Son of the Mob


By Gordon Korman

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A star-crossed, action-packed tale of romance from bestselling author Gordon Korman

Vince Luca is just like any other high school guy. His best friend, Alex, is trying to score vicariously through him; his brother is a giant pain; and his father keeps bugging him to get motivated. There is just one thing that really sets him apart from other kids — his father happens to be the head of a powerful crime organization.

Needless to say, Vince's family's connections can put a serious crimp in his dating life. How is he supposed to explain to a girl what his father does for a living? But when Vince finally meets a girl who seems to be worth the trouble, her family turns out to be the biggest problem of all. Because father is an FBI agent — the one who wants to put Vince's father away for good.



Copyright © 2002 by Gordon Korman

All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.

For information address Hyperion, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.

ISBN 978-1-4231-4125-9



For Alessandra Balzer,
my partner in crime



THE WORST NIGHT of my life? My first—and last—date with Angela O’Bannon.

Here’s how it goes down:

Five o’clock. I’m already nervous by the time Alex drops by to go over the checklist. Alex is always pretty skittish around my family because of what my father does for a living. Especially since my older brother Tommy, who works for Dad, is hanging around. Tommy’s on the warpath, storming through the house like a caged tiger, and ranting about how Benny the Zit is supposed to be here to pick him up for some business or other. Real pleasant.

Once I shut the door to my room, though, Alex is all calm efficiency.

“Car keys?” he barks.





That’s for Bryce Beach, where, if all goes well, and with a little help from above, I’ll be able to maneuver Angela at the end of the night.

“It’s in the trunk,” I assure him. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Don’t get cocky!” he snaps at me. “This is my love life we’re talking about!”

That’s Alex’s new thing. Since he has no love life, he wants to score vicariously through me. Except I have no love life either. Until tonight, maybe.

Alex’s probing eyes fall on the neatly folded sweater on my bed. Every article of clothing in my closet has the same preppy look—my mom’s idea of what I should appear to be. Appearances are big with her. Understandable, under the circumstances.

“Vince, you’re not wearing that?” he says.

“Yeah. Why?”

He slaps his forehead. “It’s wool! Scratchy! You’re taking her to a horror movie! She’s going to be all over you! We need one-hundred-percent cotton, or maybe a nice linen-silk blend….”

By the time we pick out an appropriate outfit and go over the last few rules of engagement (“Don’t order the chili! All our hard work falls apart if your stomach’s gurgling with swamp gas!”), it’s almost six. Alex takes off, and I run down to the basement for a quick workout on the Universal gym. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no musclehead. But I kind of enjoy the exercise when I’ve got something on my mind. Your brain shifts down, narrowing its function to the tiny task of lifting the weight from here to there. It’s like therapy. And it wouldn’t hurt to grow myself a pair of shoulders, for God’s sake. The Lucas are built like trucks. How did I come out a beanpole, especially when Mom cooks from the How to Feed an Army and Still Have Leftovers recipe book? Once, I tried to get her to admit I was adopted. After all, wasn’t I the only Luca male with no interest in the family business? But she assured me I was legit—which is more than she could say for the family business. Not that she ever admits to that.

Anyway, I shower up and hit the road. Even from the driveway I can hear my windbag brother inside in the den tearing a strip off Benny the Zit, who finally showed up, I guess. What I don’t know at that point is that while I was working out, Tommy got sick of waiting for Benny, borrowed my car, and went to attend to that business on his own. That’s why he’s yelling—because Benny stood him up.

With Alex’s advice and my brother’s tantrum ringing in my ears, I go to pick up Angela. She looks awesome—even better than at school, with a little extra makeup, and a low-cut sweater and skintight pants instead of the baggy shirts and jeans that have almost turned into a uniform at Jefferson High. We go to eat at the Coffee Shop, which is actually a really cool restaurant designed to look like an old-fashioned diner. I order the chili. Yeah, I know Alex warned against it, but things are going great, and my confidence is growing by the minute—another Luca family trait; maybe I wasn’t adopted after all. I mean, the food’s good, Angela seems to be into me, and the conversation is really flowing. Alex spent the last day and a half surfing Internet chat rooms and prepping me with dozens of topics I could bring up if the table ever got uncomfortably quiet.

“This is my love life here,” Alex reminded me. “I can’t risk you getting dissed because she thinks you’ve got nothing to talk about.”

“Maybe if you didn’t spend all your time on the Internet, you’d have your own love life,” I shot back at him.

