I can’t recall the exact circumstances surrounding how Denny Griffin and I connected, but somehow we did. Denny had retired and become an author, his schtick was crime novels. But as he openly admits they were not feeding his hunger. True crime stories were his real interest. With his home base being Las Vegas he had lots of material to work with. He has a huge interest in Organized Crime and that became his focal point. Without doubt The Battle For Las Vegas is a must read for anyone with an interest in the somewhat murky history of the city. For decades the city was the perfect  location for the mob to operate. The largely cash based world of gambling made enforcement of tax laws virtually impossible. A corrupt Law Enforcement willing to turn a blind eye did little to improve matters.

Things started to heat up when he started to make contact with some ex Mobsters. Don’t quote me on this, but I think his book CULLOTTA was the turning point. Having access to Chicago Outfit  ex mobster Frank Cullotta did nothing but help Denny. In an unexpected turn of events CULLOTTA solved a 27 year old double murder in a town outside of Chicago. This improbable revelation spawned a book Murder In McHenry by Paul Scharf.

Some might view Hole In The Wall Gang as a prequel to CULLOTTA, but it is not. It fills in many gaps in the first book. I have spoken to Frank Cullotta on a couple of occasions and I think it is fair to say that I am glad that I did not know him while he was active in the Chicago Outfit. People got ‘whacked’!

Hole In The Wall Gang is a great read. All too often we here mere snippets of a story, any story, a two minute segment on the news and then it is gone. I am always more interested in the story behind the story. The hole in the wall gang is always associated with Vegas, however it actually has its origins in Chicago. Frank and his crew had perfected the technique, hence the name, of avoiding burglar alarms by cutting holes in ceilings, floors and walls. And why spend dangerous time cracking a safe when you can just take the thing with you and do it later?

Much like Andrew DiDonato, Frank Cullotta found himself on the ‘outs’ with the mob. Tony Spilotro, had made Frank the fall guy for some events that had caused heartburn for the Chicago Outfit. It was time to ‘whack’ Culllotta. With the ‘feds’ wanting to put him in jail and throw the key away, and the mob wanting him dead he turned States Witness.

Much of the latter part of Hole In The Wall Gang details his time in the various phases of the Witness Protection Plan. It is a far cry from the Hollywood version portrayed in John Grishams’s The Pelican Brief. There is no large bag of cash and a private jet to take you to wherever you wish to retire. In many ways it is more stifling than jail life itself.

A new ID, a birth certificate, a new social security number, and a very small monthly stipend and the rest is up to you. You have no history, no resume, no family or friends.

Although Hole In The Wall Gang is a very serious book it also contains moments of levity and humanity.

You can get your copy of Hole In The Wall Gang by clicking on the Amazon link at the top.

Simon Barrett

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