I think the best way to tell my bio-story is to simply repost an interview I did in early 2017 with a group dedicated to the preservation of the Mafia, called The National Crime Syndicate. Reposted here with permission.
The NCS: Alan, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at the NCS we really appreciate this opportunity. I guess the first question is to take you back to where things all started out, and how you got involved in this type of life?
Alan: Well, as I touched on in The Lindbloom Chronicles, I got started in “the life” very young, although I never thought of it as “the life” back then. It was just me doing what I was raised to think was alright to do. When I think back on my life, that’s the interesting thing. I don’t condone my behavior, but in my own defense I was raised in an environment where it was acceptable, even encouraged, to bend the rules. And breaking them was a grey area. I was just too young to realize how I acted was so out of the social norm.
Allow me to give a quick illustration. When I was a kid, my mom gave me a $100 limit for a new bike. Now, the bike I wanted was about $350 so I simply paid a kid a $100 to steal the bike I wanted. Why? Because that’s what my uncle told me to do. See? I was encouraged to break the law by my own family. And thus, doing so just sort of became acceptable. As I grew older, there was always a way to bend the law or work an angle. I never paid full price for anything. EVER. When I needed a new outfit, I sent a thief into the mall to steal it for me. Why pay $200 for an outfit when I could just pay a junky to steal it for $50? When I needed new rims for my car, same thing. Pay a crackhead to go steal them. I even had a plug at a local meat market. My cousin Georgio, who worked there, would take care of me for pennies on the dollar. The owner would go to the bank each week at noon on Tuesday. I’d call ahead and have Georgio put together a package of steaks, chicken breasts, whatever. A couple hundred dollars’ worth. When I’d get there, I’d give him a $20 bag of weed (which cost me about $5) and he’d hand me this huge sack of meat. Did it every week for years. Like clockwork. See, there was always an angle. And as I got older, the angles became more sharp, more criminal. That’s the best answer I can give as to how I found myself involved into the life. There was no real start. I just sort of eased into it.
The NCS: Where did the nickname ‘Gunner’ come from?
Alan: Believe it or not, my real middle name is Gunner. Originally, my father wanted to name me Gunner. But my Sicilian grandparents Tocco wanted my name to be Alanzo. There was a lot of contention between both sides of my family over this, but eventually a compromise was reached: my name would be “Alan” (a shortened Americanized version of Alanzo) and my middle name would be “Gunner.” Growing up, everyone just called me Al. But as I got older, some of the old-time wiseguys and my closest friends began calling me by my middle name, Gunner. Don’t laugh, but my wife calls me “Gunny.”
The NCS: From a Detroit Partnership perspective; If you think back to one particular moment, where you felt on top of the world – what would that moment have been?
Alan: Well, there were a lot of good times, even if I was always looking over my shoulder for the Feds, always worrying about prison. There are a few great days financially I could mention, but to be honest the best memories I have had nothing to do with money, but rather how I was treated by other Families when traveling out of town. My grandfather and uncles had a lot of friends and associates in other Families, particularly Chicago, New York, and Miami. So, whenever I’d travel to these cities, my grandfather or uncle would call ahead to these associates and let them know I was coming to town. Sometimes they would really roll out the red carpet. Guys would pick my friends and me up at the airports and drive us to our hotels. They’d show us around town and bring us to their clubs and restaurants, where they’d comp us our meals and drinks. I never knew what their bosses told them about who I was, or who my grandfather was, but they always treated me like I was a celebrity.
Miami was a favorite because these guys from the Trafficante crew would pick us up at the airport and chauffeur us around like we were big shots. I mean, they would put us up in these plush condos in South Beach. They’d bring us to all the hottest nightclubs, where everyone would know them. They would introduce us as “good friends from Detroit,” and they never let us pay for anything. I remember one weekend we partied on some huge yacht with a bunch of bikini models. The booze, the “party favors,” the girls, it was like a scene out of Scarface of something. I guess the boat was owned by some big coke dealer. At least that’s what I was told.
Trips to New York were similar. My Uncle Sal was tight with some Lucchese guys who always took care of my crew and me when we went to NYC. I remember when I was 18, I was in a nightclub in Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve. I was dunk as hell and started hitting on this beautiful chick who turned out to be Victor Amuso’s girl. When the Lucchese guys with us saw me, they came over and said, “Hey, Al, what the fuck are you doing? That’s the boss’s girl!” A few years later I’d end up moving to that exact Brooklyn neighborhood and worked for some of Amuso’s guys. But because I was a Tocco from Detroit, the old-time bosses always showed me a lot of respect. They really rolled out the red carpet whenever I came to town. So, I suppose from “the life” standpoint, those are some of my fondest memories.
