Donnie Brasco Books: The True Story & Novels by Joseph Pistone

Maybe you’ve seen the movie and want to go to the source material, or maybe you’re looking for some gangster fiction. This page starts with the non-fiction Donnie Brasco books. The second section covers the Donnie Brasco novels.

See also:

Donnie Brasco Books

First, the true life account that started it all and served as the basis for the movie Donnie Brasco.

Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia (with Richard Woodley)

After being undercover in the New York Mafia for six years, FBI agent Joe Pistone, known to the underworld as Donnie Brasco, testifies in court. His old associates can’t believe what has happened. There’s a $500,000 hit contract out on his life, and he has round the clock protection.

Pistone started his career in law enforcement investigating crimes for the Office of Naval Intelligence, parlaying his experience there into becoming an FBI agent in Jacksonville, Florida. Eventually, he’s transferred to the Truck and Hijack Squad in New York.

He goes undercover back in Florida to bust a huge heavy equipment and luxury vehicle theft ring. His success opens the door to a long-term undercover operation targeting high-level fences that work with the Mafia. He’s going to work New York while another agent will run a parallel operation in Miami. He becomes Donald Brasco, a jewel thief and burglar.

Donnie starts hanging out at the popular spots but is careful not to try engaging anyone too strongly. After a few months, he becomes familiar enough that people start recognizing him and he makes a few low-level contacts. A while later, he’s introduced to a member of the Colombo Family, whose crew hijacks and steal everything they can. So begins Donnie’s immersion into the Mafia.

This is a fascinating account that’s well worth reading even if, like me, you’ve already seen the movie. I was no less interested in finding out what would happen next. You can read into the 4th chapter in the preview of Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia.

The Way of the Wiseguy

In this book, Pistone distills his extensive knowledge of mobsters into 34 wiseguy principles covering their brutality, attitude, view of money, view of women, respect, business, preferences and daily life, among other things.

If you’re only familiar with gangsters from TV and movies, this is an interesting look at what’s real, what’s not, and what’s exaggerated or downplayed.

The first chapter, “Wiseguys Are Not Nice Guys”, highlights the extreme disregard mobsters have for people, and the shocking brutality they will inflict without hesitation or remorse. Certainly, this has been shown to some degree in fictional portrayals, but I think this one falls under the category of things that get downplayed.

The third chapter, “Why Wiseguys Will Kill You”, covers several situations that are likely to get a gangster, or someone who comes to their attention, killed. I was a bit surprised by some of them, as the fiction I’ve seen isn’t really consistent with the list.

Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business (with Charles Brandt)

If you loved the original account of Pistone’s experiences, this will be a special treat. Due to the ongoing trials and other restrictions, many details had to be left out of the first book. In Unfinished Business, Pistone reveals previously classified details about the Bonanno crew, and also places the famous trials into a larger context.

It opens with some behind-the-scenes information on the making of the movie Donnie Brasco, including a few things that were altered for dramatic effect. Pistone points out that he didn’t feel the sentimentality toward, or loyalty to, “Lefty” Ruggiero as portrayed in the movie, which I found interesting.

An incident that stood out for me was Donnie’s tense first meeting with Bonanno capo Big Joey Massino. Seven years earlier, Pistone was part of an FBI team that raided a warehouse and arrested a group of hijackers, which included Massino. Now, he doesn’t know if his face is going to look familiar or not, and he’s stuck in a room with no way out.

In the preview of Unfinished Business, you can read Pistone’s preface, the introduction by Charles Brandt, and most of the first 2 chapters.

Donnie Brasco Novels

Joseph Pistone also wrote some fiction using his insider knowledge of the underworld. Here’s a brief teaser for his 4 novels that should help you decide if you want to check them out.

Donnie Brasco: Deep Cover

After an attempt on Donnie’s life in Manhattan, his supervisor, Jules Donavon, calls him to Florida. He arrives in the midst of a hurricane warning for early tomorrow. Another FBI agent, Marcia Dunn, is in Florida posing as a journalist looking into possible political corruption. Something has scared her badly, and she won’t trust anyone, not even her FBI contacts. Donavon thinks she might talk to Donnie, being aware of his reputation. Donnie studies her file and realizes it would take something very serious to frighten an agent like her. He heads for Marcia’s beach cottage, along with hurricane Blaze, but he figures he has enough lead time.

The first 5 chapters can be read in the preview of Deep Cover

Snake Eyes: A Donnie Brasco Novel

FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone has just wrapped up a successful undercover operation where he exposed various financial crimes at a bank. He usually gets a break between assignments but not this time. In a little town called Julep, just outside New Orleans, there’s an illegal backroom gambling operation at the Circe Country Club. It’s run by the Russian Mafia and looks like it could be a money laundering scheme. The previous agent, a friend of Joseph’s who infiltrated as a blackjack dealer, was killed. Joseph heads for Julep as Donald Wells, an ex-con with an entry-level job at Circe.

You can read into the 4th chapter in the preview of Snake Eyes.

Mobbed Up: A Donnie Brasco Novel

Donnie is undercover at La Guardia Airport, working for Horizon Movers, the company that loads and unloads cargo. The mostly Italian company with Mafia connections has recently gotten an influx of Russian Mafia, and Donnie has to find out why. The East Coast Russian Mafia has been growing in power and now represents a greater threat than the Italians. To gather the information he needs, Donnie needs to get in good with the Russians. One day while operating the forklift, Mako Fazio, a Mafia soldier who thinks Donnie’s too friendly with the Russians, starts a fight with him. Donnie’s performance catches the eye of Barkov, who decides to pay Donnie a visit.

The Good Guys (& Bill Bonanno with David Fisher)

Frank Franzone’s crew is hanging out at their regular spot, the Freemont Avenue Social Club. Tony Cosentino, another capo, has asked for a favor, and Bobby Blue Eyes and Little Eddie get the assignment. They need to find a Professor G who teaches Russian at Columbia University, but they’re kept in the dark as to why. Along the way, they take care of some other business and decide to put it off until tomorrow. Meanwhile, the FBI is monitoring the Freemont Avenue Club through a bug they planted. The combination of hearing about Professor G and the recent murder of a member of the Genovese family gets them curious. Agents O’Brien and Russo head to Columbia to do some looking themselves.

This novel’s point of view alternates between the mobsters and the FBI. Almost all of the first 2 chapters can be read in the preview of The Good Guys