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Surviving the Mob: A Street Soldier's Life Inside the Gambino Crime Family Paperback – December 1, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 137 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

In 1994, Dennis N. Griffin retired after a 20-year career in investigations and law enforcement in New York and moved to Las Vegas. In 1996 he wrote his first novel, The Morgue, based on an actual case he investigated, and currently has six mystery thrillers in print in addition to four non-fiction titles for Huntington Press: Policing Las Vegas, The Battle for Las Vegas, Cullotta, and Surviving the Mob. He is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, Las Vegas Valley Writers Group, Henderson Writers Group, and the Police Writers Association and is a consultant and frequent on-screen contributor to documentaries and films about the history of the Mob.

Growing up in Brooklyn, in a house wedged between two Mafia social clubs, Andrew DiDonato was pretty much destined to become a gangster. Barely a teenager when he started stealing car parts, selling marijuana, and shaking down competing dealers, DiDonato spent 15 years rising up through the ranks of the Gambino crime family. But at age 31, he robbed the wrong drug dealer and found himself running from both the cops and—far more dangerously—his former mob “family.” So, for the sake of his actual family and his own life, DiDonato decided to turn snitch and spill the beans on one of the Cosa Nostra’s most notorious organized-crime dynasties.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Huntington Press; 13502nd edition (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935396382
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935396383
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I normally dont write reviews on products but felt to do so on this item. First the writing is phenomenal and very clean. The story is very compelling as you follow Andrew on his journey into the criminal under world. His accounts on the people he associated with and did jobs with paint a clean picture of what the mafia under world is really like. I felt that Andrew was completely honest and put it all out there for the world to see without holding back. I will be recommending this book to other readers who share an interest in the mafia and want to see it from a view of a person who lived it as a solider.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sat down and read it in one night. Very entertaining and detailed history of Andrew DiDonato's life as a grunt in the Gambino Family. It's nice to hear about the low level soldiers once in the while instead of the constantly re-hashed stories of Gotti, Castellano etc. Besides long sentences for drug dealing, DiDonato also points out that greed and complete lack of respect and loyalty from the bosses towards their crews are also what has contributed to the breakdown and disarray of the Families.
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Format: Paperback
Reading a book written by people you know is an entirely different experience than picking something off the shelf that was either recommended or caught your eye. I've known Denny Griffin for a few years now, and through him know Andrew DiDonato. Besides being friends, I've interviewed both of them for my column on examiner.com, so while awaiting the release of this book I truly wasn't sure what it would be like.

The Andrew I know is a charismatic, funny guy and is a delight to talk to. The Andrew you meet in the book is someone else--a dangerous guy born into a family where being part of the mob was a normal thing. Loyalties were skewed, because although the top guys expected complete allegiance from you, when the chips were down it didn't work the same way in reverse. I had a hard time picturing Andrew as that guy, and yet I know it was his life for so many years. From being an "up and coming" street soldier on the track to becoming a made man, to someone betrayed by his friends and on the run. Damned if he did, and damned if he didn't.

At the age of fourteen, a time when kids lucky enough to be born into a different environment were totally wrapped up in sports and family outings, Andrew had already set foot on the path to a life of crime. His hero was his uncle who was heavily involved in the mob, and later killed. By the time he was twenty he was fully immersed in the life, and so were his friends. In his world of crime, Andrew says you knew you could be asked to kill your friend someday or they could be asked to kill you, no questions asked. That's what happened some years later.

One of Andrew's good friends was killed by another mob member who was kind of an off-and-on friend.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mafia books are one of my guilty pleasures, and I have read a fair number of works on the subject. I had never heard of Andrew DiDonato before picking up this book, although many of his bosses are familiar names. The book is the story of Andrew's mob life, from beginning to end, and it attempts to show mob life at the street level rather than the usual stories of higher-up bosses.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* The authors give us a look at the total life-cycle of a relatively low-level mobster. DiDonato starts out as being an outsider, and works very hard to become an insider. Once he accomplishes that, you can feel his disillusionment as he begins to question the "ethics" of the Gambino family. His tale relates the disappointment when he finds that "honor among thieves" is more a legend than a fact.

* Without giving away any more of the plot that is already in the description, DiDonato ultimately leaves the mob, and does so in fear of giving up his life to the mob and his freedom to the judicial system. The book does a nice job of relating how a mobster's life can come crashing down on many fronts at the same time, and his reflections of the sacrifices he has made versus the ultimate rewards. DiDonato claims this as one of the reasons for telling his story, an attempt to persuade others of the risks and likely outcomes of his choice of lifestyle.

* The book is a fairly easy read, and move along rapidly. Violence is obviously a part of the book, but is not a major component of the text, nor overly sensationalized. Unusual for this genre, there are not a large number of characters that are tough to keep straight, and most of the chapters (arranged chronologically) are fairly self-contained.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All of Dennis Griffin's books are great, and this one is no exception. It is a behind the scenes look into a Gambino street soldier's life. It also details his decision to become a member of the Witness Protection Program. I highly recommend it.
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I've read dozens upon dozens of books covering the American mafia, and I have a few favorites. But Surviving the Mob is the first book that compelled me to write a review. Griffin's account of DiDonato's life and often-harrowing adventures as a Gambino associate doesn't fall into the familiar trap of padding pages with mob history that readers have already encountered numerous times (particularly with the Gambino family). The depth of research through interviews with DiDonato is stunning, and Griffin is to be commended for a well-crafted approach that flows well.

As for DiDonato's story itself, we finally experience the day-to-day details of a modern street soldier through the words of a mobster who isn't seeking to create an after-the-fact reputation as a notorious tough guy. Instead, he relays his triumphs and defeats through a unique memory tinged with confidence, fear, and hope. Do not miss this mob book.
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