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Serpico: The Classic Story of the Cop Who Couldn't Be Bought Paperback – Jan 2005

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Paperback, Jan 2005
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Product details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060738189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060738181
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,283,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
It is a warm September after in New York as I watch Frank Serpico, age thirty-five, the son of a Neapolitan shoemaker, walk with the help of a cane toward the entrance of a fash Manhattan hotel. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Captain Pugwash on 20 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Having watched the excellent 1974 film version of Serpico starring Al Pacino, I couldn't get that image of him out of my head when I read this. However, that's no bad thing, as the film is a faithful adaptation of this absorbing novel by Peter Maas. It took me a while to get into it but then I became hooked; the story of one honest cop in a barrel of exceedingly rotten apples is both engaging and thought-provoking, and Maas gives us a genuine appraisal of a flawed man but one whose innate integrity leads to attempts on his life, the break-up of his relationship, and his isolation in a job he loves. Courageous and frank, Serpico sticks to his guns, and this story will leave you ultimately unsettled but uplifted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
The late Peter Maas was a master of investigative reporting. Nowhere are his skills more evident than in this story about Frank Serpico, a police officer who tried to rid the New York City Police Department of the corruption that was rampant amongst its rank and file. Eventually, Serpico's efforts led to the establishment of the Knapp Commission, which would do a large scale investigation of police corruption and the policies and procedures within the Police Department itself that would allow such to flourish. Unfortunately, his efforts initially fell, for the most part, upon deaf ears. Nothing of any real import was really done until Serpico was grievously wounded in a gun battle with a drug dealer in 1971 that left all of New York, including Serpico, wondering as to what really happened?

Serpico was a Brooklyn boy who had always looked up to law enforcement and grew up wanting to preserve and protect. Little did he know, until he actually joined the police department, that preserve and protect seemed to pertain to the bribery, graft, and extortion in which many police officers, at the time, engaged. Serpico's initial shock gave way to disillusionment, and he refused to accept the money that other officers took as part of their due. His naiveté was soon replaced by disgust at finding out how rife was the corruption within the New York City Police Department. That soon turned to anger, however, as no one seemed interested in cleaning up the cesspool of corruption in which he worked. Although he tried, all he got was the runaround, until his near fatal shooting.

This is a riveting account of Serpico's travails, and time has not diminished the author's riveting account of how Serpico took the system on.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Sept. 2000
Format: Paperback
Tightly and skillfully plotted, it is refreshing to find that the 'book of the film' is arguably as good (if not better?) than the cinema production. With backdrops of New York in the 60's and early 70's, the subcultures of the New York Police Department come face to face with the integrity of one (unlikely?) police officer who inforces the law against everyone, including police officers.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
The story of Serpico charts the life and times of Frank Serpico and his refusal to fall in with the rest of the bad eggs amongst his immediate colleagues. Despite the huge financial gain he could have taken, his morals and duty to the force almost cost him his life in a bungled bust. The most shocking thing about the story of his life is not the fact that Frank managed to survive being shot in the face at point blank range, but the reaction of colleagues to his misadventure and the fact that to protect and to serve did not extend to another member of the team, especially when it compromised the financial package that goes hand in hand with being a dirty cop.
Hard going in places but despite this testament to one mans triumph in the face of extreme predjudice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 40 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
A Great Man, But a Very Biased Story 26 Dec. 1999
By Daniel Harris - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'd like to begin by saying that Serpico is a very great man. Without question he is one of my heroes. I respect his complete integrity. I think this book should be required reading. It shows the importance of integrity. However, I have one major criticism of the book. When Peter Maas wrote it, he had his own agenda. He wrote the book after he wrote The Valachi Papers. Valachi placed Italian-Americans in a negative light. So Maas wanted to focus on an extremely positive American of Italian descent. The only problem is that he did so at the cost of giving fair credit to other people who were involved. In the book and film, Serpico's former friend, David Durk, is reduced to a very secondary role. In fact, the book suggests that Durk's reasons for fighting corruption alongside Serpico are politically motivated. I've read other books about Serpico and Durk. Serpico was certainly incorruptible and a paragon of virtue. However, he would not have gone to the Knapp Commission if Durk had not persuaded him to do so. The two fought corruption together. A proper book would have been entitled SERPICO AND DURK. Maas story is quite exciting. Serpico was very much a street cop. Durk, on the other hand, although equally incorruptible, was a desk cop. They are both men of the highest caliber, and both deserve equal praise. Although I'm disappointed about the treatment of Durk, I still think Serpico is must reading. (P.S. Amazon, you should refer readers to Durk's biography, which is entitled CRUSADER. It's certainly not nearly as exciting as SERPICO, but Serpico does play a large part in the book.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
It puts you in the heart pounding chest of Frank Serpico 31 Dec. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
So you want to be a New York City cop? Read this book and make your decision. Even if your aspirations are not towards law enforcement in the big city, read it anyway. This true story takes the reader from the idealistic beginings to the hopeless conclusion of Frank Serpico's police career that spanned eleven years. From the fitting of his first police uniform, heart pounding rides in Brooklyn radio cars, plainclothes assignments, repeatedly explaining to fellow cops that he is not on the take, feeling his frustration and sometimes elation at every small battle he encounters and one brick wall after another in the way of trying to make things right in a city that sometimes doesn't know it's left, from it's right. Anyone who has taken on a unpopular cause will relate to the desparity and loneliness that was felt by Frank Serpico during a great deal of his career. This book was well researched and well written and is still fresh twenty five years after it was first published. It is very detailed and a true depictation of the everyday life of a cop in New York City.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Book that made Pacino Great!!! 28 Mar. 2001
By J. GENIO - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Peter Maas artistically tells a story of a man who always wanted to be a "good cop." Unfortunately, the dream is shattered when Frank Serpico confronts wide-spread corruption in the NYC Police Department. The famous Knapp Commission is a result of Serpico's complaints about corruption on the force.
Unfortunately, Peter Maas's story could be told about many large urban police departments. Make no mistake about it, corruption, bigotry, and racism are all a part of law enforcement. It was the case back in the 60's - 70's, and it is still the case today. Consequently, Peter Maas's story about "one good cop" fighting a sea of corruption is still relevant today.
The story drags at times. But, otherwise, it is quick reading. It is definitely a story that needs to be read. Hence, I recommend this book. Police corruption is still a current topic. But, more importantly, Serpico's story is one of hope. At least there is "one good cop" out there trying to make a difference. And, knowing this, has made a difference in the way I view law enforcement professionals. That is, they are not all bad.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"Clean as a hound's tooth." 7 Jan. 2006
By Konrei - Published on
Format: Paperback
SERPICO is a fine true crime retelling of the story of Frank Serpico (Detective NYPD, retired) who battled against endemic corruption among New York's Finest in the 1960s.

