“The book is a whirlwind of suspense, violence and moral ambiguity. The daily grind that reveals the inner workings, language and codes of the mafia are perhaps its most fascinating feature. It feels real, like The Sopranos, but it is both more thrilling and terrifying than any TV show could hope to be.” MrPorter.com
“Russell details his encounters with many notorious figures in New York's ‘Five Families' and provides a good sense of the nitty-gritty tradecraft involved in undercover investigations.” Kirkus Reviews
“Billed as a true-crime version of The Sopranos, the story of Russell's violent life as an undercover cop cum trusted associate of the Genovese crime clan in Newark, N.J., has more plot twists than the acclaimed TV series. In fact, Russell predates Tony Soprano and company by a longshothe was the subject of an HBO documentary that aired in the late '80s, and his is a thrill-a-minute tale. Within the first 20 pages, Russell's taken a bullet to the head, fended off a would-be corpse robber, and stumbled out of an alley to find help. Soon after, he returns to the tough work of weaseling his way back into the arms of the Mafia. Written in a street-savvy style reminiscent of Elmore Leonard and Mario Puzo, the nail-biting narrative moves from one crisis to another as Mikey Ga-Gahis nom de guerreinfiltrates a profitable crew while rubbing shoulders with capos and bosses, all under intense mob scrutiny. Russell's bravery and professionalismalong with some crucial surveillanceeventually led to the busts of more than 50 "wiseguys" and public officials. This tell-all page-turner is all the better for being true.” Publishers Weekly
“Nobody did undercover better than Mike Russell. His story is grittier than The Sopranos, more volatile than Goodfellas. A must read.” George Anastasia, author of The Last Gangster and The Goodfella Tapes
“Mike Russell is one tough cop. This book is a great read.” the late Henry Hill, subject of Wiseguy, the basis of Scorsese’s Goodfellas
“Wonderful details. A bizarre world depicted with such accuracy that several times it made me laugh out loud. A very good read.” Robert Daley, former Deputy Chief of Public Information (DCPI) of the NYPD, author of Prince of the City and Target Blue
“What a nail-biter! Forget the Sopranos, real-life or otherwise. If you're a fan of Donnie Brasco because it actually had a good guy the undercover cop then this book's for you. Some of Mike Russell's story is so pulse-pounding that the only reason I could read it was, he lived to write the book so it must've turned out okay. This is the story of a cop who really knows, co-written by an ex-cop who can really write. I couldn't put it down.” SJ Rozan, Edgar award winning author of Ghost Hero
Memoir of infiltration of the New Jersey Mafia, told with bluster and bravado. In 1982, Russell--who co-authored this book with Picciarelli (co-editor: Bronx Noir, 2007, etc.)--was a state trooper trying to infiltrate organized crime in Newark, when a dispute over a pilfered briefcase led to Mafia associates shooting him in the head. His superiors realized his survival enhanced his undercover credibility, so they directed him toward an ambitious plan: pose as "owner of a small oil-delivery business and try to work my way into the good graces of the Gambino or Genovese crime families." Having learned that "getting close to the wiseguys required that you be subtle," he ingratiated himself with a Genovese captain. Known to the gangsters as "Mikey Ga-Ga," Russell soon began working for "made member" Joe Zarra, "a greedy bastard [who] would want to capitalize on my earning possibilities." The strict Mafia hierarchy of autonomous "crews" made Russell's brazen undercover work easier; he even opened an office next to Zarra's social club, allowing him to record the crew on audio and video. This proximity led to numerous close calls, on top of Russell's concern that Newark's mob-connected cops might finger him. The stress actually forced him to resign from the investigation, yet he soon returned as a civilian contract employee, ultimately earning his supervisor's accolade: "One lone Irishman took down an entire Mafia crew." The book's strength is its specificity: Russell details his encounters with many notorious figures in New York's "Five Families" and provides a good sense of the nitty-gritty tradecraft involved in undercover investigations. Yet, the plausible narrative is undercut by Russell's braggadocio: He so often portrays the mobsters as stupid, and his own perfidy as overt, that he never really seems to be in danger. Will satisfy true-crime readers interested in the grimy realities behind Mafia glamour and undercover work.