Dancing with the Devil: Confessions of an Undercover Agentby Louis Diaz
IN AMERICAN GANGSTER, THE FEDS TOOK DOWN INFAMOUS HEROIN DEALER FRANK LUCAS. BUT THE KINGPIN BEHIND LUCAS’S CRIMINAL REIGN, LEROY “NICKY” BARNES, REMAINED “MR. UNTOUCHABLE.” UNTIL ONE UNDERCOVER AGENT PROVED TOUGH ENOUGH—OR CRAZY ENOUGH—TO INFILTRATE HIS DOMAIN AND NAIL THE MOST DANGEROUS DRUG CZAR IN AMERICAN HISTORY.
Growing up in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where physical violence was a daily reality at home, at school, and on the streets, Louis Diaz had what it took to survive—and to one day become what he vowed to be: a man of uncompromising principles who is “compassionate on the inside, fierce on the outside.” These were the qualities, along with his street fighter’s steely nerves and hair-trigger temper, that drove Diaz from his savage beginnings and early forays in organized crime to become one of the DEA’s bravest undercover agents—the man who was instrumental in taking down some of the nation’s and the world’s most notorious crime rings.
In an unforgettable and utterly engaging first-person narrative, Diaz tells his gritty, colorful, painful, and even humorous life story—a story with all the raw emotional power and bare-knuckle action of Wiseguy or Serpico. From his headline-making cases of Nicky Barnes and the Medellín cartel . . . to his account of outwitting a key villain linked to the record-breaking heist known as The Great English Train Robbery . . . to his all-out confrontations with murderous gunrunners and drug dealers on the mean streets of New York . . . to leading commando raids on clan-destine cocaine labs inside the Bolivian jungles, Dancing with the Devil is an explosive memoir that stands as a classic of true-crime literature.
A retired undercover agent's story.
Born into an immigrant family in New York and inspired by the well-publicized drug bust celebrated in The French Connection, Diaz assembled just the right background for police work in New York, including the ability to speak a couple of languages, a streetwise air and military service—though he made the error of admitting to an examiner with a bone to pick that he'd smoked pot once or twice. Still, he got in through the back door, joining the ATF and later working with the DEA. He entered service just in time to take down a once-renowned bad guy named Nicky Barnes. "With his broad shoulders, his handsome, sharply chiseled features, and his trademark tinted-gogglelike Gucci eyeglasses, he could have passed for a Hollywood actor or a fashion model," write Diaz and co-writer Hirschfeld in this by-the-numbers moment. In memoirs of this sort, all bad guys are godlike, but their innate evil proves their undoing; Barnes is no exception, for he "was pure, unadulterated evil." Working streets and informants, Diaz brought Barnes down, but not without having to deal with slimy lawyers and the inconveniences of trial by jury: "It was one thing to be out on the street, doing my dance with the devil. It was a whole other to be held accountable in court for what I had done." Barnes disappears with a few dozen pages to go, whereupon Diaz ventures into less fraught territory, battling evil on a Hollywood soundstage and protecting the likes of Steven Seagal from the Ruby Ridge crowd.
Merely serviceable, offering few surprises—much less vigorously written than Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett'sAlphaville(2010), which covers some of the same ground.
- Pocket Books
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- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- NOOK Book
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- 2 MB
Meet the Author
Neal Hirschfeld was a prize-winning reporter and editor for the Daily News. He has also written for O, The Oprah Magazine; Reader's Digest; The New York Times; and other publications.
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This book is fast-moving and full of interesting details about the life of an undercover cop (vice and drugs, mostly, and mostly in NY in the 1960s, 70s and 80s) that are interesting and nerve-racking. Diaz is a good guy who grew up as a poor and hyper-responsible (he watched over a younger brother, who was epileptic) immigrant kid in scary, tough neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Hair-raising neighborhood events helped steel his nerves for his future life among truly dangerous gangsters and thugs. Diaz is retired from police work now, and has a new life as an actor in California -- but in this story, as told to Neal Hirschfeld, a crime writer, he paints a full picture of the life he led as well as what got him to become a detective. He's all about fighting for good, but without cliches. I learned a lot about undercover work -- the excitement and the tedium of it -- and about the minds of criminals, too. Highly recommended. A quick read that stays with you for a long time afterwards.
I heard about Louie Diaz one night on NPR and was quick to download his book with high expectations for an exciting story about the ups and downs of life as an undercover cop/agent. Unfortunately, once I began reading, I was often put off by his bragging and recurring theme of "boy hero in the face of adversity". He gives credit to his partners and fellow agents in a way that almost feels false, as if he knows he should acknowledge them but has such a high opinion of himself that any recognition given to them seems insincere. He mentions his own faults and short-comings but quickly reminds the reader that he should be allowed this and more due to his troubled upbringing. To be fair, he did lead a difficult life and did some amazing things for our country and the war on drugs, but I only wish he could have found a humbler voice to tell the story. In the end I was more aggravated and eager to finish the book, rather than left with the appreciation that Louie Diaz clearly expects from the reader.