The Back Story – Why You Should Not Become A Book Reviewer!
I became a book reviewer because I love to read. I also had less altruistic motives, I reasoned that if I could carve a small name for myself, publishers might send me free copies, well hell, books are expensive!
My cunning plan worked. Before long the local UPS delivery driver and I were on first name terms. Reading a book though always left me with questions, oh not the silly sort that English Lit teachers pose to their unwilling victims about the deeper meaning of chapter 5, or the cultural significance of the (probably) ‘throw away line’ that the hero utters. My quest was a different one, why did the author write a book? Where did the idea come from? Why would a PhD write science fantasy? Oh the list is endless. This started me on the road of interviews.
This brings us to Surviving The Mob. Actually the correct place to begin is with Denny Griffin and the release of Cullotta. This book about the life of mobster Frank Cullotta achieved something that I don’t think I have ever seen before, it solved a decades old cold case, a double homicide that occurred just outside Chicago. Denny Griffin brought closure to two families. As a result of the book the police reopened the case, and now officially it is solved. If you are not familiar with the story this link will help.
Andrew DiDonato read Cullotta, what he appreciated was the way that Denny Griffin had written the book. It was factual, there was no glorification, and no judgments were made. Denny Griffin was most certainly a straight shooter.
Through a third party Andrew DiDonato reached out to Denny. Although he had voluntarily withdrawn from the Witness Protection Program he was still a man with enemies in high places. Security was, and still is, a major part of his day to day life. The two eventually met face to face, and Surviving The Mob went from concept to project.
Early in 2010 Denny Griffin told me a little about the project. He also explained that as an appetizer a DVD documentary about Andrew DiDonato and his life of crime with the Gambino family was in the works. Before you can say ‘organized crime’ a package arrived. Actually that is a story all unto itself. I was out walking to the local store and the route takes me right by the home of the lady that delivers the mail. She was on lunch break but she saw me walking by. She told me that she had a package that I had to sign for and she would likely be by in 10 mins. Alternatively I could just take it right now. I did. The senders name and address did not ring any bells. Inside was an untitled DVD, the only clue was a card signed Andrew. It was the raw footage of what was to become Surviving The Mob.
There were no flashy special effects, no voice overs, no experts. It was just Andrew DiDonato sat on a couch telling his incredible story. What gripped me was the starkness of the production. It was Andrew talking directly to you. No Oscar winner could have put on such an emotional performance. This was real, and heartfelt.
Obviously the production company 2reelproductions shared my opinion, the finished product has very few changes in it. They added some still photographs, but nothing else. If you have not watched the DVD I suggest you do. My review is here. And Here.You also might enjoy my discussion with them.
Over the past year I have talked with Andrew DiDonato and Denny Gfiffin on many occasions. Andrew has introduced me to some of his friends, some use there original names, some use aliases, none use the name on their drivers licenses! As Andrew quotes in Surviving The Mob, when he asked permission to be released from the Gambino family Nicky Corrozo pointed out:
You were born here, you will die here
The book Surviving The Mob filled in many gaps from my conversations with both Andrew and Denny. It also placed perspective on some seemingly disconnected subjects. It also did much to explain Andrew’s reasons for introducing me to some of his friends. To you all, I salute you!
If I Could Wind Back Time was a huge hit for Cher in 1989. Alas you cannot wind back time, you can only focus on the future, maybe, that is wrong, you can only focus on the here and now. One thing however is for certain, Andrew DiDonato has moved on and moved up from his life as a Gambino associate. His focus today is to prevent young people from taking that wrong turn in the road of life.
None of this article had a place in my book review, but I needed to write it. So to all of you book reviewers, take my advice, be careful what you wish for. Before you know it, a piece of you is involved.