The Strange Case of Crazy Joe Gallo, by Jeffrey Thomas

(Download the audio version of this story here, or click the play button below. Read by Lou Columbus.  Story illustration by Nick Gucker.)


Prologue: The Man, the Myth, the Mythos

On his successful 1976 album Desire, Bob Dylan asked what made them want to blow Joey Gallo away – but only a handful of people ever knew that it had to do with the fabled grimoire the Necronomicon, written by the “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred.

Long before the young, audacious mobster had earned his nickname Crazy Joe, he was born and grew up as Joseph Gallo in that section of Brooklyn known as Red Hook – a neighborhood where some very odd events, documented by a writer named Howard Lovecraft, had occurred a few years before Gallo’s birth on April 7th, 1929.

He was to die on that same date, while celebrating his birthday with family, forty-three years later.

1: Crazy Joe and the Mad Arab

The Strange Case of Crazy Joe Gallo — illustration by Nick Gucker — click to enlarge

Gallo first learned of the infamous, ancient book while serving a ten year sentence for extortion. Gallo was widely read – in prison he devoured the writings of Sartre, Machiavelli, Kafka, Nietzsche, and Camus – and so it was not unnatural for him to become intrigued by talk of this legendary tome.

In prison, Gallo had befriended numerous African-Americans, as it was his revolutionary and controversial idea to work together with African-Americans on the streets instead of opposing them as the mob had traditionally done. One of his most recent allies was a new inmate named Jerome Johnson, and on an overcast day out on the exercise yard an avid Gallo pressed Johnson to relate how he had himself acquired a copy of this unthinkably rare volume. Listening in was another prisoner, of Southeast Asian descent, named Joshi (a fervent atheist, doing time for violently assaulting two Jehovah’s Witnesses on his doorstep) – who was also familiar with the Necronomicon through his own reading, though he had never seen a copy himself.

“You mean to tell me you got this book stashed on the outside right now?” said Gallo, who bore a strong resemblance to the actor Robert Duvall (who would appear in the movie The Godfather in a number of years), though it would be actor Peter Boyle who portrayed Gallo after his death. “Thing must be worth a lot of money to the right people.”

“Yeah, man,” said Johnson. “But it’s not just what it’s worth, it’s what it can do…that’s what I want to tell you.”

“I can see you’re smooth, Jerome, but how’d a street hustler like you get a hold of a thing like that?”

“There was this guy named Gavin, collected all kinds of crazy damn books besides this one. I been inside his apartment, man, and you shoulda seen the spooky shit he collected. Shrunken heads, bones, animal parts; like a fuckin’ museum. But the man was into junk, and that’s how he came to be introduced to me. Every time I came to see him he’d had to sell off more of that creepy collection of his, ‘til at the end the place was almost emptied out. Last time I seen him, all’s he had left was a couple of books, and he tried to trade me that there Necronomicon for his fix.”

“Obscene,” Joshi muttered. “Trading such a book for narcotics.”

“I told him I didn’t need no wormy old book for a doorstop, so then he told me how rare the thing was and all. I asked him what it was about, and he said it talked about these gods or monsters or something called the Old Ones, that came to our world gazillions of years ago, but they got defeated and locked up by these other cats called the Elder Gods. Gavin said maybe all this shit was what originally inspired people to believe in devils and angels, and –”

“No, no, no!” Joshi protested loudly. “That line of thinking is so horrendously wrongheaded! No wonder this fool became a drug addict! Angels? The Elder Gods are not good, they don’t care about humanity! We’re nothing more to them than we are to the Old Ones, and – ow!

Gallo had clapped Joshi across the back of the head. “Quiet down! Man’s trying to tell us his story, okay?”

“Anyways,” Johnson continued, “I didn’t wanna hear about all that loony shit, so I was just about to leave when he got all desperate and told me he’d give me an example of what this book could do.”

“Yeah? So what was it he showed you?”

“Shit, Joey, you won’t believe me. You’ll say I was on the dope myself, but I wasn’t. At least, not just then.”

“So tell me, already.”

“He read something outta that book…a spell or…incantation or whatever. He was facing the corner of the livingroom – he said it had to be a corner. And he said he had to read the…the ascent chant?”

“Ascending?” prompted Joshi.

“Right, right. The ascending chant to open, the descending chant to close.”

“Madonne,” Gallo said impatiently. “To open or close what?

