86 books like Wise Guy

By Nicholas Pileggi,

Here are 86 books that Wise Guy fans have personally recommended if you like Wise Guy. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Republic of Pirates

By Colin Woodard,

Book cover of The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

Laura Nelson Author Of The Water Tiger

From the list on pirates (fact and fiction).

Who am I?

My interest in pirates began after attending the Real Pirates exhibit in Denver, Colorado, in 2011. All I can say now is that while I walked through the exhibit, I felt as though the pirates were personally speaking to me, asking me to tell the world their stories. I wrote several non-fiction articles about some of the men who sailed with Sam Bellamy on the Whydah Galley, the vessel featured in the exhibit. The writing and research were fun and fulfilling. In the last few years, I moved into fiction because I like reading fantasy myself and I wanted to explore the freedom of writing without having to document everything I wrote about.

Laura's book list on pirates (fact and fiction)

Why did Laura love this book?

This was one of the first books I read as part of my research about pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy.

It has a bibliography and footnotes, but it reads more like an adventure novel. You can read it for research, entertainment, or both. Everything in this book really happened. It’s one of the best starting points for someone to learn about piracy in the early 1700s.

By Colin Woodard,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Republic of Pirates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An entrancing tale of piracy colored with gold, treachery and double-dealing (Portland Press Herald), Pulitzer Prize-finalist Colin Woodward's The Republic of Pirates is the historical biography of the exploits of infamous Caribbean buccaneers.

In the early eighteenth century, the Pirate Republic was home to some of the great pirate captains, including Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, "Black Sam" Bellamy, and Charles Vane. Along with their fellow pirates — former sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves — this "Flying Gang" established a crude but distinctive democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which servants were free, blacks could…


The Valachi Papers

By Peter Maas,

Book cover of The Valachi Papers

Marco Manfre Author Of Returning to the Lion’s Den: Life in an Organized Crime Family

From the list on mob stories that tell it like it is.

Who am I?

Growing up in Brooklyn I heard stories about local mafia figures. Now, as the author of several books that deal with crime, I am passionate about good storytelling. I believe that a novel delving into the world of crime and criminals should be fast-paced and believable. Readers have told me that they give up on a book because, in their words: 1. “It isn’t believable” and 2. “It didn’t draw me in.” God forbid that any of the books I’ve written should fall into either of those categories! The books that I recommend are tops in the genre of The Best Mob Books That Tell It Like It Is.

Marco's book list on mob stories that tell it like it is

Why did Marco love this book?

The Valachi Papers, a 1968 book written by Peter Maas, is the life story of Joe Valachi, a former member of the Genovese crime family, who testified in 1963 before a Senate committee, revealing until-then confidential information about the American mafia. The book was made into a film in 1972, starring Charles Bronson as Valachi.

Maas describes in vivid detail Joe Valachi’s initiation into and rise within a mafia family, frequently relying on Valachi’s own gutsy descriptions. Although it is a biography the book has the verve and pace of a thrilling work of fiction. In many ways better than even a well-written novel, The Valachi Papers is an edge-of-your-seat reading experience.

By Peter Maas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Valachi Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The First Inside Account of the Mafia

In the 1960s a disgruntled soldier in New York's Genovese Crime Family decided to spill his guts. His name was Joseph Valachi. Daring to break the Mob's code of silence for the first time, Valachi detailed the organization of organized crime from the capos, or bosses, of every Family, to the hit men who "clipped" rivals and turncoats. With a phenomenal memory for names, dates, addresses, phone numbers—and where the bodies were buried—Joe Valachi provided the chilling facts that led to the arrest and conviction of America's major crime figures.

The rest is…


Boss

By Mike Royko,

Book cover of Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

Ray Pace Author Of Disappearing Act: A Las Vegas Love Story, Sort of...

From the list on wise guys you’ll love.

Who am I?

I’ve worked both in politics and as an investigative reporter in print and broadcasting in Chicago, Miami, Key West, San Francisco, and Honolulu. I’ve had an up-close look at how the system doesn’t work and how the wise guys get their share. I find it easy to use fiction to get to the truth.

Ray's book list on wise guys you’ll love

Why did Ray love this book?

Chicago is where I grew up watching the fascinating interplay between the so-called forces of law and order battle the criminal element. It wasn’t much of a battle unless the law-and-order guys and the crooks found themselves reaching for the same loot. Mike Royko’s book describes very well the interplay. On a personal note, I once worked for one of the Illinois governors who ran as a reform candidate. He ended up going to jail on a fraud scheme.

