Underboss Paperback – 31 Dec 1998
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""Underboss" is fascinating for its anthropologically detailed portrait of a subculture some of us can't get enough of." -- "Time""Brilliantly constructed and grimly fascinating...The result is a terrific and important book...It's important because it is a morality play on the subject of loyalty. To whom are you loyal, and from who should you be able to expect loyalty?" -- "New York Times Book Review""An absorbing, intimate, alluring tale of power, greed, and Mob intrigue." -- "People""A riveting job of detailing real Mafia life...It's quick, exciting reading and Maas deserves full marks for generally keeping the sharks of the mob from looking like dolphins. There's no chrome in the jalopy of Gravano's life." -- "Detroit Press""Breathtaking...Supremely stylish." -- "New York" magazine
From the Back Cover
In March of 1992, the highest-ranking member of the Mafia in America ever to defect broke his blood oath of silence and testified against his boss, John Gotti. He is Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, second-in-command of the Gambino organized-crime family, the most powerful in the nation. Today, Gotti is serving life in prison without parole. And as a direct consequence of Gravano's testimony, Cosa Nostra - the Mafia's true name - is in shambles. In Underboss, based on dozens of hours of interviews with Gravano, much of it written in Sammy the Bull's own voice, we are ushered as never before into the uppermost secret inner sanctums of Cosa Nostra - an underworld of power, lust, greed, betrayal, deception, sometimes even honor, with the specter of violent death always poised in the wings. Gravano's is a story about starting out on the street, about killing and being killed, revealing the truth behind a quarter-century of shocking headlines. It is also a tragic story of a wasted life, of unalterable choices and the web of lies, weakness, and treachery that underlie the so-called Honored Society.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
"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!
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.
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.