Saturday, August 13, 2011


Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob
© 2008 Bob Delaney, Dave Scheiber
288 pages

In the early 1970s, a young and promising New Jersey State Trooper named Bob Delaney was asked to join Project Alpha, a joint police-FBI undercover project intending to take down the New Jersey mob. Assuming the identity of a dead man known (appropriately) as Bobby Covert,  Delaney posed as the head of an ambitious new trucking company  on the New Jersey coast -- making money by shipping stolen goods for the mob.  After the State convinced an informant to join Delaney's team, the operation expanded rapidly. Suddenly he was spending his nights in restaurants chewing the fat with leading wiseguys, even if he avoided making a mistake and getting himself killed, the stress of living multiple lives threatned to send him to an early grave regardless.

Though Covert is billed as criminal nonfiction, it's almost more biographical. Delaney devotes time to his early years and writes on his transition from detective to NBA referee, imparting lessons learned from those careers to the reader: namely, even in this post-9/11 world,  that we cannot allow fear to rule us. DeLaney's emotional struggles while working the investigation made Covert work for me, much more than his tales of basketball and supper with the goodfellas.  DeLaney's work as a businessman isn't dramatic, but it gave the FBI insight into how the Mafia infiltrates and then dominates small businesses. Even though he started off doing small jobs for various New Jersey families, in a matter of a year they began treating it like their own private company.  Like William Queen,  DeLaney's greatest struggle is to maintain his sanity.  Although DeLaney doesn't live a Henry Hill/Goodfellas life, those interested in the Mafia will find this of interest, as it portrays the modern 'la cosa nostra' as nothing more than a bunch of classless thugs who are so utterly removed from what they prented to be that hey rely on The Godfather to gain ideas of what it means to be a mafioso.

Covert should easily be of interest to multiple audiences, including sports fans, given the range of the photos section. I tend to imagine Michael Jordan as a laidback guy, but Covert contains photos of him roaring in anger at the unflappable DeLaney. The state trooper-turned-referee also poses with Ray Liotta, who played Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

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