By Mike Royko,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Boss as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The best book ever written about an American city, by the best journalist of his time."- Jimmy Breslin

New edition of the classic story of the late Richard J. Daley, politician and self-promoter extraordinaire, from his inauspicious youth on Chicago's South Side through his rapid climb to the seat of power as mayor and boss of the Democratic Party machine. A bare-all account of Daley's cardinal sins as well as his milestone achievements, this scathing work by Chicago journalist Mike Royko brings to life the most powerful political figure of his time: his laissez-faire policy toward corruption, his unique brand…


Get Shorty

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Get Shorty

Marjorie McCown Author Of Final Cut

From the list on crime about Hollywood.

Who am I?

I've been hooked on the magic of storytelling since childhood, always eager to go wherever imagination can take me. I think that early fascination led me to become a costume designer because costume design is about using clothing to help tell a story. I spent 27 years working on the costume design teams for films like Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Angels & Demons, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When I decided to take what felt like a logical creative step, to write my own stories, I knew I wanted to write murder mysteries. And I thought the world behind the scenes of a movie would make the perfect setting.   

Marjorie's book list on crime about Hollywood

Why did Marjorie love this book?

Elmore Leonard knew the vagaries of the movie business back to front, and he serves them up on a platter of delicious satire in this story about an East Coast loan shark, Chili Palmer, who comes to Los Angeles chasing a deadbeat debtor and winds up in his own fractured fairy tale version of the Hollywood dream.

Chili’s an endearing character, street smart with a unique blend of humility and self-confidence. When his collection job throws him into company with a group of movie people, he sees them and their milieu with clear-eyed objectivity.

Talking to an underworld associate, he says, “The movie business, you can do anything you want because there’s nobody in charge.” Leonard’s mastery of dialogue and character, along with his wit and sly affection for the industry he’s skewering combine to make this book a complete delight. 

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Get Shorty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thriller filled with Leonard's signatures - scathing wit, crackling dialogue, twisted plot, mad scams - and set in the drug sodden world of Hollywood.


The Godfather

By Mario Puzo,

Book cover of The Godfather

Michael Prime Author Of Kristoff Kent: NYC Psycho

From the list on book to movie adaptations.

Who am I?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the books from which movies are derived from or from which are written after the movie is released, and add more in-depth analysis to the characters and story. Mostly though, I’ve seen the movie first, then read the book. The book almost always has more information about the characters, their reactions, emotions, and feelings. Sometimes, as in the case of Rounders by Kevin Canty, you find out where and what the main character is up to after the end credits roll. Book versus movie: Which is better? It’s a debate that will be here till the end of time. 

Michael's book list on book to movie adaptations

Why did Michael love this book?

Mario Puzo's finest work has been the influence for hundreds of novels and films alike.

The book tells of Michael Corleone's rise to mafia boss, from a timid young man to a stern, prominent force, who orchestrates New York City's most influential mafia family. After the book and the movie were released, it somehow became cool to become involved with the mafia. Interestingly enough, the word mafia is never in the film.

The film adaption of the book, like the book itself, is regarded as one of, if not, the greatest of all time. The book itself has a bit more profanity in it than the film, which leans me to enjoying the film a tad more. However, it is well worth reading and enjoying for one's own self.

By Mario Puzo,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Godfather as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_________________________________
The classic novel that inspired 'the greatest crime film of all time'

Tyrant, blackmailer, racketeer, murderer - his influence reaches every level of American society. Meet Don Corleone, a friendly man, a just man, a reasonable man. The deadliest lord of the Cosa Nostra. The Godfather.

But no man can stay on top forever, not when he has enemies on both sides of the law. As the ageing Vito Corleone nears the end of a long life of crime, his sons must step up to manage the family business. Sonny Corleone is an old hand, while World War II…


The Maltese Falcon

By Dashiell Hammett,

Book cover of The Maltese Falcon

Steve Saroff Author Of Paper Targets: Art Can Be Murder

From the list on literary that mix old noir with modern themes.

Who am I?

20 years ago a software company I founded had been acquired and my life should have been good. Instead, it was a Herculean mess. I had just been fired by a billionaire whom I had accused of crimes, and now I was out of work and broke. It would still be four more years before Bernie Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison (where he became blind and demented and died) for the world’s largest fraud. But when I was writing the first words of Paper Targets, the executives who had pulled me into their world of the “Lie” were freely strutting on the World Stage of Greed. 

