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4.4 out of 5 stars31
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 December 1999
Peter Maas does an excellent job of intertwining Salvatore Gravano's dialogue with his own informative writing. Every chapter is compelling; the story tells like a "Goodfellas" tale from the eyes of a made guy (Henry Hill was never, and could never be made, since his father was Irish).
"The Bull" makes clear his attraction of "The Life" was the honour, living and dying by the codes of Omerta and yet he broke a large number of these very codes. Most were quite understandable, but the major and most interesting defection perhaps is harder to understand. Thus newspapers at the time reported on how sad it was that Sammy had turned rat. Sammy explains the situations leading to his "change of governments" but does not explain specifically, in his own words, why he did this or what was going through his mind at the time. This, I would have liked to have read more about.
Gravano's tales seem mostly believable and are often enforced by Maas explaining the facts. Gravano does not hesitate in passing on his shortcomings, even situations which could be of embarrassment to him. However, I'm sure much of "The Bull's" supposed dialogue has been reworded by Maas to make the story flow in such a compelling manner. This does not make his accounts any less authenticate.
On the whole, a brilliant piece of work my Maas with Salvatore Gravano being infinitely more truthfully than I first expected. This is a truly compelling story of a gangster rising through the ranks of the Gambino Family.
If you enjoyed the Goodfellas movie, you'll love every page of this. Add it to your shopping basket now!
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on 26 February 1999
This is the story of Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano, who was underboss of the notorious Gambino crime family. He became quite close to Paul Castellano when he became boss of the family. It is drawn to the rest of the family that Castellano is not a true Gangster, rather a business man. Together, fronted mainly by John Gotti, the family decide to "get rid" of Castellano. The book also goes into, at times groteque, detail of the hits that Gravano carried out for the family. If you know about the Gambino crime family you will know how the story concludes. Even still this book will make you keep coming back. A must read for mafia fans.
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on 12 January 1999
I was lucky enough to have lived in America for a year, and got the chance to read this book! Granvano explains how he met Gotti, turned on him and even killed his brother-in-law. It is a definite read. I never felt so passionately about any other Mafia book. You won't let go! Thats for sure!!
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This is an interesting look at the mob from someone who was a made member of the Cosa Nostra. Sammy the Bull Gravano is no angel and he pulls no punches, as he regales the reader with his tale of growing up on the mean streets of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn as the dyslexic son of Italian immigrants. A high school drop-out, Sammy graduated from local street gangs to the Cosa Nostra, taking a blood oath of silence. So much for promises.

This book is a series of taped interviews that are edited by the author, who interposes little analysis but serves to connect the dots. The feel of the book is gritty, and Sammy the Bull Gravano comes across as a reasonably intelligent person who made a knowing choice early on to enter into a lifestyle that was fraught with murder, larceny, greed, betrayal, and fear. The book documents his rise in the mob, until he becomes the underboss for the "Teflon Don", the ever dapper John Gotti.

There is clearly little love lost between Sammy the Bull Gravano and the late John Gotti, who comes across as a narcissistic, egomaniacal, stupid, greedy thug. Of course, Sammy's take on himself, although a hard core made member of the mob, is of a guy who was let down by the bosses who promised honor but did not know the first thing about it.

While Sammy tries to whitewash himself, there is no getting around that he was a killer, a thief, and a thug. I doubt that Sammy would have talked, had he not felt that he was being set up by Gotti to take the fall for him. Clearly, Sammy's motive for blabbing to the Feds was not altruistic. Still, through his defection, Gravano was responsible for the conviction of many key mob figures. His impact on organized crime will be felt for some time to come. For those that are interested in reading about the Cosa Nostra, this is definitely a must read book for an insider's view of that lifestyle.
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on 28 January 2004
This is a very good book, cause you see the inside of the mafia. In the mafia movies you see everything on the outside, but not really what they're thinking. It's also very interessting to hear Sammy Gravano himself's words, and what he thinks. The only thing I miss in this book is that I think Gravano should made a "Gambino family tree" in the book, so you could see everything much more clearly.
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on 23 June 2004
Sammy 'the Bull' Gravano is a rat, if you're reading this, you probably already know the basics on him, at least. But this book offers something new that others can't. A fair veiw on his life right upto the moment he flipped.
For the avid Mafia reader this is a must. Sammy does blow his own trumpet a bit, but rightly so. He was a Wiseguy held with a lot of respect and power. Peter Maas does a great job keeping it balanced and fair throughout with his commentary. But most of it is written straight from Gravano's mouth and that's why it's so good to read.
Some points are controversial. Like in Boss of Bosses, the book on Castellano that was written by the FBI going after him, they claim to have implanted the bug in his Todt Hill mansion by a covert break in operation. In Underboss, the Bull refutes this. I guess it's upto us to decide what really happened.
Sadly the book only covers upto the Bull going into witness protection and then a slight update of him leaving it. But haters of him will be pleased to know Gravano, is now back in jail on drugs charges. He's unlikely to see freedom again. He ruined the fresh opportunity open to him to begin a new life. With the extraordinary deal the government gave him for his ratting, maybe this latest chapter on Sammy's life is well deserved.
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on 2 January 2009
A really well written book.

It is perhaps even better simply becuase Gravano, at the time of his defection, was the underboss for the most powerful mafia family in the US.

The book deals with his early street life, to him being made into the familys conisgliere, and then onwards to underboss. It seems likely that he may well have ended up as the boss, if it were not for Gotti's attempt of betrayal.

If you enjoy your mafia literature, this is an intriguing read from the perspective of someone who has been made part of a crime family's administration. The figures thrown around about how much was made is quite staggering (John Gotti was being paid around $12 million per year).

If you were to read this, you would not be dissapointed.
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on 26 September 2004
I have always been interested in the mafia lifestyle since i watched the Godfather at an early age. This book was an obvious choice for me to read therefore as it is the true life story of one of recent times most famous mafia men. Its well written and contains a rare glimpse at the the brutallity, style and strength of the mafia in America. My only complaint is that because Sammy had so much to do with the writting of this book I found that it was almost claiming that he had to take the actions he did. This is a rather sympathetic version of his life story, but still a tale.
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on 20 April 2000
Underboss, in my opinion is breathtaking, it is truly absorbing from page one, the insight into the mafia, as told by Sammy The Bull Gravano, is really quite an experience. Underboss is written in such graphic detail, that the murders committed are horribly vivid. The book is written in mafia-speak, using Sammy's own words, which really creates an atmosphere and sets the scene, an atmosphere so terrifying and disturbing, that you really get mesmerized. This is an absorbing read.
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on 14 February 2013
I found this to be highly engaging and a great complement to a lot of other mob books. It is very focused, and gives many vivid descriptions of the sort of activities a typical wiseguy would spend his life on.
Having read a number of books of the various characters that have gone to make up the history of organized crime , this was surprisingly fresh and informative.
Peter Maas has a very accomplished way of switching from general narrative to the very personalized language used by Sammy Gravano, through which you can almost hear him speak.
A most enjoyable read at the very top of its genre.
If, however, you are a Proust fan, however, I would strongly suggest you look elsewhere.
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