I really wasn't that crazy about this book on a number of different levels, but the author's voice is just so engaging and enjoyable that I couldn't h...moreI really wasn't that crazy about this book on a number of different levels, but the author's voice is just so engaging and enjoyable that I couldn't help but like it anyway. My main problem with it was the jumping around in time and space. This was mostly intentional, telling a sort of "weave" story of Codella's hardboiled upbringing in Canarsie in a neighborhood of wiseguys and cops, crossed with the edgy world of Alphabet City in the '80s. However, at times it lapsed into that thing that cop-memoirs do. It would lay down undocumented and at times mildly ludicrous vignettes intended to drive home to us how awful and outrageous life on the streets was. It's not that I don't think that stuff happened, but cop memoirs often relate stories that are provided without reference to actual names or cases...which make them seem like hearsay garbage that cops sling around in the locker room.
On the other hand, the author's freshness in admitting the many times he crossed the line and violated procedure (and probably civil rights) in the interest of getting a conviction is really illuminating. I'm thoroughly sympathetic to the fact that a cop on the street trying to shut down the drug trade is basically crippled by the bureaucratic procedure and the courts. But I can't get behind the flippant disregard shown for the rights of the accused in cases of suspected drug dealing after the Reagan-era "asset confiscation" laws were passed. The author portrays these laws as only being used when the accused was obviously a drug dealer..."everyone knew it." That's fine for the author's conscience, but the next time one of my conservative friends lectures me about Obamacare and the constitution, maybe I'll ask them to defend the extrajudicial confiscation of individual property as championed by that conservative god of "individual rights," Ronald McReagan. It's not that I think these guys weren't scumbags...but how exactly does extrajudicial asset confiscation add up to due process under the Constitution? Or...I'm sorry, is it possible that this was a way to confiscate underprivileged douchebags' assets so that the confiscating authorities could use that money to buy new toys, and figure that they were too screwed up on drugs to get a lawyer and try to get their money/Mercedes/bling back? That's screwed up. Clear violation of due process, and fairly offensive how it's presented here given that the author admirably stays away from racism and anti-poor prejudice otherwise. That's remarkably true even though he does take a lot of liberty with the rights of the accused. But that's a whole 'nother argument, one in which I come down more on the side of Codella than on the extrajudicial asset confiscation.
That little nitpick aside, Codella did kick lots of ass, and these were not nice guys he was smacking upside the head. The millieu of the heroin epidemic of the 1980s was intoxicating. I love that Codella was on the street enough to see what was really happening, which just about completely eluded the media of the time and since. In the middle of crack hysteria, crack was largely irrelevant in the long-term disintegration of American cities -- heroin was the drug doing far more damage. Codella's views on the two are absolutely invaluable.(less)
I'm sorry to have to give this one star, but it just doesn't deserve any more. Like Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss, it is not really a book. The...moreI'm sorry to have to give this one star, but it just doesn't deserve any more. Like Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss, it is not really a book. There's nothing new but some warmed-over sentimental childhood memories from someone whose half-assed reflections are presented as fact that I as a reader am supposed to care about, without either the insight or detail that should be brought to all memoirs or the investigatory qualities that belong in anything third-person about organized crime. Garden-variety historical realities are presented out of context and in rapturous tones as "revelations." It's obvious throughout that the author has brought very little of her own to the table in terms of knowledge of organized crime, and yet has presented Scarpa Jr's recollections as factual, sometimes uncorroborated and far too often unquestioned third-person accounts, which is a huge mistake when dealing with an obviously unreliable confessor. The moment the intro asserted that Harmon's principal interviewee had tipped the authorities off to 9/11 before it happened, and the FBI ignored him, I should have known I was in for a rocky road. It only got rockier.
In my opinion, this adds nothing new to the literature on organized crime. Sorry.(less)