I feel kind of bad about that later at the movie, with Angela locked on to me like a boa constrictor in spandex. I won’t admit it to Alex, but I barely even notice she’s there. What kind of a sick, demented screenwriter could have ever dreamed up a story like Harvest of Death? There are seventeen main characters, and by the time thirty minutes have passed, they’re all dead, including the killer. He, as near as I can tell, is a cross between a vampire and a hay-baling machine. Just when I’m thinking there’s no one left to be in the rest of the movie, along comes a troop of Girl Guides menaced by the vampire’s evil twin—yes, the first killer was the good guy, or the good hay baler. Take your pick.

Well, the movie must have done the trick, because when I suggest we hit the beach, Angela’s back in the car before I can finish stammering out “B-bryce B-beach.” So much for the extensive begging, cajoling, and negotiating Alex prepared me for.

I’m a little worried by all the other traffic going our way. Bryce Beach is a popular spot for the high schools in our area. Will we be able to find any privacy?

“Park over there,” Angela says decisively, pointing to a spot shielded by two outcroppings of the dunes.

I can’t help suspecting she’s been here before. She’s a woman with experience. We get out of the car and stand silhouetted in the moonlight as the surf pounds against the shore, and a whispering wind…you get the picture. I’ll never describe it right. I’m a Luca. Anything more than a series of grunts is considered eloquence from us. The point is, everything’s perfect, as if the Supreme Power has stepped in to set it all up for me.

She kisses me—the kind of kiss you feel in the tips of your toes. The kind of kiss that conveys the promise of everything that comes along with it.

“Got a blanket or something?”

“Everything is provided for your comfort,” I manage to croak. I’m not proud of the feeble attempt to be suave. But after that kiss, I’m amazed my mouth works at all.

I pop the trunk, reach in, and freeze. I almost choke on my lungs, which have leaped up the back of my throat. There’s the blanket, all right—wrapped around the unconscious body of some guy! To be honest, my first thought is that he’s dead—which isn’t such a stretch; I told you about the family business. But when I suck in air with a resounding wheeze that echoes down the beach, his thin-lipped mouth lets out a little moan.

“I’m wait-ing,” Angela teases in a playful singsong voice. She has her arms wrapped lightly around herself, chilled by the sea breeze.

“Be right there,” I rasp. I know this person. James Ratelli—Jimmy Rat. He owns a sleazy nightclub on the Lower East Side. Borrowed money from my father to get it started up.

My father. They call him Honest Abe Luca instead of Anthony because he’s so straight in his business dealings, no matter how illegal they may happen to be. Never rips anybody off. Never breaks a promise. Except one: Honest Abe just can’t seem to make good on his word to keep his line of work completely separate from my life. And now I’m stranded on Bryce Beach with a red-hot and revved-up Angela O’Bannon in my arms and an out-cold Jimmy Rat in the trunk of my Mazda Protegé.

It looks like my brother worked him over pretty good, too. Tommy’s going to pay to dry-clean that blanket, but there’s no time to think about that here.

Now, this doesn’t exactly put me in the mood for love, but I’ve got to stall for time, and I can only think of one way to do it. I clamp myself onto Angela like there’s no tomorrow. I guess she misinterprets my desperation as grand passion and starts kissing me—I mean, really going nuts at it. There’s a strategy I’ll bet Alex never considered for his checklist.

So here I am, getting the best action of my life. But I can’t even enjoy it, because six feet away, the trunk is open and Jimmy Rat is snoring softly and bleeding all over my blanket.

At this point, I’m committed to a course of action. I try to ease Angela down to the beach, but she pulls away. “Get the blanket!”

“The beach is nice and soft—”

“I don’t want sand all over me!” she exclaims, furthering my suspicion that she’s an old hand at this. She dances around me, and before I can stop her, she’s staring into the trunk at the blanket and its current occupant.

Well, don’t even ask about the screaming. I thought Harvest of Death was bad, but this is in a whole other league. I guess being mauled by a vampire–hay baler is nothing compared to finding a body in your make-out blanket.

“He’s dead! He’s dead! Oh my God, Vince, he’s dead!”

“He’s not dead.” For some reason, the only thing I can think of is that old dead parrot skit on Monty Python. “He’s—resting.”

Angela spares me the tough questions. She just gets in the car, arms folded, face like stone. “Take me home, Vince. This minute.”

What can I do? I slam down the trunk lid, climb behind the wheel, and put the car in gear.

“I’m really sorry about this, Angela.”

