Pierco, the account of Toto Riina’s life gains intensity, shedding light on the darkness of this predatory soul, a beast driven by sinister instincts. “The Beast of Corleone” by JD Morvan, Facundo Pierco, Facundo Teyo, and Vladimiro Merino, published by Delcourt, 19.99 euros.

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