Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Lad Lit Book Reviews: Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business by Jospeh D. Pistone

Books For Men Book Reviews! Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business by Jospeh D. Pistone
Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia is one of my favourite books. The bravery and courage of FBI Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone to remain undercover within New York’s Bonnano crime family for six years was nothing short of amazing, especially when I consider that I’d probably shit myself within about six minutes if I was in the same situation.

That’s the great advantage of books; you get to imagine yourself as that character, and as Donnie Brasco I got to whack wiseguys (that’s killing gangsters for those of you not in the know) and make my bones (badge of honour for killing, not a sexual reference). The one disadvantage of books is sometimes all your questions have not been answered and you want the story to continue.

So you can imagine how keen I was to get hold of a copy of Pistone’s new memoirs which fill in a few of the gaps and the aftermath of that exciting – yet bloody dangerous – period in his life.

What happened to Donnie’s partner in crime Benjamin “Left Guns” Ruggerio? Did they ever find out who killed Sonny Black and stuffed him in a trunk of a car? What was it like for Pistone to face down the bad guys in court who he had spent the best part of half a decade living amongst? Did Pistone go on to infiltrate the cult who are brainwashing young impressionable minds to buy Justin Bieber records?

Pistone says that during the publication of his first novel, he was still appearing in court to give evidence at numerous Mafioso trials. In fact, he was in court more times than Lindsay Lohan! The result was over 200 convictions for some of New York’s most unsavoury Italian-American characters. What it also meant was that Pistone was unable to give a true tell-all account of his time deep undercover.

In the first book, he stressed that he never engaged in any criminal activity due to the fact it would compromise his position as an FBI Agent and could harm his evidence later on. I remember thinking at the time – and to pluck a phrase from the Karl Pilkington phrase book – bullshit! How could you spend six years living in the pockets of the New York underworld and not get involved with a bit of illegal behaviour?!

In Unfinished Business, Pistone is able to go into detail about all the pistol whipping, all the hijacking, and all the ‘whaddya mean I’m funny’ confrontations and bitch slapping! Pistone even goes as far to say that if push came to shove, he would have murdered another gangster if it came down to him or them!

Luckily for Pistone it never quite got to that situation, but what we are able to find out is not only how his undercover operation impacted his case, but how it also impacted the cases of other undercover operations. As New York hoodlum ‘Donnie Brasco’, Pistone was able to add credibility other FBI sting operations by going in and vouching for his fellow undercover agents to other bad guys.

Pistone also uses the book to dispel some of the myths created by the movie (that starred Johnny Depp and Al Pacino). In the film, Depp’s ‘Brasco’ is battles with a guilty conscious about the potential ramifications his undercover operation will have on mobster Ben ‘Lefty Guns’ Ruggerio, but Pistone insists such thoughts never entered his head – he was there to do a job against an ‘enemy to America’ and that is exactly what he did. Screw you Lefty!

Pistone was called to the stand for some of the biggest organised crime trials over the past 20-30 years including the Pizza Connection and the Mafia Commission case. He was still being used by prosecution cases against the mob as recently as 2006 when he took to the stand in the trial of Bonanno boss "Big Joey" Massino.

For me the book is an entertaining read, but only works if you’ve read the first book for obvious reasons. I also think because it is a series of stories, it’s not as enthralling as the first book, but that shouldn’t take the glass off too much.  What is allows is for Pistone and the reader to tie up the loose ends, and to truly appreciate the impact his work had on help bring down the mob. Well done Joe, take a bow son!


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