Surviving the Mob, published by HuntingtonPress, is the true story of Andrew DiDonato. Reading a book written by people you know is an entirely different experience than picking something off the shelf that was either recommended or caught your eye. I’ve known Las Vegas author Denny Griffin for a few years now, and through him met Andrew DiDonato. Besides being friends, I’ve interviewed both of them for my column on glowbass.com, so while awaiting the release of this book I truly wasn’t sure what it would be like.
The Andrew I know is a charismatic, funny guy and is a delight to talk to. The Andrew you meet in the book is someone else–a dangerous guy born into a family where being part of the mob was a normal thing. Loyalties were skewed, because although the top guys expected complete allegiance from you, when the chips were down it didn’t work the same way in reverse. I had a hard time picturing Andrew as that guy, and yet I know it was his life for so many years. From being an “up and coming” street soldier on the track to becoming a made man, to someone betrayed by his friends and on the run. Damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.
At the age of fourteen, a time when kids lucky enough to be born into a different environment were totally wrapped up in sports and family outings, Andrew had already set foot on the path to a life of crime. His hero was his uncle who was heavily involved in the mob, and later killed. By the time he was twenty he was fully immersed in the life, and so were his friends. In his world of crime, Andrew says you knew you could be asked to kill your friend someday or they could be asked to kill you, no questions asked. That’s what happened some years later.
One of Andrew’s good friends was killed by another mob member who was kind of an off-and-on friend. At that time Andrew was helpless to do anything but grieve the loss, because his own life was or could be on the line. Still, he plotted and planned for a way to avenge his friend’s death.
Griffin has a knack for combining his position as a narrator with Andrew’s heartfelt dialogue to create a compelling book you don’t want to put down until the last word on the last page. You feel his ups and downs during those years of his life–shock, joy, humor–it’s all there. Forget what you see in the movies. Just like movie sets are often just a building’s false front with nothing behind it, such is the myth that Andrew held as truth until it began to collapse around him.
You feel his terror and confusion, and more, the yank at your heart when he realized his mother would kill to protect him. You ache for the loss of contact with his son and his remorse at some of the things he did in his earlier life. Even today, reconciliation with his son is foremost in his mind. People can change. You applaud him for turning his life around and doing what’s in his power now to help others and to discourage boys and young men from following in his early footsteps. He’s become what we would call a “stand-up guy.”
I’m proud to call Denny and Andrew friends, and highly recommend this book. It offers a skillful and well told peek inside what mob life is really like—without the theatrical window dressing.
Morgan St. James writes “Spotlight” every Tuesday, interviewing or profiling resident Las Vegas authors, organizations, events and those visiting our town. On Thursday “Writers tricks of the trade” offers published and aspiring authors tricks, tips and techniques to enhance their work.
For more information about Morgan visit: www.morganstjames-author.com