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Underboss Mass Market Paperback – October 11, 1997

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch; Reissue edition (October 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061096644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061096648
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What makes this account of the Mafia life and times of Sammy Gravano so seductive is Peter Maas's skillful editing of interview material. From his opening line--"Yeah, you could say I came from a pretty tough neighborhood"--to his final poignant comment on having gotten all his tattoos removed except a head of Christ that resists being eliminated--"I guess God still wants me"--Gravano is nothing if not a compelling storyteller. He talks about his years in a youth gang, his robberies and shylocking, his murders, his lack of remorse (about which he is "not happy"), the ceremony of becoming a "made guy," his mentors, his "crew," his preference for gangsters over racketeers, his fascination with the Godfather films, his many business ventures, and his final years of disillusionment as the Cosa Nostra code he had passionately admired was breaking down, so that he chose to testify against his last boss, John Gotti.

From Library Journal

Maas (The Valachi Papers, LJ 6/1/69) and Sammy "The Bull" Gravano team up to write a somewhat informative book on the Cosa Nostra of New York from the 1970s through the early 1990s. Maas narrates Gravano's life story while quoting directly from his subject. One early quote sets the book's premise when Sammy says, "I wouldn't have minded going to Vietnam. You got medals for killing people there." Through the many descriptions of Sammy's involvement in the Mafia as a hitman and leading up to his appointment as underboss to John Gotti of the Gambino crime family, the reader gets a real sense of a street thug. We learn that Gotti and Gravano masterminded and carried out the murder of Paul Castellano, then boss of the crime family, outside of Sparks Steak House in New York City. Eventually, after both were indicted on murder and racketeering charges, Sammy opted to "rat" on Gotti and served only five years. As a depiction of life in the Cosa Nostra from a man who brought down perhaps the most famous mob figure since Al Capone, this book is recommended for libraries looking to expand their organized crime collections. [This book, which was embargoed until publication, has provoked a lawsuit by relatives of Gravano's victims under the Son of Sam law, though HarperCollins has denied that Gravano was paid for his contributions.?Ed.]?Brent Newmoyer, "Library Journal.
-?Brent Newmoyer, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Does not got in detail like the book but just as good.
I just read the book, "Underboss: Sammy The Bull Gravano's Story Of Life In The Mafia," albeit a decade after it was originally published.
It is very interesting reading and fascinating -- that life fascinates me.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Many reviewers have compared this work to Nicholas Pileggi's fine book "Wiseguy" (which was the basis for the movie "GoodFellas"). And rightfully so. "Wiseguy" concerned real life crime figure Henry Hill and how he eventually turned government informant against the mob. "Underboss" likewise tells the tale of a mobster turned informant, except this time the stool pigeon, Sammy Gravano, is a capo (and later a consigliere) in the Gambino crime family, and the mafioso he fingers is none other than John Gotti himself.
As you might expect, "Underboss" is a fascinating read. (Author Peter Maas previously wrote the books "Serpico" and "The Valachi Papers", among others, so he knows how to tell a good crime story). Gravano does not portray himself as a saint. He candidly reveals in horrifying (though not gory) detail crimes he committed in the mob, including some nineteen murders and literally hundreds of burglaries, armed robberies, and kickback/extortion plots. All the major New York crime bosses of the time (Carlo Gambino, Joe Columbo, Paul Castellano, Vincent Gigante, and of course Gotti) figure in the proceedings, as Gavano had dealings with them and others, as well.
Unlike some true crime books where you end up skipping chapters to get to the "good stuff", this book was gripping every step of the way. So much so that I ended reading it cover to cover, all 301 pages, in less than a week. If you're looking for a good insider's book on the Mafia, this is it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on February 22, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While I can't say that I admire Sammy Gravano -- his behavior for most of his life was reprehensible, -- I have to give him credit for calling a spade a spade. In this captivating true life story, Gravano describes his growing up as a tough kid and becoming a "made man" over time, only to go on to becoming "Underboss" of the Gambino Crime Family with John Gotti.Sammy tells his story with a thoroughness that seems to indicate he finally wants to come clean. Certainly turning "state's evidence" against Gotti and many other significant underworld crime figures was a matter of self preservation (likely literally his life), yet Gravano presents himself as a person with a strong degree of loyalty and honor -- despite the horror of "the life" and his part in it. John Gotti certainly doesn't come across very well in this account of how Gotti Became Godfather. Basically, a low-life, who's likely chances of becoming the Boss were slim to none, he kills his way to the top and proves himself to be an egotistical low class bum who actually believe's he's untouchable and attractive to 'his public'. An absolutely disgusting human being who belongs where he is -- in jail for life with no chance for parole. His prodigy has ended up in the same situation and his stupidity was so ridiculously blatant that it bordered on 'the gang that couldn't shoot straight.' May they enjoy their life 'on vacation!'Gravano served time so his helping as state's witness didn't wipe away everything, yet he makes a tremendous sacrifice in going in this direction -- including the loss of his wife and children. In the long run, perhaps there is a thread of hope and redemption in Gravano's decision; hopefully, he's living a decent life totally different than his past.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on March 27, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the life story of notorious Sammy the Bull Gravano, the man who brought John Gotti down.

Peter Mass's "you are there" style of reportage is in full play here as Sammy tells his story of his rise to the near-pinnacle of hood-dom.

This book has all the grisly killings, take downs, beatings and machinations you get from an inside-the-family-memoir. It is a sad book, in that these people exist, preying on the often innocent. While it is true that usually mobsters are the ones who get killed, everybody pays from the extra expense of jacked goods, protection money and loss of confidence in our system because the government seems so unable to do things like crack the cartage hold in New York of the mob's deep involvement in garments and other industries.

Sammy tells a good story. He plays it as he was a "good" mobster -- and he probably was. If more mobsters were content to live quiet lives of ruthless efficiency and stay out of the limelight -- like Sammy's style -- the government would be less successful at taking down mob bosses. Many want to be John Gotti, whose extravagance and ego gave the Feds the opportunity to penetrate and ultimately incarcerate that godfather. The heart of this book is Gravano's association with Gotti and his decision to turn informant and testify against his former patron.

This is a good book and fast paced. It seems true, but of course you have to believe mobster Gravano is telling the truth in order to accept this as fact. I'm sure there is a lot of self-serving veneer to his story, but for the inside look at the mob one gets, it is a fascinating read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By richards@popkin.com on January 28, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.Read more ›
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