The first time that I saw the movie Goodfellas, I was amazed by the story that was being told. I was even more amazed when I heard that Goodfellas was inspired by the true story of Henry Hill’s life.
Henry Hill passed away on June 12, 2012. Upon hearing that news, my interest in this American gangster was reinvigorated. This led me to read the book Wise Guy by Nicholas Pileggi.
I absolutely loved this book. It tells the story of Henry Hill’s life from the moment he stepped foot in the organized-crime cab stand at the tender age of 11 years old to the day when he was caught by the feds and had no choice but to go into the witness protection program. Everything in between is an intriguing look into the life of a wise guy in the 1960s and 1970s.
This book tells Henry Hill’s story from multiple aspects. The story was told by Hill to Nicholas Pileggi while he was in the witness protection program. The story of his life is told directly from his point of view, as well as the views of his wife and mistress (which provide a unique perspective on the events in his life).
Pictured is Henry Hill:
However, for me, the best part about this book was the telling of the Lufthansa heist at JFK airport. This heist was the largest cash robbery at the time. The book provides details that were not in the movie such as the perspective of the District Attorney when he gets closer to finding out who pulled this heist off and begins to find the interested parties always turning up dead.
Overall, this book is a fascinating look into the life of an American gangster and well worth the read. I would also highly recommend the movie – I love Martin Scorsese and Ray Liotta did a fantastic job as Henry Hill.