Special FBI Agent Jospeh. D Pistone spent five years working undercover as a mafia associate in the Bonnano New York crime family. A film was made in 1997 based on his life starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, but like most films based on books, you only get half the story on the big screen.
Pistone’s memoirs delve deep into the background of his story of how a 3-month undercover operation going after a truck hijacking ring turns into a him living, breathing, sleeping, and eating his way through the Mafioso lifestyle.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the US government waged a war against the powerful crime families running New York, but unlike today’s sophisticated techniques of undercover operations, Pistone was almost left to make up the rules as he went along.
He encounters some very dangerous people along the way, including an incident when he is led down into a basement and told that unless his story and background checks out, he faces a bullet in the head. Not your every day boardroom situation!
But this isn’t just a book about the violence and cold stark reality of mobsters who once ran the American underworld. Pistone tells of the impact this ‘lifestyle’ had on his family. And at times you can’t help but laugh at some of the situations and stories Pistone relays, especially those that involve Lefty Ruggiero; the gangster ‘Donnie Brasco’ becomes closest to.
Pistone’s story is one of true courage. His testimony eventually led to hundreds of arrests and played a major role in the foundations of the American Mafia crumbling to its knees.
This is a truly enjoyable thrill-ride of a read, and one which you need to keep reminding yourself is true! If you only ever read one more gangster book (after The Godfather of course), then make it this one!