“Joey, I swear it – I saw a door open up in the corner of the room.”

“A hidden door?”

“No, a doorway to another world! It just sort of slowly appeared, man, like it started out dim and then got brighter, until I could see through it. Door had a pointy top, like a window in a church. And man, on the other side was water! At least it looked like water, like I was looking through a glass window into the bottom of the ocean. But the bottom of an ocean on another planet, or some damn thing.”

“Jerome,” Gallo snorted, smirking as he wagged his head. “Man…”

“Look, man, you want to hear this or not? If you don’t wanna believe me, Joey, we can end this right now.”

“No, go on,” Joshi all but pleaded, his eyes practically bulging from his head, “go on!”

Gallo got Joshi in a headlock and said through gritted teeth, “I told you to shut your trap, didn’t I?”

“Hey!” a guard patrolling the yard called over to the men. “Gallo, you got a problem over there?”

Gallo let the red-faced Joshi straighten up, his arm around his shoulders, and grinned back at the guard. “Just palling around, Hank!”

“Well treat your girlfriend a little better, will ya?”

The guard strutted off, and Gallo mumbled, “How ‘bout I’ll treat your wife a little better?” Slipping his arm from Joshi, he turned back to Johnson with a more serious expression than he had worn before, and said, “Tell me.”

“Well,” Johnson began again slowly, reluctantly, “after a few seconds I started to see things back there in the water, moving through it. Like shadows at first, but big.”

“Deep Ones?” Joshi blurted heedlessly.


“Fish-like humanoids?”

“They looked kinda like bugs, or crabs. Huge crabs. But their heads…they were just like brains, with no face, but with like feelers or tentacles growing out of them!” Johnson wiggled the fingers of both hands above his own head. “And they had these huge wings, that you could sort of see through, that helped them move through the water.”

“Mi-go,” Joshi hissed to himself in awe. “The fungi from Yuggoth!”

Johnson ignored him. “Anyway, I almost fell over a table backing away from that doorway, Joey, believe me. I almost crapped myself. I started yelling at Gavin to close the damn door, close it now!”

“Sure it wasn’t just a movie, from a hidden projector or something?”

“No, man, listen to me!” Johnson was clearly agitated now, his face shiny with sweat and his own eyes beginning to protrude. “There was this buzzing sound coming from the doorway, coming through the water. It was getting louder and louder, and it hurt my ears. It hurt my fucking brain! It sounded like a giant bee or something – like a whole swarm of giant bees. And it was getting louder because one of those things was coming toward the doorway! Like it seen us, Joey, and wanted to come get us! Wanted to come through the doorway into that guy’s livingroom and get us! I was ready to panic by now, I ain’t ashamed to say it, and I even took out my gun and pointed it at Gavin and told him to read that fuckin’ descending chant right now or I’d kill him! But he knew I couldn’t do that. If I killed him, I didn’t think I could read that chant myself. So he just smiled at me, and walked over to the doorway, right up close to it so the light from the water like rippled across his face. By now that crab thing was walking across the bottom of the ocean or whatever, walking straight up like a man and waving those big wings and reaching out its claws to us. It was only a few yards away, it looked like. And what does that sick bastard Gavin do? He reaches out one hand and sticks it through the doorway! Sticks it into the water! I seen him flinch a little, like the water was freezing cold – and I realized I could even feel the cold from where I was standing. Then he pulled his arm out again, and his sleeve was soaked and dripping on the floor! There wasn’t no glass over the doorway, after all, so I don’t know how the water was held back like that. Held back even though he could reach right into it!”

“My God,” Joshi muttered, no doubt forgetting his atheism for the moment.

“But before that thing could reach the doorway – reach it and stick its arms through, too – Gavin looked down at the book and read the descending chant, and the doorway went dark again. Disappeared, like it was never there. All that was left was a little water dribbled on the floor.”

“And then what?” Gallo asked, in a thoughtful tone of voice.

“Then what? Well, I traded him my drugs for the fuckin’ book, of course!”

