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The outsider's nonchalance of chief narrator Henry Hill and Nicholas Pileggi's highly restrained hand in helping him relate his story has resulted in a book which shuns any sense of melodrama and emotional attachment. Instead, we get a highly intelligent, insightful, and funny look at Mafia life, stuffed with fascinating details.As befits his reporter background, Pileggi stays at a distance. Unlike its offspring movie GoodFellas, where director Martin Scorsese effortlessly blended the smart-aleck text of the book (incorporating it into the film as probably the best voice-over ever written and performed) with elements of suspense, poetry, sensuality, visual comedy, and energy. In Pileggi's book, it's all cerebral. Hill's magnetic personality and storytelling talents make this book an addictive read. Pileggi also flaunts a real editorial talent, skipping out of Hill's first-person account and delving into journalistic mode at the most suitable moments, giving background where necessary, and stepping back to let the reader make the moral judgments as s/he sees fit.Different from, but the equal of, GoodFellas. I'd take the opposite stance from other people by saying that it's probably better to see the film first; the emotional investment Scorsese weaves into the story offers a rich contrast to the book's neutral tone. And reversing the process will also facilitate the viewer/reader in seeing through the outdated accusation of "This didn't really happen" when watching the film.
This is an excellent book about the life of Henry Hill, a petty mobster in New York State. This book, of course, is the basis for the superb movie "Goodfellas."While The Godfather is a fictional account of the underworld's upper realm, Henry Hill was a part of the lower echelon of the Mafia. The people that run protection rackets, hold-ups, grand thefts, etc. and then pay tribute to the "made" members of the Mafia, who are mainly pure-blooded Sicilians and who form an elite that people like Henry Hill could do business with, but never quite be part of.The book is extremely interesting because of the picture it shows us of organized crime "where the rubber hits the road." The most astounding thing I took away from the book is that Hill and his confederates didn't really benefit all that much from their ill-gotten gains. Instead, they tended to literally throw their money away on a silly, lavish, extravagant lifestyle, featuring, for example $100 tips to doormen, big bribes to get the best tables at restaurants, etc. Hill explained that he saw no need to save because he could always generate all the earnings he needed. Wrong!Most of us are unaware that organized crime is such a large presence in society, costing all of us immense amounts of money. This book drives that point home and it is a shocking revelation.The other insight of the book, which also comes out brilliantly in the film, is that Hill and his fellow mobsters viewed themselves as far above ordinary schmucks who actually work for a living. After all, why work if you can spend a few hours a day playing the rackets making ten times as much?Read more ›
After watching Goodfellas, my favorite movie of all time, I felt compelled to read the book it was based on. The book did an incredible job of revealing the roller coaster life of a mobster in captivating detail. The strech of the mafia's power was absolutely fascinating. I found myself always cheering for the bad guys and their carefree lifestyles. In the end, however, we find that crime does not pay. It was a shame to watch Henry Hill rat out every friend that he ever had. This is a tremendous book for anyone who enjoys reading about the mob, or crime in general.
Henry Hill was immersed in Mob life since the age of 11. Starting out as an errand boy for Mobster Paul Vario, and working his way up to top-level soldier, Author Nicholas Pileggi helps Hill tell his story, and what a story it is! Everybody knows the big things the Mafia does, but Hill clues the reader in on an amazing fact: No crime is too small for these guys. At one point, they buy skinny Christmas trees, have Henry drill holes in them, stuff dead branches into the holes, and sell them to people. The trees look good for a day or two, then fall apart. They are truly crooked in EVERY aspect of their lives. The bottom starts to fall out of Henry's "Good Life" when his crew pulls off the Six-Million Dollar Lufthansa heist, the biggest cash robbery in U.S. History. Mastermind Jimmy Burke, Henry's best friend/partner-in-crime becomes greedy and paranoid, and starts "Whacking out" everyone who knows ANYTHING about the heist. When Henry is picked up on a drug charge (Boss Paul Vario had strictly forbidden Narcotic trafficking), Hill finds himself in the Mob's bad graces, and since he knows Jimmy pulled the Lufthansa heist, he may just end up Jimmy's next victim....and along comes the F.B.I. with an offer Henry literally can't refuse..... Wiseguy was made into an amazing movie by Director Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas), and I was surprised to find that the book is even more engrossing than the movie it inspired. I literally hated to put the book down. The day-to-day business of the Mob is utterly engrossing, and Hill piles the details on so thick, you actually feel like you know him, and Pileggi does a great job of reporting what happened, but never glamorizing Hill, or making us forget who he is, or what he did. An amazing book. Just amazing.