Peter Maas, who brought us THE VALACHI PAPERS, has written a satisfying but somewhat lightweight recounting of the facts and circumstances of Serpico's career. Maas misses, mostly, in failing to involve the reader fully in the tremendous emotional travail that Serpico felt during his long, frustrating, and ultimately inconclusive one man crusade against police corruption.

As a New Yorker, this reviewer has respect for "The Finest." Serpico was hardly the only honest cop in New York circa 1966. But he was one of the only cops to seek to exorcise the demons that beset the police force, root and branch. In this era of high goverment scandal, SERPICO is an important book.

Frank Serpico became a Patrolman in 1960, and as he was transferred around the City on various assignments came into contact with cops who routinely shook down criminals---mostly small numbers men and bookmakers with fuzzy Mafia connections---for tens of thousands of dollars per month per precinct, while allowing them to operate. The 1960s fixation on illegal gambling as a major urban problem is an almost charming quirk of this book.

The practice was so typical that his fellow officers automatically put Serpico "on the pad." When he refused to take graft he became an object of suspicion. This sense of mistrust was not lessened by Serpico's eccentric (for a cop) lifestyle. Rather than espousing the usual working middle class values of the police community, the life of cigarettes, coffee, doughnuts, wife, kids, and a house in the suburbs, Serpico was a gadfly who loved opera and the ballet, lived in Greenwich Village at the height of the Summer of Love, smoked a pipe, drank tea, traveled internationally, spoke several languages, grew a beard, and, while in plainclothes, affected the dress of the street people and informants with whom he interacted. In addition, Serpico had no "rabbis," no protective contacts within the Department, and did not cultivate the company of most other cops.

The truth is that Serpico probably could have served out his career well, but without dramatic distinction, had his fellow officers not been so intent on bringing him into the fold in relation to graft, and had they not become threatening after his refusal to involve himself. Maas does not point to any one incident that convinced Serpico to become an anti-corruption zealot. Rather, Serpico's zealotry grew as his repeated attempts to report illegal activities were rebuffed by the NYPD administration and then the City bureaucracies.

Whether intentionally or not, Maas sketches Frank Serpico as almost unbearably self-righteous and looking for a fight as he intentionally busted "protected" criminals, had sometimes dangerous confrontations with other cops, refused to be the fall guy for several internal whitewash investigations, and finally went to "outside agencies," including the New York Times. Maas even recounts Serpico's impromptu conversation with a Mafioso, also named Frank Serpico, who seemed genuinely puzzled by his alter-ego's behavior.

Serpico's expose to the Times rocked the NYPD to its foundations. Mayor John Lindsay was forced to appoint the independent Knapp Commission to investigate Serpico's allegations, and the resultant scandal caused the reorganization of the police department from top to bottom as a small army of Commissioners, Inspectors, Detectives, Plainclothesmen and ordinary cops on the beat were convicted or forced to resign.

In the midst of this upheaval, Serpico, on narcotics detail, was shot in the face by a pusher. Although he survived and recovered, Serpico's career as a police officer was effectively ended, both by the injury and by the tepid reaction of the police community. It is an open question whether Serpico's partners the night he was shot held back from assisting him, thus putting him further in harm's way, but there is no question that a certain segment of his fellow officers wished him ill and were glad to see him gone.

Since the early 1970s, Serpico has continued to be a spokesman for honesty and ethics in government, and speaks, still, to this present day.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The only honest cop in New York. 8 April 2006
By frumiousb - Published on
Format: Paperback
Peter Maas (who sadly died in 2001) was best known for his career as the historian of the Mafia, corruption, and whistleblowing. His first book, The Valachi Papers, was an instant best-seller and kicked off the craze for all things Mafia that swept the seventies after its publication.

Serpico tells the story of Frank Serpico, the whistleblower cop who was determined to clean up corruption in the police force that he loved so much. It is as much about the policeman code of silence in the face of wrongdoing in the department as it is about Serpico himself. The book was also an instant best-seller at the time of publication and was the seed for an award-winning film by Stanley Lumet and a television series.

As a book, Serpico is a fascinating look at the issue of police corruption during the 1970s. Frank Serpico is really a hero of his time, embodying much of the confusion and changing priorities of the era. The prose is quite readable, but suffers a bit from hyperbole and some poor editing which meant that sections were occasionally repeated as the story progresses.

Recommended for true crime fans who would rather read about corruption than serial killers. It should also appeal to readers interested in the attitude towards police in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Three and a half stars.
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