2: Released to the World

When Crazy Joe Gallo left prison in 1971 he looked physically diminished, though his ambitions were anything but. Gallo had already attempted to overthrow crime lord Joe Profaci before his ten year prison stint, but cancer had since done Gallo’s job for him and taken Profaci out. Another Joe, Magliocco, had stepped up to fill Profaci’s shoes, but after a heart attack did him in it was yet another Joe, Colombo, who took the helm of what was now called the Colombo crime family. Whatever its name and whoever ran it, Gallo wanted to conquer it, and he enlisted the aid of his brothers Larry and Albert “Kid Blast” Gallo to do so. But not only them…

Gallo’s fellow inmate from prison, the scholarly Joshi, had been released several years earlier. No doubt the last people he had expected to show up at his apartment door one night in 1971 were Joe Gallo and Jerome Johnson. “Well,” Gallo told the stricken-looking Joshi, “it’s better than opening the door to a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ain’t it?”

Inside Joshi’s kitchen, Gallo told Joshi he had nothing to fear from them. In fact, Gallo had a proposition. “How’d you like to become the unlikeliest hitman in the whole of New York, my friend?”

“What are you talking about?” the man stammered.

“This,” said Johnson, thumping a valise down on the kitchen table and unlatching it. Joshi leaned over it timidly to peek inside, wincing as if he expected to see a bomb within, though no doubt hoping it was a mound of cash.

It was even better than a mound of cash. It was the Necronomicon.

Joshi looked up at Gallo with his eyes sparkling weirdly, as if the mere sight of the book had imparted that light to them. “Who do you want me to kill first?” he whispered.

3: Wiseguys from Yuggoth

“And they call me crazy,” Gallo said, reading a newspaper article about Joseph Colombo’s Italian-American Civil Rights League. While Gallo had still been in prison, crime boss Colombo had created the organization to battle the negative stereotyping of Italian-Americans. In 1970, Colombo had organized an Italian-American Unity Day rally in Columbus Circle. Now, according to the newspaper article, Colombo had planned a second Unity Day rally to again be held in Columbus Circle, on June 28th.

“I’m telling ya, Gambino is not happy about Colombo drawing attention to himself like this,” said Kid Blast, gesturing in the air with his cigarette. The men were sequestered in their headquarters on Brooklyn’s President Street.

“But Frank Sinatra was happy enough to do a benefit for the League at Madison Square Garden, last November,” said Larry Gallo. “Can you imagine? The stupid fuck.”

“Larry,” Crazy Joe said, pointing at his older brother, his pale blue eyes meaningful. “Don’t knock Sinatra.”

“Gambino will back us up on anything we do to Colombo,” Jerome Johnson said, again referring to Carlo Gambino, the powerful mafia don who had once been allied with Colombo – but no more. Johnson was seated at a table, trying to twirl spaghetti around his fork as deftly as his white comrades did. Slurping an unruly strand into his mouth, then speaking around it as he chewed, he urged, “Let’s stop fuckin’ around and do it, boys. Stop wasting Joshi and the book on these little fish and go for the big man, huh?”

But Gallo had been a little reluctant to go after his more important, high-profile enemies with their newfound weapon, because of its unpredictability and the possible attention it might bring back to him (and this from a man who normally reveled in attention). There had been a number of experimental hits, as Johnson had said, on lesser figures in Colombo’s ranks. Some of these had gone okay. In one man’s bedroom, a doorway had been opened up. His hysterical widow – still in psychiatric care – claimed her befuddled husband had approached the portal…and long, multiply-jointed arms like those of the king of all Alaska king crabs had suddenly reached out of the murk beyond the threshold and pulled her husband through, out of sight. She had heard brief, distorted and gurgling cries, and then the doorway had darkened and vanished, leaving only some icy water spattered on the carpet. No body. The victim was sleeping with the fishes of another dimension.

Yet then there had been the hit where another technique had been used. The grimoire described the use of a lens in combination with certain potent chants. By this means, the spell-caster was said to be able to peer through the lens into other realms – or focus, magnify and project his mental energies. Joshi had suggested that any sort of lens might serve this purpose, from one’s own spectacles to a camera. On the night in question he had used his reading glasses, and consulted some notes in his lap, copied from the book back in his apartment. He had been sitting in the passenger’s seat of a car at the time, Jerome Johnson behind the wheel, and Johnson had watched him read and reread the notes, memorizing them, then lift his gaze and direct it toward the tenement building they were parked across the street from. Specifically, at the bedroom window of an apartment in which one of Colombo’s men resided.

