IL DOTTORE: The Double Life of a Mafia Doctor

Ron Felber, Author . Barricade $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-56980-278-6

A respected thoracic surgeon and also a Mafia confidant, Elliot Litner was a self-described "nerdy, Jewish kid from the Bronx" who'd witnessed a slaying as a boy yet kept mum, impressing local hoodlums; later, his acquaintance with mobsters' sons provided entree to New York's Cosa Nostra during its heyday. In 1971, while a surgical resident, Litner helped Gambino family associates establish clandestine abortion clinics. Soon, Litner was the Gambinos' go-to for sensitive medical emergencies and even served as a courier for the family. His enthusiasm for the gangsters' rough-edged lifestyle wrecked his marriage, even as his career was, according to Felber, abetted by hospital associates with mob connections. In an overwrought narrative, Felber (The Privacy War , etc.) alternates depictions of Litner's divided life with the narrative of how Paul Castellano unwisely divided the Gambino family into white collar and "muscle" crews. This led to open warfare in the 1980s, Castellano's assassination and Rudy Giuliani's devastating RICO prosecutions. Things climaxed for Litner in 1986, when he was asked to engineer an "accident" during surgery on Giuliani witness Ralph Scopo, the request accompanied by John Gotti's threats. Litner's story, though provocative, is related with melodrama and purple prose and sheds little new light on figures like Castellano and Gotti. (Oct.)

Forecast: An NBC Dateline segment on Litner could boost sales for an otherwise marginal Mafia account.

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 05/01/2005
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