Books by Paul Ragonese

Released: Oct. 1, 1991

By 1987, when Ragonese retired from the NYPD after 17 years of service, he'd won over 100 awards, making him the city's most- decorated cop. He won't win another for writing—even with the help of old-hand Stainback (Snake, 1986, etc.)—but his no-frills memoir does deliver plenty of action and a few sharp opinions. What Ragonese doesn't deliver on is the promise of the title. The soul of this cop is plumbed only uniform-deep (a typical reflective passage: ``Like most cops, I've gotten a bang out of arresting bad guys, but it would be nothing like I knew I'd feel rescuing good guys''). What we get instead is a fast-moving stream of the author's exploits, beginning with his most celebrated, keeping alive a woman trapped beneath a toppled construction crane in 1985. A flashback to his working-class Brooklyn boyhood follows, then a tracing of a glittering career in three divisions of the NYPD: an anticrime unit, where Ragonese caught bank robbers, shot a felon, and bucked for a detective's gold shield; EMS, where he grappled with ``jumpers,'' shot a crippled horse, helped a man crushed by a subway train to die with dignity, and finally got his gold shield; and the bomb squad, where he made two discoveries ``I've never been able to reveal publicly until now''—that, at Staten Island's infamous Willowbrook mental institution, he found (and was forced to cover up) a ``chamber of horrors'' strewn with body parts, and that he witnessed the NYPD using its Bronx firing range as a toxic-waste dump. The criticism of the NYPD implicit in both revelations is shadowed throughout, from bald accusations (``The NYPD has always denied that cops have to meet a quota of traffic summonses. That's a lie'') to gripes about office politics and potshots at fellow (pseudonymous) officers, adding spice to an otherwise straightforward chronicle. Meat and potatoes for hard-core cop fans. (Sixteen pages of b&w photos—not seen.) Read full book review >