RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Yesterday on MORNING EDITION, we heard the story of one of two New York detectives convicted of moonlighting as hit men. Our next guest closely followed their trial.
Ms. ANDREA GIOVINO (Author): I know one of the people that they killed. I know Eddie Lino. Eddie Lino was a made man at the time, and he was very powerful. And they were threatened by him, and those are the guys that killed him. And now, years later, it comes back.
MONTAGNE: Andrea Giovino says the victim was in the mafia, and she was in a position to know. She was married to a string of mobsters and thugs. And she joins this week's conversations on the American underworld.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Andrea Giovino lives in Pennsylvania now. She got out of Brooklyn where she grew up. And she says she left her old life behind after being caught dealing drugs. She told her story in a book called Divorced from the Mob, which leads to this question: did your mother really tell you to marry a mobster when you grew up?
Ms. GIOVINO: Well, yeah, because that's like the neighborhood we came from. That's the guys that were making the money. Like, my dad was a truck driver, and having 10 children - and he was very legal and, you know, always did the right thing. But I guess my mom schooled us into going out with or marrying someone that is illegal, because in the neighborhood, you look up to those types of men because people fear them.
INSKEEP: You didn't seem to have any trouble falling in love with bad men.
Ms. GIOVINO: No. That's what I was attracted to. I believe that I was attracted to those types of men because, at that time in my life, I felt very insecure and threatened or intimated by someone with an education. But with the guys in the neighborhood, I was very comfortable with them because, you know, I could be who I was.
INSKEEP: There's a passage from your memoir that I'd like you to read. And this describes a little domestic scene with a man who was your common-law husband, John Fogerty(ph).
Ms. GIOVINO: Correct.
INSKEEP: And he comes home, and it's the end of a workday. And I wonder if you could just read there at the bottom of page 205...
Ms. GIOVINO: Okay.
INSKEEP: ...and what happens.
Ms. GIOVINO: (Reading) A few minutes later, I heard the shower running upstairs. I wiped my hands on the kitchen towel and headed up. The bathroom was shrouded in steam. John's clothes were in a pile on the floor: shirt, pants, shoes, socks, underwear, and a light blue Members Only jacket I'd gotten for him a couple of weeks before. I really liked how it brought out the color of his eyes. I don't think I'm psychic or anything - and it wasn't like there was any kind of visual aura or energy field around John - but I knew that he'd killed somebody. I could just tell. I didn't have to ask, and he didn't have to tell me what he did.
I picked up the rest of his clothes and took them into the bedroom. The smell of gunpowder pricked my nose. I found a plastic garbage bag under the sink in the linen closet and back in the bedroom, I stuffed everything into it. I sat on the edge of the bed and waited. John came out a few minutes later wrapped in a towel. I asked the obvious, you going out? Yeah, I'm going into the city.
INSKEEP: That was the obvious question? You're going out?
Ms. GIOVINO: Yeah, because it was very common and it was very comfortable to know something that insane, but you would know better to talk about it or bring it to attention.
INSKEEP: Can you explain why you would accept that?
Ms. GIOVINO: I didn't really know any better. I think growing up in the house that I grew up in - there was a lot of violence - men that are supporting you, that's what they do. They go out and they make a living that way. And if it comes down to someone has to be killed, then that's what they do.
INSKEEP: What you explained about this particular murder - once you learned about what the cause was - was that the victim had been a guy who had been spreading damaging rumors about your husband. And perhaps it was only rumored that he was spreading damaging rumors. It might not have even been true. But even if it wasn't true, you've said, it was necessary by the logic of the street - by the logic of the life you were leading - to get rid of the guy.
Ms. GIOVINO: Correct. When you're in the street and you're dealing with that level of money and power, you can't afford to have another person make a story about you, and it gets into the wrong ears and people believe that. Or you can't - if you're, you know, lending money out and you're a loan shark, and someone doesn't even pay you back a dollar. You have to treat that person that didn't pay back the dollar the same way that the guy didn't pay back a hundred thousand dollars, because you get a bad reputation and then your career is over very quickly and you have nowhere to make money.
INSKEEP: This strikes me as the difference between the media portrayal of gang families and mob families and the life that you describe. Because you were by no means a wife who was kept completely in the dark, who had no clue what your husband, or...
Ms. GIOVINO: Oh, believe me, Steve, I can just tell you this is that those wives know. Women that say they don't know - it's bull, because Italians are very passionate people. They can't shut their mouths. They talk all the time. So the wives hear a lot, but the wives like to hide behind that and say, oh, I don't know. I don't know what he's doing. They all know.
And I think the reason I wanted to break that cycle is because I didn't want my four children to grow up and look at my mom or my dad - or even me or their father - that we didn't something good. I made many mistakes in my life. I don't like that I even had to be subjected to know about people that were murdered. That's a horrible, horrible life.
INSKEEP: And I to got ask. Given that, today, now that you're in relative safety in Pennsylvania - you've got a kid in construction.
Ms. GIOVINO: Mm hmm.
INSKEEP: You've got a couple of kids who are teenagers now.
Ms. GIOVINO: Mm hmm.
INSKEEP: What do you worry about?
Ms. GIOVINO: Actually, it's funny because my 17-year-old - I worry about him very much with - I mean, even living in a beautiful area in the suburbs, there's all kinds of crimes there. There's lot of drugs. There's probably more drugs there than there are in the city because there's money, and that's scary to me. The two older ones are doing good. They both work together in the construction business. But the 17-year-old, you know, jury is out on him. I try and talk to him everyday. He's a little rough around the edges, but teenagers are always striving for freedom and independence. And I think it's scary -scary for me.
INSKEEP: You told us what advice your mother gave you, to go out and marry a mobster.
Ms. GIOVINO: Hmm.
INSKEEP: You've got a daughter. What advice are you giving her?
Ms. GIOVINO: Oh, God. She's straight A student. Go to school. Have an education. Be independent and don't get a husband until you're late in your 30s.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. GIOVINO: No. I raised her totally, totally different. Education. Education. Education. Independence. Don't depend on the man.
INSKEEP: Are you sure that's all taking?
Ms. GIOVINO: Oh, yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. GIOVINO: Yeah.
INSKEEP: Andrea Giovino, thanks very much for speaking with us.
Ms. GIOVINO: Thank you very much for having me.
INSKEEP: Andrea Giovino is author of Divorced from the Mob: My Journey From Organized Crime to Independent Woman.
MONTAGNE: Our conversations on the American underworld take us to Missouri tomorrow. We'll hear a story of a drug dealer, his killer, and the pope.
Unidentified Man: The guy had committed an absolutely brutal triple homicide, and I certainly understood that he had undergone an intense religious conversion. I mean, this is really Americana - like a clang door salvation.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.