Steve's book list on literary that mix old noir with modern themes

Why did Steve love this book?

This book proves that plots can both be tight and make no sense at the same time while still telling a story that holds our interest. The Maltese Falcon is a mystery that never gets solved, but by the end, you understand the point that Hammett wanted us to understand: for criminals, the world is a greedy mess, and chasing dark dreams for them is what they want more than catching the dream. The book is better than the movie, and the movie is fantastic.

By Dashiell Hammett,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Maltese Falcon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the greatest crime novels of the 20th century.

'His name remains one of the most important and recognisable in the crime fiction genre. Hammett set the standard for much of the work that would follow' Independent

Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and when Spade's partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby's trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a…


Hell's Angels

By Hunter S. Thompson,

Book cover of Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga: A Strange and Terrible Saga

Joe Pappalardo Author Of Red Sky Morning: The Epic True Story of Texas Ranger Company F

From the list on that give the outlaws a say.

Who am I?

As a journalist and author of history books who's lived in Texas for most of my adult life, I've found myself unavoidably steeped in Texas Ranger lore. I didn't understand how such a small force could enter unfamiliar areas of Texas and get any results as law enforcement officers. This central question led to me the operations of Company F during 1886-1888. I found the showdowns were just one part of the story. Researching these topics meant learning about the Rangers' outlaw targets - following another journalistic impulse to give both sides of this story an equal hearing. What resulted is a nuanced, complex tale that hopefully will open eyes instead of pointing fingers.

Joe's book list on that give the outlaws a say

Why did Joe love this book?

Nothing beats an author willing to immerse himself into an outlaw world to get their perspective – until that world starts to literally beat the writer. Hunter Thompson’s first book is more of a journalistic work, examining the infamous biker gang from the inside than what would follow (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and so on.) He is very much part of the action at riotous parties, on bar stools, and alongside at motorcycle runs, but his first-person narration is an effective tool for revealing the Hell's Angels as independent people and as a fraternal organization. The writer and his subjects willingly project their images of unrepentant criminals. But when Thompson is on the receiving end of a gang beatdown, it’s a reminder that the line between outlaw and citizen can be hazy, and you might not know you’ve crossed it until blood’s being spilled.      

By Hunter S. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hell's Angels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the father of 'gonzo journalism', Hunter S. Thompson's research for Hell's Angels involved more than a year of close association with the outlaws who burned a path through 1960s America, resulting in a masterpiece of underground reportage published in Penguin Modern Classics.

'A phalanx of motorcycles cam roaring over the hill from the west ... the noise was like a landslide, or a wing of bombers passing over. Even knowing the Angels I couldn't quite handle what I was seeing.'

Huge bikes, filthy denim and an aura of barely contained violence; the Hell's Angels could paralyse whole towns with…


To Kill the Irishman

By Rick Porrello,

Book cover of To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia

Joe Pappalardo Author Of Red Sky Morning: The Epic True Story of Texas Ranger Company F

From the list on that give the outlaws a say.

Who am I?

As a journalist and author of history books who's lived in Texas for most of my adult life, I've found myself unavoidably steeped in Texas Ranger lore. I didn't understand how such a small force could enter unfamiliar areas of Texas and get any results as law enforcement officers. This central question led to me the operations of Company F during 1886-1888. I found the showdowns were just one part of the story. Researching these topics meant learning about the Rangers' outlaw targets - following another journalistic impulse to give both sides of this story an equal hearing. What resulted is a nuanced, complex tale that hopefully will open eyes instead of pointing fingers.

Joe's book list on that give the outlaws a say

Why did Joe love this book?

Danny Greene is a bad role model but a great protagonist. A former US Marine and union boss convicted in federal court of embezzling, he transitioned into organized crime by doing enforcement work for the Cleveland Mafia. However, he soon branches out on his own in the most brazen ways possible, incurring the wrath of his former associates. Murders, an extended bombing campaign and Greene’s work supplying intel to federal agents all culminate in a conclusion that has real consequences – the downfall of La Cosa Nostra in Cleaveland in 1977. It’s hard not to empathize with the crazy-brave Greene, standing shirtless in plain sight in front of his headquarters as the Mafia plots his death. When a criminal is this kind of character, it’s easy for a reader to lay polite society aside and immerse inside that world, enough so to root for a bad guy.      

By Rick Porrello,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Kill the Irishman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Be sure to see Kill the Irishman-the major motion picture based on Rick Porrello's true-crime masterpiece!

