Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business, by Joseph D. Pistone

November 10, 2011 at 00:05 (Biography, Book Reviews, Crime and Law Enforcement, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , , , )


As a follow-up to his bestselling and deeply interesting Donnie Brasco, this exposé of the fallout of that affair is a timely release. Thankfully it is also based on enough material to legitimately justify a sequel. The book picks up more or less where the other ended, and for the most part sticks to a straightforward and logical storyline, detailing the Pizza Connection Trial, the Mafia Commission Trial and the lives and times of some of the particularly colourful characters Pistone introduced in his earlier book. One of the interesting choices is his decision to discuss the details of his book’s publication and adaptation to film, and how the telling of the story affected the story itself. This becomes considerably more important later on, when he describes the fallout of other book deals (signed by the mobsters and their supporters), and the significant impact this had on later trials. It also sheds a great deal of light upon Pistone’s motivations and concerns in writing this book.

There are a few constructional problems in the way the book is laid out. Towards the final third of the book, Pistone is forced to jump decades backwards and forwards, and the cast of characters he describes is obviously enormous. This is difficult, but not really the fault of the author.

“‘I want you fired. I’ll have your job. You undercovers aren’t really agents.’
‘I’m a better agent than you are, ever were, or ever will be. It’s bad enough when you question my integrity. Don’t you ever question my ability as an agent. I’ll throw you out this window.'”

-Unfinished Business

Another interesting choice that paid off was the decision to describe Pistone’s miscellaneous adventures since the Donnie Brasco days, involving Triads, Russian gangsters and internecine politicking within the FBI. A dull life he has certainly not led. These stories are placed naturally in the chronology, and are not distracting to the general flow of the book.

It must also be acknowledged that Charles Brandt, Pistone’s acknowledged ghostwriter (his name is even on the cover!) does a sterling job. The voice of the streetwise yet businesslike FBI agent comes through clearly without reducing itself to a horrid cliche; the expletives season the work only enough to punctuate his most salient points, and the New York Italianisms are limited. It feels authentic, but does not feel as if the authors are trying too hard for their own good. Donnie Brasco was not noticeable for especially bad writing, but this book is noticeable for rather good writing. Anyone who has read or enjoyed Donnie Brascowill certainly find much to appreciate here, and this book even sets itself up as a good and informative starting point for histories of the modern American Mafia.


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