The Good Guys, by Joseph Pistone and Bill Bonanno

February 7, 2011 at 21:38 (Book Reviews, Crime and Law Enforcement, Fiction, Mediocre Books, Thriller) (, , , , , )


This book presents itself unashamedly as some sort of gimmick, sold on the basis of its authors’ names. That does not stop it from being a good read – so good, in fact, that one wonders how much work the “literary partner” (David Fisher) put in to polish Pistone’s prose and sand down some of Bonanno’s strings of expletives.

The ulterior motives are clearly written; Pistone presents the FBI as an organisation of hard-working and generally honest and selfless everymans, willing to take a bullet (even an administratively-delivered bullet) for the team. Bonanno innocently holds up the mafia as a gentleman’s club with rules and honour and an old-world type of flash and style…and it seems like Bonano gets the last word, as the mafia is presented as the clear better of two evils that haunt New York’s streets: compare the coup de grace delivered to the truck driver who rips off the Bath Street Crew with the brutal torture the Russians deliver to innocent civilians.

As boldly as Pistone fights his corner and dismisses the mob as schoolyard bullies grown up, Bonano accepts this in his stride, but then pleads that at least they aren’t evil sadists. The story is entertaining (though occasionally a little too graphic to read in detail), but this book is basically a war of two apologetics, in which Bill Bonano wins a rather paltry victory of moral high ground, wisely and somewhat dishonestly adopting the plea that if America is going to have criminals, at least it ought to have noble and fun lovin’ criminals, instead of the dirty and unscrupulous immigrants that inhabit his imaginary world.

While the tussle between the two authors does occasionally become a little distracting, the story is well-told and satisfying, and while it scarcely tells what it boasts to be the true story of cops and robbers in Little Italy, it at least makes a very pleasant fiction, leaving behind the warm and tingly sensation of a rare free glimpse at the insides of something exciting and secret. It is difficult to judge this effort. It is an enthralling crime story, and certainly entertaining enough to read. But its authors promise something more, something real: and on this count, they let the reader down badly.

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