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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,994 ratings  ·  130 reviews
The 1960s was a time of social and generational upheaval felt with particular intensity in the melting pot of New York City. A culture of corruption pervaded the New York Police Department, where payoffs, protection, and shakedowns of gambling rackets and drug dealers were common practice. The so-called blue code of silence protected the minority of crooked cops from the s ...more
Paperback, 402 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,994 ratings  ·  130 reviews

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Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
graft [grafht] (n.): the acquisition of money, gain, or advantage by dishonest, unfair, or illegal means, especially through the abuse of one’s position or influence in politics, business, etc.

I’ve had a hard time concentrating on reading for a few months, otherwise it wouldn’t have taken so long to finish this memoir. Oddly enough, while trudging through it, I started watching the BBC series George Gently and the documentary series called Detectives. The former deals with police corruption in S
Strange that I haven't written my review of this book before. Oh well better late than never - even five years later. No point in re-hashing the whole Frank Serpico legend again. Except that Serpico comes across as very self-righteous and with a bit of a martyr complex to boot, but I suspect that isn't unusual for whistle-blowers. Perhaps an individual who decides to take such a big risk needs to be that way because there is no guarantee that anyone will listen to them when it's taking place and ...more
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked up a few books from the '70's that my parents were getting rid of and Serpico was the standout of the pick. I remember the Al Pacino movie from my childhood and though it might be an interesting read. I never realized how bad the corruption was in the NYPD, hadn't remembered that much from the movie but this story was a real eye-opener. I really feel for the officers that go into law enforcement wanting to do a good and decent job only to get dragged down into this type of corruption. I ...more
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of an honest cop who really wanted to protect and serve the people. Truly awe-inspiring!
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
I know the feeling that a person feels when he knows that he is not wanted in a particular place. I live with corruption here in my country. I is present in all the three arms of the government. The people involved keep blaming each other, comparing among themselves the most corrupt institution. The one thing that allows corruption to flourish in both the rich and poor countries is lack of political goodwill among our leaders to take action. Sometes if they do they don't put in enough effort to ...more
Apr 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sure this book massively influenced, or at least helped create the market for the epic, dark cop movies and television shows I love. I don't care. I would rather watch the French Connection or the entirety of The Sweeney overdubbed poorly into Belarusan six or seven times straight.
The narration switches tense three times during the book without enough change in pace for the reader to realize it, fails pathetically in its attempts to make a cop into a counterculture, worldly playboy (he has a
Andy Carrington
Aug 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Film's better.
Val Penny
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Maas was an American journalist and author born of Dutch and Irish ancestry in New York City, New York State USA on 27 June 1929. He died on 23 August 2001. Maas was educated at the prestigious Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Much of Maas’s writing featured crime and policing. In this book, Serpico, Maas wrote the biography of Frank Serpico who was a New York Police officer who witnessed and testified against corruption in the police service. Various other biographies and autobi ...more
Michael Adamchuk
The famous undercover cop in 1960's corrupt NYPD action. Has it changed any over the years?
I'm upset I paid the $2.99 for this.....

I thought this was going to be a good, interesting read....
It was crap...
This man was so UNLIKEABLE!!! Instead of just being a cop for internal affairs (cops who investigate other cops.. The police who police other cops..) or instead of just going with his own advice, and "going with it"/"just going his own way" he had to keep bucking the system and for what?!?
-he lost his dream of being a cop, helping others, doing some good
-he might have been set up to
Jerome Peterson
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have always been fascinated with police undercover work. This is the book to read! The Genesis of the undercover testament. The book is by far better than the movie. Although the movie was great in its own right it could not provide the insight that the book does. I highly recommend reading the book and then rent the movie. It really puts the highly dangerous, but effective undercover police work into perspective.
Bob Box
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read in 1973. Good cop turns on the bad cops and pays the price. Riveting and edgy. Pacino did the movie.
R.K. Cowles
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
3 1/4 stars
Gary Ingram
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very good read, seen the movie years ago but the book is always more in depth
Patrick Peterson
Wrote this review about May 2017.
Updated it 12 Aug. 2017

Excellent book.
Saw this old movie, based on the book, last night with my family:

I originally saw the movie, then read the book when they first came out when I was in college in the mid-70s.

The book and the movie are so good on the main corrupters of police/politicians: victimless crime laws: gambling laws, Blue laws (making businesses close on Sundays), prostitution, drug laws, etc. The movie
Mortimer Randolph
In tracing one man’s career in NYPD, Peter Maas is able to construct an impressive diagram of a large police department’s workings. Or, more specifically, its failings.

The research involved and the effort in organizing that research into a coherent book are staggering. If, along the way, Maas occasionally sees things too simply, it’s forgivable.

