In my third book in the Spencer Manning mystery series, Harbor Nights, I introduced a secondary character by the name of Larry Maggio, the crime boss in Chicago, and made him the grandson of Johnny Torrio. Larry Maggio is fictional. Johnny Torrio is not. Torrio looks like a mild-mannered, kindly grandpa—looks can be deceiving.
Torrio grew up in a slum neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His first job was in his stepfather’s grocery store which was really a front for illegal liquor. He rose to the head of a gang of boys and made enough money to open a billiards hall where the gang could plan their crimes. The gang attracted a number of rising criminals, including Al “Scarface” Capone.
While Torrio was making his name in New York, his uncle by marriage, “Big Jim” Colosimo, had taken control of the underworld in Chicago with an enterprise known as the Chicago Outfit. In 1909 Colosimo was threatened by extortionists and asked Torrio for help. After moving to Chicago, Torrio helped grow the Chicago profits, concentrating on brothels. In 1918 Capone became a suspect in a murder investigation and the Brooklyn Mafia sent him to Chicago to take the heat off and Torrio put him to work. [Read more…]