GANGLAND by Howard Blum


How the FBI Broke the Mob
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 John Gotti now sits in a top-security federal prison, locked into his cell 23 hours a day, allowed to shower once a week. How the Mafia's capo di tutti capi reached that sorry fate is the subject of Blum's intensively researched, hypnotically absorbing true-crime report. There have been other excellent books on Gotti (e.g., John Cummings and Ernest Volkman's Goombata, 1990), but none written with Blum's flair for drama (Out There, 1990, etc.). What the former New York Times reporter does here is give Gotti a worthy opponent: FBI agent Bruce Mouw, hero to Gotti's villain, Eliot Ness to his Al Capone. To trace Mouw's pursuit of Gotti--which Blum dates back to the June 1980 day when the ``gangly, rather scholarly-looking'' Iowa-born agent was named to head the Bureau's Gambino Family squad--the author conducted 108 interviews and ``made [his] way through a wall-high pile of transcripts.'' As Blum intercuts between Mouw's squad (which included Joseph F. O'Brien and Andris Kurins, whose surveillance of Gotti's predecessor, Paul Castellano, they detailed in Boss of Bosses, 1991) and Gotti's ``crew'' as it rises to power, this diligent research reveals itself in unusual details about Gotti's character (his affair with another mobster's wife; his courtroom reading of Thus Spake Zarathustra); in suspenseful re-creations of the bugging of Gotti's various headquarters; in inside information on how Mouw suborned Gotti's underboss. Blum tends to overmelodramatize--highlighting faint rumor (e.g., that Gotti chain-sawed the man who accidentally killed his young son); overplaying certain themes, like Mouw's hunt for a cop-mole, or the Dapper Don's smirk--but there's no denying the fire-breathing power of his Gotti or the cinematic slickness of his account of Mouw's dogged, righteous manhunt. FBI knight slays Mafia dragon--and Blum milks this latter-day fairy tale for all it's worth. (First serial to New York Magazine; film rights sold to Columbia Pictures)

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-68758-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993


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