There had been a short, sharp crack like a miniature clap of thunder, and Johnson later described to Gallo seeing two blue streaks shoot from Joshi’s spectacles, through the closed car window, and through the glass of that third floor window. (Later they realized these extra sheets of glass had tripled the intended effect.) The next thing they knew, the darkened room behind that third floor window lit up with intense blue light, the glass exploded outward, and the exterior of the entire tenement building was crawling with a web of crackling blue electricity. This net of unearthly power danced and flickered for nearly a full minute, and Johnson got the car moving out of there. The next morning, they all learned from the newspaper that their target had indeed perished – as had his wife and three other of the building’s tenants who hadn’t escaped the fire that raged through and ultimately gutted it. “Nice work, Superman,” Gallo had told Joshi, swatting him with the rolled up newspaper.

As a result of this experiment in particular, at times Gallo had had second thoughts about continuing to use the book as a weapon; once he likened it to picking off ants with atom bombs. But then, he figured it probably had more to do with Joshi’s abilities in interpreting and executing the book’s spells and invocations. Maybe the man just needed to continue to hone his craft, his sniper’s eye and trigger finger.

“Nobody heard from Joshi yet?” he asked the others now. They’d called the occult scholar’s apartment a half dozen times that day.

“Nope, Joey,” said one of his soldiers.

“Okay, Jerome, go over to the book worm’s place and see if he’s there. If not, wait there for him – and give him a slap in the head for not being around, when he does show up.”

“Got ya, Joe.” Jerome wiped his mouth with a napkin as he pushed himself up from the table.

Talk turned again to Colombo, but it was only a half an hour after he’d left the gang’s headquarters that Jerome Johnson called and asked to speak with Crazy Joe. “Yeah?” Gallo said into the phone.

“I’m at the book worm’s place,” Johnson said, careful not to mention names in case the phone was being wiretapped. “I think you should get over here, man.”

“What’s so important?”

“I really think you oughta see this for yourself.”

“All right, all right, I’m on my way.”

Within another half an hour, Gallo stood beside Johnson in the livingroom of Joshi’s apartment, staring at the body of his former unlikely assassin. Joshi sat in a cozy armchair, a book still open in his lap. His arms were draped comfortably on the chair’s armrests – but there were no hands at the ends of them. Nor was there any longer a head atop Joshi’s torso. And yet, there was no blood; not a speck of it. Joshi’s neck, and the stumps of his wrists, ended in odd twists as if the missing parts had been screwed off.

“Did you look around for the head and hands?” Gallo asked Johnson without taking his eyes off the corpse.

“Yeah, man. Nothing.”

Gallo leaned over the body and closed the cover of the book in its lap. “This isn’t the Necronomicon.”

“No, it isn’t,” Johnson agreed. “We can’t find that, either.”

Gallo straightened up fast, his eyes going wild and twitchy. He had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic back in 1950. “What do you mean?”

“Whoever did this took the book, too.”

Fuck! Who else but Joshi or you or me would know what this thing could do? Know enough to take it? And who would already know this magic shit good enough to do this?” He waved his hand at the abbreviated cadaver.

Johnson leveled his gaze with Gallo ominously. “Gavin, Joey. He must have heard we’re at war with Colombo, and gone to him. Man needs his fixes, you know.”

“Madonne,” Gallo murmured, looking to the headless corpse again.

4: Camera Obscura

Joseph Colombo was all smiles as he moved toward the stage and its podium, so as to address the sizable crowd gathered for the second annual Italian-American Unity Day rally, in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. (Named after that positive Italian role model, Christopher Columbus.) And why shouldn’t he smile? The man was having it both ways. He was the don of one of New York’s five mafia families, and also the man who had convinced the Justice Department to stop using the word “mafia.” Because of Colombo, the word “mafia” would not be uttered in the film The Godfather, as well. Mustn’t have the world getting the wrong idea about his people.

Jerome Johnson was nudging his way through the crowd at the same rate Colombo was, his heart rocking with the applause that surrounded him. Despite his clearly being African-American rather than Italian-American, his progress went unquestioned; Johnson had managed to acquire credentials as a member of the press, flaunting a dated and oddly adapted camera. Joshi had been working on this device at the time of his death, and not only that, but folded in Johnson’s pocket was the sheet containing the copied chants Joshi had uttered that night parked in front of the enemy soldier’s apartment building. Johnson had been memorizing the lines all last night and this morning.

Colombo had almost reached the stage now, but was pausing here and there to shake hands – under the stern and attentive gaze of his bodyguards, including his son, Joe Jr.

