Making Jack Falcone

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am

Making Jack Falcone

by Joaquin 'Jack' Garcia (with Michael Levin)

Simon & Schuster HK$202

Joaquin Garcia ate his way into the mafia. The only FBI special agent other than 'Donnie Brasco' (Joseph Pistone) to infiltrate La Cosa Nostra, the Cuban-born Garcia gained 40kg during his 21/2 years of mob-related undercover work. Those who dine with wiseguys, he learned, need to know food. It was a part of the training he 'particularly enjoyed'.

During the course of hundreds of such 'food orgies' he not only brought a New York mafia family down, but his resting heartbeat shot to 220, normal only in a fevered newborn. Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family, is his story.

An undercover operative for more than 25 years, Garcia saw 'hundreds and hundreds of bad guys' being incarcerated (his FBI record includes myriad short-term and 45 long-term major undercover investigations). 'The difference between most agents and me is that I work multiple major cases simultaneously ... sometimes juggling five or six different identities and roles,' he explains.

While building a case against the Gambinos, he worked undercover on other major cases ('terrorism in New York, corrupt cops in Florida, corrupt public officials in Atlantic City, an international smuggling ring ... and 'Supernotes' - fake hundred-dollar bills we were told were printed in North Korea').

He discovered the new mafia - 'the post-Gotti brand of wiseguy' - was terrifying: sociopathic greed ruled. 'The old mafia had a sense of teamwork, a sense of mission, a sense, if you will, of pride in itself ... Not so the wiseguys of today,' Garcia says.

Garcia navigates these cold waters skilfully. His survival instinct, feats of memory, acting skill and ability to metabolise anxiety are second only to his charm: he inspires love and loyalty in lawbreakers and lawmakers alike.

Making Jack Falcone's only flaw is that Garcia's co-author, Michael Levin, doesn't do his subject justice. The narrative is untidy, the text is repetitive and Levin also fails to capture the quicksilver of the ever-wired Garcia's inner experience. But in the end, Garcia's genius triumphs over all literary flaws: his appetite - for life, for truth and for adventure - is a thing of beauty.