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True crime book by Queen’s Mafia expert becomes national TV series

Bad Blood actors Tony Nappo, Kim Coates, Anthony LaPaglia, and Enrico Colantoni. (City/Rogers Media)

Bestselling true crime novel Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War by Queen’s University lecturer and organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso has inspired Bad Blood, a six-part television drama that recently premiered on City TV.

Bad Blood stars Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace, Empire Records) as Montreal mobster Vito Rizzuto and centres around the kingpin's life and death as researched and recorded by Mr. Nicaso and his co-author, Toronto Star reporter Peter Edwards.

Antonio Nicaso (centre) with actor Kim Coates (left) and producer Mark Montefiore (right)
Antonio Nicaso (centre) with Bad Blood actor Kim Coates (left) and producer Mark Montefiore (right).

“It’s a great feeling to see your book turned into a television show, as it underlines the power of ideas,” says Mr. Nicaso. “I have spent most of my life trying to deconstruct the myth of mobsters to show that the real Mafia is not the one glamorized by Hollywood. I hope this series helps to remove old stereotypes.”

Mr. Nicaso is currently teaching courses at Queen’s on the social history of organized crime in Canada, and on Mafia culture and the power of symbols, rituals and myths.

It took him 20 years of research with Mr. Edwards to sculpt what would become their true crime non-fiction book. “We interviewed around 100 people, ranging from law enforcement and government officials, to people who knew Mr. Rizzuto and our sources within the underworld,” says Mr. Nicaso.

They combed through thousands of judicial documents, police reports, and municipal files to pull together a full picture of Mr. Rizzuto and his operations.

Mr. Rizzuto allegedly led a criminal empire that imported and distributed narcotics, laundered money, facilitated illegal gambling and loans, and contracted the murders of its opponents. More interesting to Mr. Nicaso were the repeated corruption investigations that connected multiple Montreal mayors, provincial politicians, engineering firms, and bureaucrats to Mr. Rizzuto’s illegal activities.

“The most important feature of a mobster is the ability to build relationships in the ‘Upperworld’ - relationships with politicians, businessmen, bankers, builders and union leaders,” says Mr. Nicaso. “The idea with the book, and now the television show, was to demonstrate that organized crime is entrenched in Canadian society, with infiltrations into many sectors of our economy.”

Mr. Nicaso provided expert testimony to the Charbonneau Commission during its 30-month long examination of organized crime and corruption in Quebec. Despite uncovering that corruption in the province was far more prevalent than previously believed, few sweeping changes were implemented after the report’s 2015 release.

“There is no political will to fight the Mafia and corruption in Canada,” says Mr. Nicaso. “We have to nurture a new generation of thinkers who can look past the glorification of the Mafia and who can continue to push for reforms.”

While Bad Blood is the first television show based on one of Mr. Nicaso’s works, he is also the bestselling author of 30 books focused on Mafia and related criminal organizations. He is also an award-winning journalist and regularly consulted by governments and law-enforcement agencies around the world on issues of organized crime.