True-crime veteran Carlo (The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer, 2006, etc.) chronicles the extraordinary life of Lucchese family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.
Such is our Mob-obsessed culture that Paul Castellano, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, John Gotti and Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, Casso contemporaries that figure prominently in this narrative, require no introduction. Because of widespread publicity surrounding the arrest and trial of dirty NYPD cops Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito (see Jimmy Breslin’s recent The Good Rat) the public has only recently been alerted to Casso, the Mafia chieftain at whose behest the detectives killed. Within La Cosa Nostra, though, Gaspipe was famous, thanks to his vast network of law-enforcement contacts, stoolies and plants. As an inter-family bridge builder, he was celebrated for his lucrative crime schemes, feared for his expertise and readiness to use a .38 revolver and admired for his discretion and reliability. Notwithstanding his eventual decision to break his vow of omerta and cooperate with law enforcement, Casso sits today in a supermax prison, in part at least, because he knows too much. Fearful of opening him to cross-examination, prosecutors have declined to permit Casso to testify at Mafia trials where the lies fellow rat Gravano told—testimony upon which numerous convictions rest—would be exposed. Moreover, Casso knows too much about the crooked cops and FBI agents who for years helped him break laws and evade capture. Thanks to a family connection—his mother was once Casso’s wife’s best friend; his sister used to babysit the Casso children—Carlo has the real goods. He shares all the lurid particulars about a criminal career stretching from a South Brooklyn boyhood, to Casso’s Mafia-arranged, no-show union job at age 17, to his early murders, to his notoriously effective B&E crew, to his becoming a “made” man in 1974, to his making the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1990. Though the prose too often gets in the way—no observation unrepeated, no cliché unuttered—the inside information about the lifestyle, rituals, killings and betrayals is priceless.
An authoritative look at a once-rampant predator now at bay.