Frank Serpico was a rarity: an honest policeman who realized his loyalty should lie with the public he was paid to protect, not with cops who profited fr
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Serpico by Peter Maas was a recommended and required reading by my professor in College. It is based on a true story which shaped the way police department policy is handled to this day. Internal Affairs was born from Serpico's experiences. This novel shows the historical making of an honest police department. I never even new what "graft" was until I read this book. Serpico had many struggles that developed with many twists and turns and a shocking ending. If you want to know about some real hi ...more
Bill V
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has a very interesting writing style; very engaging. For a good part of the book I thought I was reading fiction, even though I already knew it was based on a true person, Frank Serpico. The photos in the center helped to dispel the fantasy around the writing. Serpico is an interesting guy.
My only criticisms are that there are too many characters and many of them aren't that distinguishable from one another. This is especially true of the New York City brass that were supposed to inve
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The book, which quickly becomes addictive, is a great look at a seedy criminal enterprise flourishing within a stagnant bureaucracy. As with any large institution, people at the top seem unwilling to even examine problems it may be difficult to solve, preferring instead to bury them and stifle those who want to raise the issue. The look at New York City in the late 60s and early 70s as crime spiraled out of control while the underpaid, ineffective police department is consumed by corruption, sat ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is one of the few books that was tracked as a movie, very closely. It was a bit startling to read how grimy life in the 60s and 70s in New York was. The gritty dirty life of a police officer, especially one who wanted to be so clean and unadulterated was amazing.

It is also clear that for all his above the take attitude Frank Serpico was no saint. His treatment of women and others who did not agree with him was pretty grim in its own right. The writing didn't make him a sympathetic characte
Ms. Randorf
Thought this would be an interesting window into NYC of the 1960s & 70s, but I found it lacking. More of a "hero woship" of Serrpiico than a view into what the force was like in the time period. Better read for that : the French Connection." ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: corruption
"Only a fool, fixed in his folly, thinks he can turn the wheel whereon he turns." - T.S. Eliot


I've got to be honest, I ended up reading this book because I love Al Pacino movies - well, that and I am fascinated by the subject of corruption/abuse of power. Right after watching the 'Serpico' movie, I decided that I needed to read the book by Peter Maas.

(Unfortunately, I was only able to find a digital copy so I didn't get to highlight a lot of notes and had to settle for a paperback copy).


Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent true story about Frank Serpico and how he was forced to expose the corruption in the NYPD in the 1960's and 70's. Writer Peter Maas does an excellent job chronicling Serpico's career in the police department and how he was attracted to the professional, only to discover the levels of corruption in the New York Police Department. He isn't afraid to show the Serpico wasn't as clean cut, depicting him as a womanizer and occasional drug user, while also willing to turn a blind eye at first ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Cops should absolutely police each other. Especially when they see one of their own doing something immoral and illegal. However, I felt Serpico also had an axe to grind. He didn’t get along with anyone and didn’t get what he wanted every time he wanted it. I sometimes felt that was the only reason he made his report. The whole book felt like a pity party. It’s also was stale at times and I had trouble staying interested.

Wrongdoing should always be reported and good people need to say something
Mark Payton
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the true story of Frank Serpico who, after wanting to be a police officer his whole life, becomes a NYPD police officer only to learn that it's filled with corrupt cops . . . some making an extra $800/month (and this was in the late 60's which translates to something like $6,000/month today!) from pay-offs from illegal gambling and the "numbers" racket. I realize that this was not fiction, but the book had more of a means to simply relay information and with less effort to craft it into ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
I almost settled on 2 stars for this. Although it's competently written, and you really want to admire the lone crusader who challenged a system of corruption like Frank Serpico apparently did, I just can't get myself to like him.
"Gourmet chef," "karate expert," "super-model type girlfriend dating womanizer guy..."
I can't help but feel that most of those descriptions of the man came from the man himself, which in turn, makes me feel that maybe he's just a pretentious, self-important prick in rea
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
An easy read, good for a long weekend or even a day of binge reading. Frank Serpico's story of rampant graft in the NYPD and his attempts to fight it from the inside while remaining an honest cop is written almost as a series of hospital bed flashbacks, which can make for cheesy TV but works well for this book. The story is in such a way that it reads more like a crime novel than a cold biography, although one would have to forget that it wasn't an imaginary cop who got shot in the face. A "twen ...more
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Serpico is an American hero, and I was glad to finally read this book and learn his story. Overall the writing was good--specific and technical, yet novelistic. Some word choices and perspectives were staunchly set in the '70s and so were a bit jarring to me. In that way this is a period piece of sorts but really captures the world Serpico lived in. Well worth reading and it goes by quickly. He's still alive, I learned. I hope he's happy.
David Ross
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty similar to the legendary film, not much in the way of changes. A great story about an honest cop battling against the fierce tide of police corruption. The cynicism is rife in a story like this; no matter who he turns to, he receives the same brush offs. Everyone knows the scale of the corruption in operation but they're either complicit or not brace enough to suffer the political consequences of investigation. A legendary story about a legendary officer.
Royce Ratterman
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
One tough life for a cop with morals and integrity back 'in the day'.
Read for personal research into early NYPD history. I found this work of immense interest.
This book's contents were helpful and inspiring - number rating relates to the book's contribution to my needs.
Overall, this work is also a good resource for the researcher and enthusiast.
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Peter Maas was an American journalist and author. He was born in New York City and attended Duke University.

He was the biographer of Frank Serpico, a New York City Police officer who testified against police corruption. He is also the author of the number one New York Times bestseller, Underboss, about the life and times of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano.

His other notable bestsellers include The Valach

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