The NCS: How hard as it been for you to adapt to life on the outside? What have you found hardest to adjust to?
Alan: Surprisingly, transitioning from 13 years of prison to freedom has been easy. Which I attest to (A) God and (B) my wife and family always having money on their phones so I could call home. Talking to her and my family helped me stay in touch with the “real world.” Guys tend to lose touch with reality if they never talk to anyone from the outside world. After years and years on the inside, with little or no contact with people from the outside world, their minds start to break. Prison life consumes them. They forget what reality is like. It’s both sad and sick at the same time. It’s not worth talking about the things I saw in prison, but just know that it isn’t pretty when a man’s mind breaks. It’s even worse when thousands of men with broken minds are housed in close proximity for years, even decades. Prison can be a very violent and evil place.
I suppose the hardest thing for me to adjust to has been modern technology. For example, I’m still figuring out how to pay for gas at the pump with a credit card. I never seem to get it right. I sometimes have to sign for things using a digital pen! I went from writing my books on a prison typewriter with 1960’s technology, to doing my final edits on a MacBook Pro. The stereo system in my Jeep is controlled by an iPad. I’m bombarded all day long with Facebook notifications and messages. Before I went to prison, I’d never even sent a text message. Now I’m surrounded by Star Trek technology! Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused on work. And I know it also annoys my wife sometimes. But she understands I’m still adapting.
The NCS: Once you are in the mob, there is rarely an exit door to getting out. Were you tempted at picking back up from where you left of?
Alan: Okay, I need to clarify again that a guy is only ALL the way in if he takes the oath. Since I’m a “difetto,” or half-breed Sicilian on my mother’s side, the oath was never an option for me. So, I was never all “in.” Not in the sense that some people see it. I was just an associate who happened to be born into a Family. I did work and was a good earner for my uncles over the years, but I always saw myself as a sort of lone wolf. I did answer to my Uncles Sal and Pete Tocco, but I never took an oath or anything like that. They were all the way “in” and had no way of getting out. Both are dead now so I have no problem putting that on record. They were good guys who expressed on many occasions that I was lucky to have an out, which they did not. Sometimes it was almost as if they were envious of me, because I actually could walk away without recourse, an option they didn’t have.
As for picking up where I left off? The answer is unequivocally no. I gave almost 30 years to that life, 13.3 of it in prison. I love the simple, humble, private life I now live far up north, out in the woods, working from home with my wife. It’s bliss. No cops. No guns. No Feds. No lawyers. No looking over my shoulder or in my rearview mirror for cops. I sleep like a rock and wake up free of stress and anxiety. I made it through 15 years on the street and 13 years in prison. I have no desire to go back to my old life.
The NCS: You must have seen and heard plenty of events during your time in the Syndicate, what were the main events that stick out most in your mind that you were either part of, or witnessed?
Alan: Well, one of the scariest events was back in the late 1990s, when I was picked up by the Feds and brought in for questioning. It was right after a big FBI sting called “Operation Game Tax,” where a bunch of guys got indicted for running sports books and casino nights. My uncle and one of his guys I worked with had been brought in a few days before me, and they ended up doing some time over it. But I had no idea the Feds were looking at me. I was involved in so many criminal rackets at the time they could have wanted me for any of a dozen crimes.
So there I was this federal bullpen in downtown Detroit. They stuck me in a windowless office and gave me a cup of coffee, just like in the movies. Then in came these two G-Men who really started pouring it on. They were telling me I was going to get 30 years if I didn’t tell them who and what. They were all calm, saying, “We know you’re in the Mafia. We know who you work for. We found the money. We got you on film…” At first I was like, Shit, these motherfuckers got me! Not long before this I had collected over a million dollars from a bunch of bookies after the Super Bowl, so I thought that was what they were referring to. But something began to tell me they were bluffing, just throwing shit out there to see what I might say. You know, fishing. They were sure I was a someone, but I told them I was a nobody and had no idea what the hell they were talking about. When I clammed up and demanded to see my lawyer, they had to release me because they had no evidence against me. I’d later learn that Detroit’s OCT (Organized Crime Taskforce) brought over 90 guys like me in for questioning. Sadly, a couple guys cracked, but that’s a story for another day.
The NCS: Is there anything that you regret from your time in the mob, or wish you had done differently?