Johnson was tempted to call out for Colombo to stop and turn toward him, to give him more time to raise the camera to his eye and frame his target in the viewfinder, but he was afraid to be so obvious, to call attention to his supposedly innocuous actions. In his mind, he was already saying the chant over and over. It lay on his tongue like a bullet in the chamber of a gun, his finger slowly tightening on the trigger.

Colombo had stopped for handshakes enough times, luckily, for Johnson to have sufficiently closed the gap between them – and he had another stroke of luck, when a legitimate photojournalist asked Colombo to turn toward him for a shot. When the mob boss complied, still grinning like the showman he had become, Johnson pressed his eye to the viewfinder and centered Colombo’s face within it. “Say cheese,” he muttered, and then launched swiftly but carefully into the memorized words of power.

Three times he depressed the camera’s button, and three times loud cracks rang out. Blue streaks like tracer bullets launched from the camera’s lens three times. It wasn’t as subtle as he might have hoped, but Johnson reassured himself once again that if people did single him out, seize and search him, they would find no gun upon him. Just this harmless, quirky old camera.

Colombo had turned his head again just as Johnson pressed the button the first time. Three clean black holes appeared to open in his head and neck as if by magic, and in fact for an instant Johnson saw a few forks of bluish electricity flick from the wounds, like the tongues of serpents hiding inside his skull. Then the man dropped out of the camera’s viewfinder.

Johnson lowered his camera in time to be grabbed roughly. He twisted around, saw that it was one of Colombo’s bodyguards. “Hey, man,” he protested, his voice all but drowned out by a roar of horror and fear from the crowd, “what’s going on?”

But now Joe Jr. had a hold of him, as well, and a few moments later two uniformed policemen joined in. One of the four, Johnson wasn’t sure which, had grabbed the camera from his hands. That was okay. They’d find no weapon secreted inside it. Without the chants, without the knowledge of the Necronomicon, it was nothing but a piece of junk.

Johnson was still more confident than he was nervous, even as the policemen began to handcuff him. That is, until he turned his head and saw another man staring at him from a few feet away. This man was not crying out, screaming, panicking like all those others around him. Johnson met his eyes squarely – and realized he knew this man, though he had never known him to wear wire-rimmed glasses before.

“Gavin!” he said.

Then there were three loud reports, three bright blue flashes before Johnson’s eyes, and he felt three holes open as if by magic in his body. Three deep holes. After that, going limp in the arms of the policemen who had restrained him, Johnson felt no more…and the former collector of rare books turned junkie melted innocently back into the crowds.

5: Clam House

Joe Colombo didn’t die of his wounds…that is, not right away. Not until 1978, in fact. He remained in a coma, and who could say what strange and terrible dreams he might have experienced in those years – and been powerless to articulate, or escape?

Caporegime Vincenzo Aloi was moved up to take Colombo’s place as the acting boss of the family – at least, until the penal system was finished with the actual new boss, Carmine Persico. But regardless of who had run the family before, and who would run it now, they all hated Crazy Joe Gallo the same.

Gallo knew the war was hardly over, whomever his opposing general might be, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to celebrate his 43rd birthday in a big way. (Did he ever do anything any other way?) He started out on the night of April 6th, 1972 with a trip to the Copacabana night club with some of the celebrity friends who had lionized him since his release from prison – the comedians Don Rickles and David Steinberg and the actor Jerry Orbach. But from there, in the early morning hours and in search of breakfast, Gallo and his wife Sina (a former nun, whom Gallo had married only a few weeks earlier), Sina’s young daughter, Gallo’s sister, and his bodyguard Pete “The Greek” Diapoulos, moved on to Umberto’s Clam House. This was in Little Italy, considered to be sacred ground, not to be violated. That was part of Gallo’s reasoning. But Little Italy or not, what was it all worth if one couldn’t enjoy the fruits of one’s labor? Gallo had just spent ten years behind bars, and now those bars were gone.

“Fantastic,” Gallo raved about his dish – scungilli in clam sauce – to Sina, “this is just the best. I’m gonna want seconds. Seconds for everybody, all right? Except for you,” he teased Sina’s daughter Lisa, imitating Don Rickles’ voice and mannerisms. “You win a cookie.”

Pete the Greek spluttered and almost choked on his food. “Stop it, Joey!”

Gallo craned his neck, looking for their waiter so as to call a second round of food to their table. He was seated facing the door, and so it was that he saw a curious figure enter Umberto’s before any of the others in his party could notice.