Her silence is even more deafening than the screaming a couple minutes before.

That’s when I see the traffic jam. Oh, no! The cops have set up a roadblock on the causeway. They’re searching cars coming off the beach, looking for booze and drugs. I haven’t got any of that stuff. What I do have is Jimmy Rat, in used condition.

I throw the Mazda into reverse, but by that time, there are a couple of cars in line behind me. Besides, this is the route off the beach, period. The only other escape is by submarine.

I have a giddy vision of Alex, continuing his checklist: Snorkel mask?

Snorkel mask? What for?

For when you get caught with a body in the trunk, and you have to swim for it. Don’t get cocky, Vince. This is my love life we’re talking about!

The guy three cars ahead of me gets nailed with a bottle of vodka, but he passes the Breathalyzer. They chew him out and confiscate the booze, but he doesn’t get arrested.

No such hope for me. They’re not likely to confiscate Jimmy Rat and send me off with a warning. Especially not after they see the name Luca on my driver’s license. My family has quite a reputation in law-enforcement circles.

“Let me do all the talking,” I whisper to Angela. Like there’s anything to say.

She nods, petrified. At least our predicament has scared her into forgetting how mad she is.

The roadblock is two cars away. Now one. Beside me, Angela’s lips are moving. I think she’s praying.

The Nissan in front pulls away. It’s our turn.

And then—an act of God.

Horn honking wildly, an out-of-control Cadillac weaves down the causeway from the other direction, doing at least sixty. All at once, the driver slams on the brakes. The wheels lock, sending the big car into a spin. It sideswipes the divider in a metal-on-metal shower of sparks, and lurches to a halt. There, hanging onto the wheel for dear life, sits Benny the Zit. He’s looking straight at me through the crack in his windshield.

The cops all leap the divider and run to the scene of the accident.

Hey, I’m not going to wait for an engraved invitation. I stomp on the accelerator and get out of there. About fifteen other cars peel off after me.

I get the real story later. When my dad found out that I’d gone on a date with Jimmy Rat in the trunk of my Mazda, he gave my brother a major earache. Well, Tommy passed the pain on to Benny. After all, it was Benny’s fault that Tommy had to take my car to lean on Jimmy Rat. So it became Benny’s job to get me out of this, no matter what the cost. The cost turned out to be one Cadillac.

In my family, this counts as justice.

Our thrilling escape does nothing to thaw Angela’s icy attitude toward me. When I drop her off at her house, she says, “If you promise not to call me; not to talk to me; to pass me in the hall and not even look in my direction; then maybe—maybe—I’ll forget what was in your trunk tonight.”

I nod sadly. “I’ve never seen you before in my life.” And I drive away.

From the trunk of the Mazda, I hear pounding. Jimmy Rat wants out. I know I’m going to catch hell for this from Tommy, but I pull over and free the guy. I notice for the first time that he isn’t wearing any pants, so I let him keep the blanket. I even give him change for the phone so he can call a cab.

He looks disdainfully at my Mazda. “Damn foreign cars. No trunk space at all.”

I have to keep myself from telling him, Hey, blame Benny the Zit. If he hadn’t been late, you could have been beaten up and imprisoned in the back of a Cadillacthe Ritz-Carlton of trunks. Would that have been suitable?

So that’s the whole story, the postmortem, pardon the expression. It’s the right one, though. A postmortem is done on a dead body. And nothing is deader than the relationship between Angela O’Bannon and me.

According to Alex the next day, all this is my fault.

“Face it, Vince. You screwed up. You had a golden opportunity, and you blew it. This isn’t doing my love life any good, you know.”

Think what it’s doing to mine.



I WAS ABOUT FOUR when I first started to realize that my family wasn’t like the families of some of my friends at preschool.

Mom is bundling me out of the house to catch the bus when I turn and ask, “Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s sleeping, Vincent. You’ll see him when you come home for lunch.”

I point up and down the street. “But all the other daddies go to work. They drive in their cars, or they take the train to the city.”

Here’s what she tells me: “Your father’s in the vending-machine business. He works different hours because you never know when a vending machine is going to break.”

That’s her explanation for why Dad has to run off at two o’clock in the morning on urgent business. I honestly used to believe that somewhere there was a jammed-up soda machine, and my dad had to rush off in the dead of night and fix it. Hey, I was four.

