Top positive review
The FBI's Finest Hour
on 4 August 2011
This is the utterly compelling real-life story of how the FBI managed to destroy the New Jersey Mafia in 1998-2001. Apparently when it was all over, you could fill a large school bus with all the mobsters in the DeCavalcantes Mafia family who had 'turned state's evidence' and 'ratted' on their fellow felons. This was the first time that the head of a Mafia family had 'cracked': accepting the Justice Department's prosecution plea-bargain in exchange for a lighter sentence. It was a major blow against organised crime in America.
By coincidence, all of this was happening just as the early seasons of 'The Sophranos' TV series were being produced. The TV company HBO began setting up street locations in New Jersey for 'The Sophranos' pilot on the very same day that the FBI managed to persuade an important high-ranking mafia hood inside the New Jersey Mob to turn informant and start wearing a wire for them. This swung the investigation in the FBI's favour. Over the next three years, this key witness amassed so much taped evidence that it rendered futile absolutely any defence that his former Mafia hoodlums might try to concoct. Most of the accused simply crumbled just as soon as they heard the damning litany of 'probably cause' evidence springing from their own tape-recorded lips. Seventy people were eventually convicted.
Now that I have read this book, I dearly wish that the producer of 'The Sophranos', David Chase, had perhaps done more to follow real-life events unfolding in New Jersey. To my mind, 'Made Men' highlights a serious flaw with 'The Sophranos': I now feel that 'The Sophranos' glamorised the Mafia, when 'Made Men' actually reveals it to be an extremely nasty, parasitic and pernicious blight upon US society. Furthermore, I feel that the real-life events were much more engrossing than the sanitised fictionalised Hollywood account. I would love to have seen Tony Sophrano crumble, before turning states evidence and then finally entering witness protection.
I can understand how other reviewers have found 'Made Men' to be 'tedious' and 'poorly written'. I tend to agree that there is a fair bit of repetition (sometimes the writer repeats the same fact twice on the same page). I also think that it is written in a form of American-English that I sometimes find hard to follow in places. The book, in my opinion, really needed a stronger editor to tidy it up a bit in places. However, I personally found it to be a compulsive page-turner of a book. Some other reviewers are unhappy with the large amounts of FBI taped transcript evidence in 'Made Men' , but this is precisely what I loved best about it. The taped transcripts really helped me to delve deep into the minds of the crooks (and the 'stool-pigeon') as the case is slowly assembled over three years by the feds.