The man wore a fedora pulled down low over his eyes, shadowing a pasty white face. He was tall, and an oversized overcoat made him look broad and bulky, but it hung on him oddly – as if on some strange framework instead of a man’s body. His baggy trousers were knobby in the wrong places, too loose and empty elsewhere. And his gait…weirdly awkward, like a man tottering drunkenly, or on new prosthetic legs.

Could any other man possess these same peculiarities? Unless he was an identical twin, in identical clothing? Yet on the heels of the first strange figure, a second man stepped through Umberto’s doorway. Same fedora, bulky and ill-fitting coat, baggy trousers jutting in unusual places. And as the pair crossed the threshold, a funny sound accompanied them. It was rather like the buzzing of electric hair clippers, and it mounted in volume quickly.

Whatever was wrong with these two men, it all added up to no good as far as Crazy Joe was concerned, and even before the second man had passed through the doorway Gallo said sharply to his bodyguard: “Pete!”

Pete the Greek looked up in mid-chew and said, “Huh?” Too late, he spotted the figures. Saw the two of them had raised both their hands. Clenched in each hand of the freakish duo were revolvers, and the four revolvers began firing simultaneously in an abrupt and deafening barrage.

Gallo threw their table over immediately in order to shield his family. “Get down!” he yelled at them. Peripherally, he saw Sina drag Lisa to the floor. Amid the wild firing, as the two shooters came shambling closer, Gallo bolted in their direction so as to pass them, headed for the door. His intention was to draw fire away from his loved ones, but also to escape outside, to where his Cadillac waited at the curb.

But he felt a bullet smash one of his elbows. Another struck him in the spinal column. He followed through with his momentum, however, charged as he was with adrenaline. In his desperation to escape, he crashed through the restaurant’s plate glass door. The shooters had turned, however, following him with their fire as he’d lunged past them. A last bullet caught Gallo in the neck, severing his carotid artery.

He went down on the cold pavement, his Cadillac tantalizingly near – gleaming in the early morning light that was resurrecting his beloved city from the formlessness of night. He was dying, his blood pumping out of him onto the sidewalk, but he turned his head and watched the two assassins push their tall, wide bodies sideways through the shattered glass of Umberto’s doorway. The first assassin tore his sleeve open in the process, but the second one was even less lucky. A fang of glass snagged him under the jaw. Seemingly heedless to this, however, the shooter kept going – and his head, hat and all, was lifted off his shoulders and thudded to the sidewalk.

Gallo wondered if what he was seeing was the delirium of his encroaching death.

The first killer had somehow folded his uncanny form into the backseat of a car that had just pulled up to the curb behind the Cadillac. (From behind, his coat jutted here and there even more bizarrely than did his legs, as if he carried something on his back beneath the coat.)

The second killer, though, paused, turned around, and with some effort stooped to retrieve his dropped head. Gallo saw two things then that only furthered his sense of delirium. One was that the hand reaching for the head now extended beyond the cuff of its sleeve, and in so doing, revealed a wrist that looked like bare, spiky bone. Or perhaps, the chitinous limb of an insect. The appendage seemed to wear the human hand at the end of it like a glove.

The other thing was the head itself. It lay on its cheek, as did Gallo, and he could see the slack white face well enough to recognize it. The fallen, sightlessly gazing head was that of his old fellow prison inmate, Joshi.

The headless killer scooped the dropped head under his arm, turned back toward the waiting car and staggered to it as quickly as he could manage. With the roar of shooting now finished, Gallo could hear that buzzing sound again, following after his assailants. He could also hear a cacophony of screams and shouts through Umberto’s shattered door.

Gallo again turned his head on the sidewalk to follow the second assassin as he crammed himself into the passenger’s seat, up front beside the driver. For a few moments the dome light was on, and in that light Gallo saw the driver look over at him with a small, satisfied smile. It was the last face Crazy Joe Gallo would ever see – and yet he had never met the book collector Gavin before, and so he didn’t recognize him.

Epilogue: Uneasy Legends

Crazy Joe Gallo was as controversial in death as he had been in life. And to some, the actions of the Colombo family in bringing about that death had been just as controversial. Some critics of the murder (besides Bob Dylan) would ask what self-respecting Italian would hit a man in Little Italy? In front of his wife and a child, no less? Unless those two unnamed killers were something other than Italian.

Gallo had raised eyebrows by introducing African-Americans into his crew. But what kind of people had the Colombo family recently been recruiting?