Brothers Vending Machines, Inc., is the name of the company. I always thought that was pretty strange considering Dad’s an only child. But even though he has no brothers, there were always lots of uncles around. I made a list once. I was up to sixty before I gave up. And some of the names! I have an Uncle Fingers, Uncle Puke, Uncle Shank, Uncle Fin, Uncle Pampers, and Uncle Exit. I have two uncles named Nose—Big-Nose and No-Nose. I even have an uncle named Uncle. Everybody calls him that, except his real nephews, who call him T-Bird.

Seven years old: I wake up for a drink of water and find blood-spattered towels in the bathtub. Scared out of my mind, I run to my parents’ room to find the light on and a little meatball surgery in progress. There’s plastic sheeting over everything. My uncle Carmine lies facedown on the bed, crying and whimpering. My dad sits on him to hold him still, while my mother digs at him with a tweezers.

“Aha!” she exclaims, coming up with a tiny misshapen object covered in gore.

Uncle Carmine screams bloody murder.

“Shut up, Carmine!” orders my father. “If you wake the kids, the next one’s going in your head.”

They tell me it’s a kidney stone, but I’m not fooled.

My teacher, Mrs. Metzger, confirms my suspicion that kidney stones don’t come out of your butt cheek.

The peculiarities begin to mount up. The sudden “school camping trip” where none of the other kids are from my class. And where one day, I open my Cracker Jacks at snack time and find a box full of cut diamonds. Everybody else has a ball while I sit in the cabin, guarding my cache of “snacks,” afraid to open anything else. I have to be evaluated by a psychologist after that, because I’m so obsessed with my food.

When I get back to my own school, none of the kids in my class have gone on any camping trip. They think I’ve been out with strep throat.

Dad says special cleaners were working in our house while I was away, so he had to get rid of the Cracker Jacks because it’s so messy. Those guys must have been pretty lousy cleaners, because they cut open every teddy bear in my closet.

Stuff like that.

By this point, Tommy has already told me, “Dad’s mobbed up.” But back then I assumed it just meant he had a lot of friends.

He’s such a fun father. While all the uncles ignore their kids, Dad always finds time for Tommy and me, and our older sister, Mira. He teases us, and cracks great jokes, and we always get tons of presents. There are these fun little rituals, too. Every night before he shuts out the lights in the den, he’ll look up and address the fixture: “And a special good night to you, Agent Numb-Nuts.” Or he’ll call into the garage, “We’re going out to dinner if it’s all right with you, Agent Needledink. Should I bring you a doggie bag?”

As a kid, I thought it was a riot. It’s only now, years later, that I realize Dad’s talking to real people. FBI agents, to be specific. Our house was—and still is—always bugged.

I’ll never forget the day it sank in that people are out there listening. Every burp, every trip to the can, and worse—all preserved on tape by federal agents. Home sweet home.

At least now I understand why Dad flips his lid the day I accidentally open up that suitcase full of bearer bonds.

“What’s this, Dad? It looks like some kind of money.”

The father who never so much as smacked my behind clamps a death grip on my mouth with the strength of the jaws of a great white shark.

“It’s play money, Vince. Like Monopoly.”

Uncle Cosimo, who’s in charge of the suitcase, cuts our lawn for the next three summers.

Think what a terrible burden it is for a high-school kid: if you say the wrong thing in the privacy of your own home, you might end up sending your father to prison.

One day I corner Mom in the laundry room, where the roar of the washer covers our conversation. “I know what Dad does for a living.”

She nods. “He’s an excellent provider. Thank God, vending machines are a profitable business.”

“Oh, Mom,” I complain. “Don’t treat me like an idiot. I know he’s in the Mob.”

She stares at me, shocked. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“Come on, Mom. I know you know!”

I’ve got to give her credit. She never retreats an inch. Either that or my poor mother is so dumb that, ten years ago, she really did believe that Uncle Carmine passed a kidney stone through a bloody hole in his left buttock. It’s a mean thing to say about your mom, but I have to consider heredity. There must be an explanation for Tommy, after all. And Mira majored in media studies, not astrophysics, in community college.

My mother can serve a sit-down dinner for fifteen guys at four in the morning with ten minutes advance notice. Our basement is full of freezers packed with food just in case the Mormon Tabernacle Choir drops by in the state she prefers all her guests to be in—ravenous. And her cooking is great, if a little heavy. Not just in your stomach. Try carrying it. A Tupperware container of Mom’s lasagna weighs twice as much as anybody else’s.