Alan: I regret getting caught and going to prison! Haha, just kidding. Honestly, I regret it all. I know my previous life helped shape who I am, but I honestly regret it all. I lost so many years to prison and jail. But then, I also understand that this was God’s plan for me. Prison was my destiny. I know it sounds cliché, but prison was the best thing that ever happened to me. Before prison, I was on a road that surely would have led to death or at the very least life in prison. But prison saved me from myself and gave me the time to cultivate my love for writing. I wrote 9 novels while I was locked up, which was something I would have never done in the streets, even though I’ve always known I had the gift. In fact, you wouldn’t be reading this right now if I’d never gone to prison. Prison also helped me learn who my true friends and family are—the ones who always wrote me, always put money on the phone, always sent me money for commissary, and always stayed in my corner. Now I know who counts and who doesn’t. If there is one thing that prison does, it tells you who your real friends and loved ones are.
The NCS: TO BE A KING is due for release this year, where did you come up with the idea for the novel and are any parts based on real life scenarios and events?
Alan: The story was spawned from my imagination, but there are many characters in it that are loosely based off characters from my previous life. For example, “Don Falcone” was inspired by my grandfather, Peter Tocco. Several other characters were inspired by various friends and family members—their character traits and personal nuances, even how they look. But all the characters are fiction. Are some of the scenes inspired by events from my own life? Sure, there are a few. But only the people closet to me will ever know which ones. Some things are better left unsaid.
The NCS: Will we be seeing an auto-biography of some sort in the future as well?
Alan: I’ve been getting asked this a lot lately, especially since I started writing the Lindbloom Chronicles for the NCS. And until now I never gave it much thought. I guess I never considered my life to be very interesting until I started writing it down. In hindsight, however, I do see how my unique family and childhood could seem intriguing to “normal” people. I could write for days about the crazy stuff I saw and did in my life, including some of my years in prison. But I think the most compelling aspect of my life is how I met and fell in love with my wife, seven years ago while I was still in prison. It is a real-life fairytale that would appeal to any true romantic. She waited for over 6 years for me and we married the day after I got out. An hour later I was baptized by my cousin in the waters of Lake Huron. Perhaps someday, when I am a best-selling author, I will consider writing an autobiography.
Or perhaps the team here at NCS could write a biography for me? 😉
The NCS: One of the questions we always like to ask people in the hot seat is if you could go back and live during any period in the 20th century, which decade would you choose and why?
Alan: You know I would go back to prohibition and work with Detroit’s infamous “River Gang,” a group of Sicilians who took on the rest of the city’s gangs, including the famous Jewish “Purple Gang,” for control of the liquor flowing in from Canada. It was a very violent time in Detroit, but it was all guts and glory. Guys made millions, and some of that money is still being passed down to successive generations. It was a time when mobsters were real mobsters. But being a mobster was very dangerous. I heard many stories from my grandfather. Perhaps someday I will share a few with NCS.
The NCS: And, if you had the chance to sit down with any mobster from the past, who would it be and what would you like to ask them?
Alan: That’s a tough one, but I’d have to go with my grandfather. I’d tell him I love and miss him dearly. I’d let him know what an influence he was on my life, and how I have so much of him in me. I’d assure him that even though some of his kids and grandkids didn’t turn out as he had hoped, he still did a great job and he was adored by the Family. Especially me.
The NCS: A lot of people often get infatuated by the life you had, the money, the cars, the girls and the general lifestyle. What would you say to people who wanted to get involved in organized crime?
Alan: I could tell them how glamorous and awesome it was, but that would be a lie. People like to hear the highlights, the glamor, the girls and the money. They like to romanticize it like the movies do. But the truth is the life can be a nightmare. Drug addictions, gambling addictions, women addictions, it’s all part of the life. But those are the best parts. The worst is knowing that you may be dead or in prison tomorrow. It’s the proverbial Sword of Damacles hanging over your head.
Who can you trust?
Who is ratting on you?
Who is out to rob you?
Who is following you?
Is that a cop a few cars back?
Is your phone tapped?
Why is the boss calling you in?
What was that sound outside your window in the middle of the night?
When will a friend smile in your face and put a bullet in your back?
When will the Feds come bursting down your door to take you to prison for 13 years?
The level of stress and anxiety will break an average man.
My advice: Don’t ever get involved. It just ain’t worth it. But hey, who the hell am I to give advice? Everyone has their own fate.
The NCS: What would you say has been your most successful achievement over the years?
Alan: Why, doing this interview for NCS, of course. (LOL) But in all seriousness, I suppose turning my life over to God and becoming a loving husband to my wife are my two greatest life achievements. At least I like to think so. But dang, I’m doing an interview for NCS!! So it’s hard to choose.