Wiseguy | Study Guide

Nicholas Pileggi

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Wiseguy | Chapter 11 | Summary



By the time he is 26 in 1969, Hill and Karen live in a rented house with two cars and a wardrobe of expensive clothes. Hill also has a girlfriend on the side, a sign of success and therefore a practice not uncommon for most wiseguys. Hill meets Linda at a dinner with Peter Vario, and they spend the night together. Paul Vario asks Hill about Linda and her friend Veralynn, with whom Peter went home, because he is suspicious they are cops. Hill thinks Vario is acting paranoid because he is currently under investigation. Hill tells Linda he is a CPA, and they begin seeing each other often. Hill enjoys her because there are no strings attached, but when Linda starts getting in trouble at work Hill is offended her boss won't take him seriously as a Mafia superior. Linda's boss also has Mafia ties, which leads to a standoff between the two men. Hill and Burke visit the store and rough Linda's boss up, which leads to a sit-down between the two groups of wiseguys. Hill finally agrees he won't kill Linda's boss. He gets Linda an apartment and begins living two lives, one with her and one with Karen. Karen suspects something, but doesn't want to see it. She eventually brings it up to Hill, which causes endless fighting between them, yet he never denies it. Eventually Karen insists they move back to Queens, after she spies two men taking pictures of her and their kids.

Karen continues to drop by Hill's office at The Suite unannounced, hoping to catch him. She sees Linda but doesn't put two and two together, though she often sees Linda crying. Whenever Karen calls the office, however, people address her as "Lin," and finally one day she confronts the chef, who tells her "Lin" is Linda. Karen gets her address and tells her they need to talk, but Linda hides from her. That night Karen puts a gun to Hill's head, but Hill wrestles the gun away from her and tells her he's leaving and won't come back until she calms down. He moves in with Linda for a few weeks, a pattern which continues for the next few years, though Karen can't bring herself to leave him. Even though their relationship is volatile, they still love each other. Karen also believes Hill only gives Linda the worst side of himself and leaves the best for her. When Hill is serving a brief sentence at Riker's Island Prison, Karen has him take Linda's name off the approved visitors list. When Hill gets out, he still feels like he can't leave either one of them and his life is a constant battle. Throughout the chapter, Karen and Linda alternate narrating their own perspectives of life with Henry during this time, and their insights are often emotional and revealing of their possessive feelings toward Henry.


Hill has fully embraced the wiseguy lifestyle, complete with flashy cars, expensive clothes, and a girlfriend on the side. Yet, Vario's paranoia of Linda's true identify foreshadows the increasing level of distrust wiseguys have for anybody who isn't one of them. Hill continues to use violence and intimidation as a means to get what he wants and maintain his status and power, but even so he needs to be careful not to upset the delicate balance of hierarchy within the organized-crime families. The two sides discuss murder as casually as if it were a business deal, highlighting how embedded the act is in their culture and unwritten code of conduct.

Hill's new habit of living two lives is another wiseguy code of conduct no one blinks at. Pileggi notes "a girlfriend was the ultimate luxury purchase," which places Linda firmly in the category of an object to be possessed and discarded. It's widely accepted established wiseguys will have a girlfriend in addition to a wife, with each uneasily knowing her place. It is a given that in exchange for the wealth, lifestyle, and status afforded to them, the wives will look the other way, content with their Saturday night dates. Yet, Karen wasn't raised in this culture and takes full offense at Hill's affair. Their constant fighting is a pattern in their relationship, with neither able to keep the peace for very long. Both perhaps feel an attraction to their tumultuous dynamic, unable to remain in love alongside their dysfunction and anger.

Karen's explosive reaction when she discovers proof of Hill's relationship with Linda shows her difference from ordinary mob wives, content to turn a blind eye. She uses a gun on Hill with the same cold ease as the wiseguys, showing the tendency toward conflict resolution through violence despite her pain she has absorbed. Karen seems to come to a place of uneasy acceptance regarding Linda's role in Hill's life, showing how she is slowly sliding into her acceptance of their unpredictable lifestyle in general. She can make excuses to herself regarding Hill in the same way she makes excuses to her mother. Hill, for his part, is unwilling to give up eating his cake and having it too, since he sees it is just a part of the wiseguy lifestyle. He also doesn't seem to understand there is no such thing as a "no strings attached" relationship, ignoring Linda's pain and constant tears over their relationship. Pileggi's use of both Karen's and Linda's narratives in this chapter provides a counterpoint to Hill's cavalier attitude, illuminating how much pain he caused them both and how little he regarded it. Karen and Linda are by turns emotional in their own ways, and each feels a claim to Henry's affections, causing them to hate each other. Both make it clear how invested they are in their relationships with Henry, but Henry's own narration reveals his belief he shouldn't have to give up either relationship despite the pain he is causing both women.

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