Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob

It was easy enough to turn off the TV after an hour of watching restaurateur Artie Bucco get pushed around by beefy fellas back when The Sopranos was on, but it’s a little more uncomfortable to read about the same kinds of goings-on in Bob Delaney’s fascinating chronicle of his life undercover as a mobster back in the mid-’70s. Even with all the dated James Bond hidden-microphone tricks, the constant bullying of various hoods, and the endless array of Mob names (Pappy, Lucky, Fat Anthony, Johnny Dee, Charlie Cup of Coffee, etc.), what may be the most fascinating section of the book is Delaney’s re-entry into the real world after three years of living as a mobster. The massive arrests have been made, the court gavels have been pounded, but the still-young Delaney feels guilt for turning in friends and a resultant psychich tumult: “The granite foundation of my self-image preceding my undercover assignment had given way to shifting sands of doubt and worry,” he writes. It’s enough to finally send him back onto the basketball courts that he loved as a kid, back where he can lose himself fully in a different set of rules that take him to the top of that field as an NBA ref, where he finds a way to live with the conundrum of being a man with a price on his head who travels from one massive arena to the next each night. Be glad he’s chosen to take that risk as well as tell his tale. –