In the years to come there would be rumors (and rumors that people had been killed for spreading those rumors) that the true head of the transfigured Colombo family after Joe’s shooting was not Carmine Persico, after all, but a man above even him. But who could believe such a rumor, given that this supposed puppet master was not even Italian himself, and that he was said to have risen to power in just a matter of months – from junkie, to triggerman, to crime boss?

Surely – like so much talk that would persist about Crazy Joe Gallo himself – just the stuff of legend.

Jeffrey Thomas is the author of such books as PunktownDeadstock (finalist for the John W. Campbell Award), Blue War, Monstrocity (finalist for the Bram Stoker Award), Letters from Hades, A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Dealers, and the Lovecraftian collection Unholy Dimensions. His latest book, from Germany’s Festa Verlag, is the collection Geschichten aus dem Cthulhu-Mythos. His stories have been selected for such anthologies as The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Year’s Best Horror Stories, The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, and the forthcoming Chaosium books Eldritch Chrome, Steampunk Cthulhu, and The Edge of Sundown. Thomas lives in Massachusetts. His blog can be found at

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Story illustration by Nick Gucker.

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30 responses to “The Strange Case of Crazy Joe Gallo, by Jeffrey Thomas

  1. Arnar, through your words I can tell you’re a discriminating reader, so I’m especially gratified I could satisfy you with this tale. I knew I was skating a thin line here, one I could have easily veered from (to land on my ass), so it’s rewarding that in your estimation I was successful. Thanks for sharing your impressions! (And yes, perhaps next time I’ll detail the little-known facts of Mr. Hoffa’s disappearance!)


  2. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Which is alot more of a compliment considering that if anyone would have told me he was working on a story where mobsters use the Necronomicon as their weapon of choice in gangwar hits, I´d have promptly removed all bodyparts he could possibly use to finish that blasphemous work. But you managed somehow to make it a very good story, it wasn´t until afterwards I realized how weird of a combination it was when I summarized the plot inadvertly at the start of this reply 😉

    It says alot about your ability as a writer that at no point did it feel awkward nor stitched together, your chosen setting most certainly contained more than a fair share of such “opportunities”.

    In short a very good story, doubly so when one realizes how many obstacles are in the way to make this plot (and for a lack of a better word) “not look retarded”.

    And I think you finally solved why Jimmy Hoffa´s body has never been found in the progress, nicely done 🙂


  3. Joshi?! Really?… Great choice of name! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    I really, really loved your story! It’s so readable, so fascinating, interesting and entertaining that I simply couldn’t put it down and then, when too soon I finished it, I was sad and happy at the same time… I will certainly read it again.
    You are a very talented writer, Mr. Thomas.


  4. “I like how you took the Lovecraftian (sp?) mythos and wrote the story in your own style” — Thanks, David. To me, that’s the only way to write Lovecraftian fiction: your own way.


  5. Jeffrey, you’re too kind. I was very conscious of trying to do justice to your work. As an avid reader and sometimes writer myself, I know how you can sometimes spend hours searching for just the right word, or phrase. I thought the reading thing would be a piece of cake, but as with pretty much anything you try to do your best at, it was much harder than I anticipated. Anyway, thanks so much for your reply, it certainly gives me confidence to do some more and get better and better.


  6. Lou, this was your first audio reading? AMAZING…because your reading was PERFECTION! Loved it so much! I laughed outloud in the part where Gallo slaps that other character, and you did a fine job with Johnson’s voice (that could have gone wrong in other hands). Bravo, sir!


    • I hope my pronunciations were accurate! This was my first attempt as an audio reader. I really enjoyed the story and found it interesting that my namesake was mentioned, so perhaps I was meant to read it.


  7. Super! I love the story, the art and the reading. Those unfamiliar with all the particulars regarding Joe Gallo can’t possibly appreciate how impressively accurate this story is, but for the Lovecraftian elements. How very creative and engaging!


  8. Glad you had fun with it! And if you like the M-go, they also feature in the story I sold to the upcoming Chaosium book EDLRITCH CHROME. Thanks for the feedback!


  9. I love stories bend reality to fit into fiction. Especially when that happens in a Lovecraftian setting! Though I felt the middle was a little long winded, this story kept my interest the whole way. Both audio and reading was enjoyable. It’s been a while since I have heard someone actually incorporate Mi-go into a tale. Nice job Jeffrey!


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