Cover image for Godfather of night : a Greek mafia father, a drug runner son, and an unexpected shot at redemption
Godfather of night : a Greek mafia father, a drug runner son, and an unexpected shot at redemption
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, c2009.
Physical Description:
ix, 256 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Personal Subject:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Note
Book 364.1092 PAPPAS 1

On Order



What if you belonged nowhere and to no one? What if you learned as a teenager that the father who had mistreated you for years wasn't your father at all--and that you were actually born to the mistress of a Greek gangster? And what if the only way to connect with your real father was to become his fiercest rival? Kevin Cunningham was born in Tarpon Springs, Florida, just another kid from the wrong side of the tracks. But from his first days Kevin gravitated towards power, and in Tarpon Springs that meant local crime boss Lukie Pappas. As a boy, Kevin hung out at the Pappas Restaurant, and he saw how the townspeople approached Lukie. How they respected him. How they came to him for help. How they called himnounos--Greek for "godfather." From the shadows, Kevin admired it all. When he turned seventeen, Kevin's world flipped upside down. His dying father confessed that Kevin was the son of another man--and not just any man. He was the son of Lukie Pappas. Suddenly, his destiny was clear. His lineage became his fate. His rightful place was beside the Greek godfather who ruled his hometown. But Lukie coldly rejected him, as both a son and a colleague. Fueled by rage and pride, Kevin claimed the Pappas name as his own and embarked on his own criminal enterprise. From two-bit swindling he rose quickly to high-stakes drug trafficking. Money laundering, gun running, and racketeering polished his underworld résumé, even as they placed him squarely in the crosshairs of every federal agency with three initials and a most-wanted list. And when he got caught, Kevin's time behind bars only honed his criminal instinct, hardened his resolve, and cemented his reputation as a larger-than-life outlaw who sometimes went down but could never be taken out. Still in his early twenties but as powerful as any crime boss, Kevin surrounded himself with an elite group, a posse that called itselfThe Band of Five. They wanted for nothing, as they were flush with fast cars, boats, planes and women, but their antics invited violent attempts to bring Kevin to his senses, or at least to his knees. More than a gripping tale, GODFATHER OF NIGHT unveils the Greek-American crime syndicate and its close alignment to power from Pennsylvania Avenue to the halls of the Justice Department, and takes readers to a dark place where high-level crime, government corruption, and family secrets collide. Kevin Pappas's story is a true crime epic for a new generation of wiseguys--full of the harrowing war stories and hard-won wisdom of a man who lived by his own rules, broke everyone else's, and dared the world to try and stop him.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reformed gangster Pappas offers a potent, fast-paced memoir: "I didn't become a gangster out of greed, money, or to drive fancy cars. I got into it to make a point: To prove my manhood to a father who denied me." That father was Lukie Pappas, "head of the biggest Greek crime family in the Southeast." At age 17 the author learned he was Lukie's illegitimate son. He changed his name from Kevin Cunningham to Kevin Lucas Pappas, but still received only a cold denial from Lukie. Angered by the rejection, Pappas began his own criminal life of swindles, drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. As "a kingpin in Atlanta," he found the cocaine competition turning ugly: At age 24, he landed in the violent Atlanta federal prison. While serving two consecutive life sentences, Pappas agreed to an FBI offer: freedom in exchange for infiltrating his father's group as an informant: "I walked out of prison full of anger and animosity toward my so-called father." Pappas is adapting this high-octane book into a documentary, scheduled for 2010 release. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Aug. 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Pappas was raised a white Jehovah's Witness in a small town in Florida dominated by the Greek Mafia. His deep admiration for the Mafia head and his father's open animosity toward him were clarified when his father's deathbed confession identified him as the illegitimate son of Lukie Pappas. Fevered efforts to get his birth father to acknowledge him led to nothing but token gestures, and Pappas determined to make himself a successful criminal, worthy of his father's affection. Skills he learned from the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Greek Mafia (where revenge was exacted not on the culprit but on his family) helped Pappas develop into a major crime figure in Atlanta, running guns and cocaine. When the ATF, FBI, and DEA finally caught up with Pappas' crew, and he was sentenced to time in a federal prison, he developed his next enterprise helping federal investigators solve cases while also helping those serving time to reduce their sentences. All the while, he searched for acceptance from his father and redemption from his own life of crime.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2009 Booklist



Chapter One I grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, during the 1970s. Twenty miles from Tampa, the town looks like a quaint tourist spot from the outside, but in reality it's controlled, from the docks to the courthouses, by Greek immigrants and their descendants. My name was Kevin Cunningham--an outsider in the heart of Greektown.  If you walked out of my house, turned right, and went down two city blocks over the cobblestone streets, you came to the church. Every Sunday morning starting at about seven you heard this chant that started " Na na na na . . . " coming over the loudspeakers, the sound bouncing off the waterways so the whole town heard it. It was the old priest singing the church hymns. It's like when you go to Egypt or Morocco and they have the Islamic call to prayer. But this was the Greek version.  The next block over from my house was the Smyrlis Bakery, and the smell of bread would come through our open windows and into my room. This scent would always wake me along with the sound of the chimes and the bells and the singing of the hymns. And every afternoon I would head to the main strip, right by the water, on my bike. As you approach the wharf, the street signs start appearing in Greek and English, and you see the old ladies dressed in black dresses even in hundred- degree weather, just like they would be back in Sparta. In front of the coffee shops on Dodecanese Street there are men flipping worry beads, very ripe old rough guys who look like they've been in the sun forever. These are lower- echelon gangsters in the mob. Inside, the captains and the soldiers are gambling for high stakes--forty, fifty thousand dollars on one throw of the dice. Women are not allowed in the coffee shops. They don't even walk down that side of the street. Instead they cross over.  Really, it was like growing up in a small town in Greece. Everywhere you went, you saw the blue of the Greek flag--on signs, on roofs, on house trim. It was like a painted border that circled the town, and it said everything inside this line belonged to us.  Pedaling my bike, I would make a right on the harbor street off Dodecanese and see the little wharf, where octopus hung on string lines to dry out and the masts of the shrimp and sponge boats spiked into the air like mini oil derricks. The names on the boats weren't average American ones--there was sure to be a sponger named the St.  Michael or the St. Nicholas, very important saints in the old country. And all along the harbor road you heard music playing, you smelled the food from the diners, and you heard the chatter of the people speaking in Greek.  Today at the end of the harbor road, you come to the Pappas restaurant. Out front, there's a sculpture of a man in a deep- sea diver suit, with the round metal helmet and the grille, straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's a statue of Louis Pappas, the man who brought the clan to America, and it honors him and the other divers who made the town the sponging capital of the world, the place where the natural sponges from the bottom of the sea are harvested and sold. Louis died under the water in a mysterious accident years back--some people say it was a hit, but the town likes to think he died doing what he loved.  Under the statue, there is a plaque that tells how Louis brought "honor and fame" to Tarpon Springs. If he had been another nationality it might have said "riches" or "commerce" or something like that. But the Greeks want above all to be respected by their countrymen, Excerpted from Godfather of Night: A Greek Mafia Father, a Drug Runner Son, and an Unexpected Shot at Redemption by Kevin Pappas All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.