SERPICO by Peter Maas
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SERPICO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

People outside New York City might not immediately know the name of Frank Serpico. Take heed then -- the Knapp Commission, Jay Kriegel, Patrick Murphy, police corruption in every shape and form. Ring a bell? Make a Connection, French, Italian, or otherwise? It should, for not only is Serpico the perfect cinematic cop -- there will be a film, watch for it -- but he is shot in the face (blood everywhere), wears hippie beads, drives a BMW sports coupe (we keep wondering where the money came from -- this is an expensive town), reads Walden and Les Fleurs du Mal, listens to opera, plays the guitar, screws handsome chicks (models, stewardesses, any color, all colors), lives obtrusively in the Village (his Perry Street neighbors call him ""Paco"" -- that's Spanish for Frank and also you're OK), has a tremendously big dog named Alfie who is never seen (here) shitting in the streets, is a crack shot (he is frequently at the range, practicing), knows karate (the don't-fuck-with-me sport -- unrefined but effective), has testified against ""New York's Finest,"" never ceasing ""to be amazed at the idea that he was a 'rat,' a fink, an informer,"" and is incorruptible. Should make quite a flick. There's also a motorcycle chase (at one point he owns a Honda 350 -- we still wonder where the money came from -- unexplained in this account) which very closely follows that other Connection (crash-crash, bang-bang) but also involves a broad (who inexplicably waits out the caper -- is Frank really that good) and furthermore there's plenty of tell-tale about the malfeasance conduct of the officers with whom he worked, when he wasn't on his own, playing Mr. Chameleon on the ""Pussy Posse"" (hustling whores) or busting other evil criminal activities around town. Constantly Frank is tempted by the take -- ubiquitous fuzz, crooks, and assorted bunkos attempt to cajole him into corruption, but Serpico stands alone, an honest cop shilling rotten apples. Eventually he spilled the beans, to the higher-ups, all the way to the Commissioner and beyond (Leary resigned, Walsh resigned, Lindsay quailed, Serpico's colleagues tried to kill him), a grotesque regurgitation of the ugly facts of police lawlessness. Serpico is an account of a man -- a good and romantic man -- who outlived everything from a bullet in the head to the ""psycho cop"" slander (Leary) and is still around for Maas to tell about it. An achievement. Goddamit, an achievement.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1973
Publisher: Viking