A modern warrior known as Greene
Was very quick and smart, and mean.
He scrambled hard and fought like hell,
And led a charmed existence.
They shot him down and blew him up
With most regular persistence.
-From The Ballad of Danny Greene Clevelan d, the 1970s:

A fearless Irishman boldly muscles in on the Italian-American Mafia-intrepid, charismatic, shrewd, cunning, and armed with a master plan to take over the rackets under the auspices of the Irish banner of which he was so fiercely…


The Gangs of New York

By Herbert Asbury,

Book cover of The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld

Mark Bulik Author Of The Sons of Molly Maguire: The Irish Roots of America's First Labor War

From the list on Irish American true crime.

Who am I?

I’ve been a newspaperman for 40 years, the last 25 at The New York Times, and crime is the meat and potatoes of the business. My mother came from an Irish American clan in the Pennsylvania township where the Molly Maguires were born – my great-uncle died at 13 in the mine where the Mollies made one of their first recorded appearances. So I’ve been fascinated by Irish American true crime ever since the Sean Connery film The Mollies Maguires came out in 1970. I’ve spent most of my adult life researching the subject, and have given lectures on it all over the country.

Mark's book list on Irish American true crime

Why did Mark love this book?

This work came out in the Roaring Twenties, but the gangsters of that decade had nothing on the 19th-century outfits like the Dead Rabbits and the Gas House Gang.

When the dive bars have names like the Tub of Blood and they’re kept in business by the likes of Razor Riley, One-Lung Curran, and Stumpy Malarkey, you can’t go wrong. But to me the most compelling part was Asbury’s account of New York’s horrendous Civil War draft riots.

The Molly Maguires of Pennsylvania were born in opposition to that same draft, after a Protestant Republican allied with the coal industry used conscription to try to rid the coal fields of Irish Catholic Democrats and mine labor activists before a crucial election. 

By Herbert Asbury,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gangs of New York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life ofnineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history.

Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets. A rogues gallery of prostitutes, pimps, poisoners, pickpockets,…


Donnie Brasco

By Joseph D. Pistone,

Book cover of Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia - A True Story by FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone

Craig McGuire Author Of Carmine and the 13th Avenue Boys: Surviving Brooklyn's Colombo Mob

From the list on diving deep into the dark side of Brooklyn.

Who am I?

It’s no wonder South Brooklyn, in the latter half of the last century, is the setting for so many remarkable dramas for both page and screen. In fact, when legendary former NYPD Detective Thomas Dades offered to make introductions to a Colombo Crime Family associate who cooperated with the federal government, I leapt at the opportunity. I was born in Greenpoint in 1971 and grew up on 16th Avenue in the heart of Bensonhurst. It’s not just South Brooklyn’s raw, urban chaotic physical setting, but the sheer volatility of this period in time, where so many transformational trends of the larger culture were evident, and some even epi-centered.

Craig's book list on diving deep into the dark side of Brooklyn

Why did Craig love this book?

Donnie Brasco follows FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone’s six-year infiltration into the Mafia.

Posing as a street-level jewel thief, Pistone provides a bottoms-up look into the underbelly of the Brooklyn Bonanno’s in Brooklyn, from the family’s epicenter in pre-gentrified Williamsburg and Greenpoint. This rank-and-file rundown shines a harsh light on the petty lives of street soldiers and their conniving capos in their natural habitat, from scrounging for scraps in wood-paneled clubhouses to lording over their turf from pigeon-cooped rooftops.

In fact, the juxtaposition of setting, in flipping between sinister South Brooklyn and sizzling South Florida, is a masterful use of setting to set the tone. As Pistone goes native, becoming more and more Bonanno, we wonder what he sees in The Life led in these cramped apartments, velour-draped dives, and dingy clubhouses.

Locations of interest: The Motion Lounge nightclub on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg; Brooklyn Armory in Park Slope; The…

By Joseph D. Pistone,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Donnie Brasco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1978, the US government waged a war against organised crime. One man was left behind the lines. From 1976 until 1981, Special Agent Pistone lived undercover with the Mafia. Only able to visit his young family once every few months, Pistone - under the alias Donnie Brasco - ate, drank, partied, worked and sometimes killed with the wiseguys. He got so close that his Mafia partner, Lefty Ruggiero, asked him to officiate as best man at his wedding. Pistone's eventual testimony, in such spectacular prosecutions as 'the Pizza Connection' and 'the Mafia Commission' resulted in more than 200 indictments…


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