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Serpico Paperback – January 4, 2005
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“[A] raw and moving portrait.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
“Maas’s reportage is detailed and of high narrative quality ...[Full of] tension and drama.” (Rolling Stone)
“An absorbing story of what one angry, honest man can do … told by a master of factual reporting.” (Detroit News)
About the Author
Peter Maas's is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller Underboss. His other notable bestsellers include The Valachi Papers, Serpico, Manhunt, and In a Child's Name. He lives in New York City.
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I’ve had a hard time concentrating on reading for a few months, otherwise it wouldn’t have taken so long to finish this memoir. Oddly enough, while trudging through it, I started watching the BBC series George Gently and the documentary series called Detectives. The former deals with police corruption in Scotland Yard during the mid 1960s, and the other focused on a string of historic sexual abuse cases that took place in the late 60s and early 70s by a famous Manchester radio deejay. They really helped set the tone and environment for the events that transpired in the book.
February 3, 1971–Frank Serpico, aged thirty-five is shot in the face while working as an undercover detective in South Brooklyn’s Narcotics division. Another close call in the line of duty, or a deliberate set-up by “his own kind’? An odd question to ask, except Frank Serpico is not like any other detectives of his time. A Greenwich Villager sporting a full beard, long hair, funky boots and dungarees, he embodied everything police feared in the 60s–hippies. He was also unique in another more meaningful way:
“Serpico–this apparent hippie, womanizer, hedonist–had dared to do the unheard-of, the unpardonable, in police circles. Having solemnly sworn to uphold the law, he elected to do just that, to enforce it against everybody–and not, in the gran tradition of even the most personally honest policemen, against everybody except other cops. He would not go along with the graft, the bribes, the shakedowns; and he refused to look the other way.”
A very interesting read. I found the ending unsatisfactory, even though this edition contained an afterword from Serpico himself dated Fall 1996. The truth is that this is a true story, not a fairy tale. Have things changed much since Serpico’s time in law enforcement? I think we’d all like to hope so. However his memoir created more doubts than certainties for me. Hmmm…food for thought.