author Peter Maas took the easy route - he sat down with a tape recorder
and let Mr. Gravano rant..."
Anyone who has already read "Gotti - Rise and Fall" by Jerry
Capeci and Gene Mustain really has no need to get this book. There are
few new revelations in "Underboss," and the "Gotti"
book is a more exciting read. Capeci and Mustain's "Gotti"
book, to name just one instance, offers a far better account of the
intricate investigation and scheming that went into bringing down the
mob and the betrayals within the "borgatas."
"Underboss" author Peter Maas took
the easy route - he sat down with a tape recorder and let Mr. Gravano
rant, combined these quotes with extensive borrowings from "Gotti
Rise and Fall," gave it a catchy title, and sent it off to a
publisher. If readers are interested in Sammy the Bull's self-serving
apologia for his sudden "conversion" from sinister mobster to
neon yellow canary, then this book might appeal. Mr. Gravano is a
text-book example of a tough guy who exists for years and years on his
reputation and willingness to use sucker-punch violence, a reputation
well-earned but never tested; after all, who challenges the mob? Another
"Underworld" disappointment is the account of the dramatic
shooting of "Big Paul" Castellano. There's no additional
"inside" revelations about this incredible event in mob
history. If you've read "Gotti - Rise and Fall," you know all
the interesting details of this story. In the end, for all of his
hard-guy talk, Mr. Gravano realizes that he might have to pay a penalty
for his crimes. Rather than go to prison, he breaks his Cosa Nostra oath
of omerta (silence) - cleverly rationalizing this sell-out by blaming
his entire predicament on John Gotti.
John Gotti is no angel; however, he might just
as easily have sold out Sammy the Bull and walked - but he didn't. Mr.
Gravano's account of his cooperation with authorities to put Gotti away
and save his own skin gets just a few pages at the end of the book.
These obviously are not Sammy's proudest moments, since the bulk of his
unworthy book is a screed of boastfulness about sucker-punch violence
and theft - which were the genuine reasons he was facing life in prison.
The question Sammy the Bull never addresses -- let alone answers -- is:
If John Gotti was such an evil man, what the heck was Sammy doing
associating with him? And when they get arrested, the fact that Gotti
was such a bad man entitles Sammy to redeem his own violent past by
selling out? In an epilogue, Sammy the Bull Gravano now strolls the
streets of America, claiming that he's a "man" because he's
not making any special efforts to hide from his former associates. This
reads as the weakest section among an entirely weak effort by Peter Maas
-- Gravano's final attempt to justify his actions and act the tough guy;
nonetheless still in hiding! Sammy the Bull scarcely did an honest day's
work in his life. It's fitting that his co-writer followed this course
in telling his story. If you haven't read "Gotti Rise and
Fall" and have no desire to, go ahead and read
"Underworld.". Otherwise, if you can read just one, read
"Gotti Rise and Fall."