That’s not to say that Mom and her meatballs are all meat and no balls. I remember once there was this guy, Angelo, a real young Turk in Uncle Shank’s crew, who had some kind of beef with Tommy. This is right after Tommy quit school to join the business, so he was about my age now, and nowhere near as tough as his current, put-Jimmy-Rat-in-the-trunk self.

Dad absolutely refuses to intervene on his son’s behalf. “If I mix in, you’ll never command any respect on your own,” he says. But Tommy keeps getting pushed around. A few weeks later, Uncle Shank and his guys are over at the house, and Mom asks Angelo to “help her” in the kitchen. They’re alone in there together, and suddenly there’s the most God-awful scream coming from Angelo. He leaves in a hurry, and we order Chinese food that night—an event so rare that it should come with skywriting and fireworks.

“I thought we were having chicken potpie,” I say.

“The potpie,” she tells me, “is totally out of commission.”

I don’t push it. Totally out of commission is a phrase Mom uses to describe things that are gone, finished, and never to be seen again on this earth. Although, in this case, I do see the potpie again. There it is, in the garbage, dish and all. The crust is broken in a perfect handprint. Coincidentally, Angelo walks around with a bandaged hand for six weeks. First-degree burns.

The incident is never mentioned at our house, but from that day on I realize that Mom has a titanium backbone to go with her heart of gold. And if food is her medium, it can also be her message. Where family is concerned, nobody messes with Mom, not even her powerful husband.

Angelo never bugged Tommy again. A few months later, he stopped hanging around Uncle Shank and his crew. They say he moved out west.

Alex, who is turned to stone in the presence of Dad, Tommy, or any of the uncles, always has plenty to say when we’re alone. “Don’t you ever watch Mafia movies? Do you have any idea the kind of chicks these guys get? I defy you to show me one gangster with an ugly girlfriend.”

To say Alex has a one-track mind is an insult to one-track minds.

“You’re practically a Mob prince,” he presses on. “There must be some way to use that to rustle us up a couple of dates!”

“That is never going to be a part of my life!” I vow. “I’ve had it out with my dad, and he knows exactly how I feel.”

He looks at me in awe. “Really? What did he say?”

It was less than a year ago. Dad doesn’t say anything at first, and it isn’t just because of our latest FBI eavesdropper, Agent Bite-Me. We’re in my father’s basement workshop, the one room in our house that’s guaranteed safe. With unfinished concrete walls and floor, there’s virtually nowhere to hide a listening device. It’s Tommy’s job as Dad’s apprentice to sweep the tools and equipment for bugs twice a day. That includes the Universal gym, and the woodworking area. A lot of conferences take place there, and a lot of uncles make their way down the basement stairs.

He sits me in a rickety, lopsided wooden chair that rocks precariously on the concrete floor. Why do the well-to-do Lucas have such a piece of junk in their upscale home? Because it’s an Anthony Luca handmade special. For years, Dad has been talking about not working so hard, scaling back his day-to-day involvement in the business, stopping to smell the roses, blah, blah, blah. Uncle Sal recently died (actually, I think he had help) and it reminded Dad that life is short.


  • An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults
    An ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
    A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
  • "A fast-paced, tightly focused story."—The Horn Book
  • "[An] expertly plotted escapade."—Booklist
  • "Funny and unexpectedly affecting."—Publishers Weekly

    "A compelling investigation of the transience of charisma and the flimsy underpinnings of popularity."

    Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

    "Korman's reworking of The Great Gatsby places the action in a modern framework, which makes it more recognizable for today's readers and may lead them to the classic. Teens will find deeper issues to consider about popularity, being true to one's self, and taking responsibility for one's actions as they relate to the setting and characters."


    An ALSCA Notable Book, 2009


    * "[T]hese kids are living minute to minute, where one false step may haunt them forever. . . . [B]e prepared for high demand."

    Booklist, starred review

    * "There's lots to relish here."

    Kliatt, starred review

    "This novel is signature Korman."

    School Library Journal

    * "This one . . . has the goods to go platinum."

    Publishers Weekly, starred review

    * "Another wild, funny adventure from Korman, who knows how to please his YA audience."

    Kliatt, starred review

    "Laugh-out-loud funny, honest, hot and sweet."Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Jun 20, 2017
Page Count
240 pages

Gordon Korman

About the Author

Gordon Korman wrote his first book at age fourteen, and since then has written more than eighty middle grade and teen novels. His favorites include the New York Times bestselling The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers, Book One: The Medusa Plot; Ungifted; Pop; and Schooled. Gordon lives with his family on Long Island, New York. He invites you to visit him online at

Learn more about this author