THE LAST GANGSTER: From Cop to Wiseguy to FBI Informant: Big Ron Previte and the Fall of the American Mob
Release date: 03/01/2004
Covering much the same ground as his 1998 book, The Goodfella Tapes , which also dealt with the Philly mob's decline in the 1990s, true-crime journalist Anastasia here focuses on Ron Previte, a crooked cop who became a big moneymaker for the Philadelphia underworld before turning informant for the Feds. The author entertainingly chronicles Previte's long catalogue of brutal misdeeds, but offers little insight into the man's character. There are a few factual errors (e.g., Cleveland underboss Angelo Lonardo did not begin to cooperate with the government until the mid-1980s), but the larger flaw is the effort to inflate Previte's role in diminishing organized crime's influence not only in the City of Brotherly Love but also in the country as a whole, as the subtitle suggests. In addition, Anastasia fails to make a convincing case for the extent of Previte's local impact, undercutting his thesis several times by citing other factors—the elevation of greed, an upsurge in violence, other informants—leading to the demise of the syndicate built in large part by the late Angelo Bruno. The author knows how to enhance the basic story with the odd bit of background detail (like a defense lawyer's favorite sandwich), but the book's primary appeal will be to Mafia buffs eager to read everything written on the subject. (Mar. 16)
FYI: Anastasia has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.