A former crooked cop looks back on his conflict-of-interest life as a policeman and midlevel grifter.
Italian-American and native Chicagoan Pascente’s nonfiction debut, co-written with crime novelist Reaves (Mean Town Blues, 2008, etc.), is a rollicking mess of a wiseguy memoir that vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and sins of a long-vanished criminal gangland of Chicago. Born in 1942 (he died in 2014) in a typically rough urban district of the city’s Near West Side, Pascente grew up with future “made man” Tony Spilotro (immortalized in Nick Pileggi’s book Casino), who would eventually be financially linked to Pascente’s future police boss William Hanhardt. While Spilotro went on to become a mob heavyweight running a casino empire in Las Vegas in the 1960s, Pascente served in the Army before getting an early discharge for joining the police force; he ended up working under Hanhardt, who would exploit Pascente’s gangland connections. During his more than 25 years as a cop, the author may have spent more time committing crimes than preventing them. The book is packed cover to cover with Pascente’s pithy tales of the dirty deeds he and his corrupt cohorts (with cartoon gangster names like Johnny Bananas, Louie the Mooch, and Milwaukee Phil) pulled off for big money: insider bank scores, racetrack betting swindles, casino heists, mail and insurance scams, and plenty more. Pascente, for all his shady dealings, ended up doing very little jail time in a minimum-security prison for insurance fraud (although he did lose his police pension). Of course, his criminal curriculum vitae can’t compare to those of Henry Hill or Whitey Bulger, but Pascente comes off about as affable as any criminal could. In the end, he expressed a modicum of shame and regret over his weakness for the lure of easy money.
Not exactly a self-portrait of a criminal mastermind, but a somewhat worthwhile glimpse into the schizoid world of a corrupt cop.