Wiseguy | Study Guide

Nicholas Pileggi

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 June 2017. Web. 12 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, June 23). Wiseguy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 12, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." June 23, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.


Course Hero, "Wiseguy Study Guide," June 23, 2017, accessed December 12, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.

Wiseguy | Chapter 20 | Summary



The narrative jumps back in time to relate the law-enforcement events leading to Hill's arrest. The Nassau County narcotics detective assigned to Hill's case, Daniel Mann, doesn't expect Hill to be any different from all the other suburban drug dealers he investigates. An informant has assured Mann he knows wiseguys and can give up their drug ring. The informant gives information about the Lucchese crime family and its connection to Paul Vario, and the fact Hill is the leader of the drug ring. Mann is impressed by the information, since anyone connected to Vario ends up dead long before the police can question them. The informant also tells of his belief Hill was connected to the Lufthansa robbery and Jimmy Burke. With all this information Mann is able to order a wiretap on Hill's phones. He also sets up his men across the street from Hill's house for surveillance.

They begin to realize just how linked Hill is to the rest of the wiseguys—he seems to have complete access to all levels of the Mafia world. He doesn't appear to be limited by any rank or status within the mob, unlike other wiseguy criminals Mann has investigated. Mann and his men are shocked, because they have no record of Hill's organized-crime involvement despite his deep ties. The detectives begin going through Hill's garbage, discovering incriminating notes about airline flights connected to his drug couriers. They tail Hill for two months, noting all of his dealings and relationships. Soon their notebooks become wall charts. Soon they have gathered so much information through the wiretaps they are able to indict other members of the drug ring. It's also revealed to Mann his informant is none other than the son of Bobby Germaine, Hill's partner.


Hill's arrest appears to be a linchpin in nabbing everyone else involved in organized crime around him, which is an impressive feat considering how many of his fellow wiseguys have disappeared or ended up dead before the police can question them. Pileggi highlights once again how the mob world appears to be turning against itself because of paranoia, informants, and increasing attention being paid to them by law enforcement. The fact the informant is the son of Hill's partner shows just how much these men have begun to turn against each other in a desperate attempt to stay out of prison. Pileggi observes by this point, "the drug business is simply a business of informants ... it is a multibillion-dollar business in which it is understood that everyone is ratting out everyone else." This reveals just how invested and embedded law enforcement has become in derailing the drug business Hill is now hooked into.

Just as Hill's embedded level in the mob world is a boon to Pileggi's story about the mob, so it is an asset to the Feds, who have never had such unfettered access to inner workings of the organized-crime world. Hill's relationship to it is unusual for an average wiseguy, because of his relationship with Vario and his ability to move freely within its world and hierarchy. For his part Hill seems to have no idea the level of interest law enforcement has in him, causing him to be naive when it comes to leaving a paper trail of incriminating evidence in his own garbage. For someone who prides himself on his observational skills and ability to outsmart the system, Hill is setting himself up without even knowing it. Only the reader—and Hill in hindsight—is aware of how soon his world will come crashing down, and he alone is the architect of that fall. Pileggi's use of switching to the law-enforcement perspective of Hill and the mob allows the reader to see just how invested they have become in taking down the wiseguys, and how little Hill and the others know of what is going on behind the scenes. This heightens the tension of knowing Hill's decision to join the witness protection program to stay safe can come at any moment but leaves in the balance the question of what will ultimately cause him to make that decision.

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