Peter Maas Critical Essays

Introduction

Peter Maas 1929–

American nonfiction writer, novelist, journalist, and editor.

Maas earned a reputation as an excellent investigative reporter for Collier's, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post during the 1950s and 1960s. His concern with the conflict between good and evil is apparent in his graphic exposés of organized crime and corruption; this theme also dominates his later book-length narratives.

Maas has been praised for his ability to produce work that is exciting as well as informative. Many critics consider The Valachi Papers (1969) and Serpico (1973) his best work. The Valachi Papers is based on the memoirs and testimony of Joseph Valachi, an ex-Mafia member turned informer. Serpico is the biography of detective Frank Serpico, who barely escaped death after exposing corruption inside the New York City Police Department. King of the Gypsies (1975) tells the story of the violent power struggle between two leaders of the American gypsy kingdom. These books were made into motion pictures.

Maas turned to fiction in Made in America (1979), a crime novel that contains stylistic and thematic elements similar to those of his nonfiction. Critics were impressed with Maas's realistic depiction of the unsavory side of New York City, but some found his prose stilted and his characterizations weak. In Marie: A True Story (1983), Maas returned to investigative journalism to document a woman's battle to save her job and personal reputation after uncovering bribery practices in her department. Many critics were disappointed in this book, citing Maas's lack of objectivity and his tendency to overdramatize the protagonist's plight.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 93-96.)