The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say,
but what we are unable to say. - Anaïs Nin

At The New York Times, Lawrence De Maria covered the stock market, often from Page 1, and – depending on how long other reporters and columnists took for lunch – also wrote about the credit market, options, real estate and just about anything else financial. He believes he holds the record for most bylines in a single Times edition: four. (The unwritten  rule – no  pun intended – was one byline per edition.)

“I heard the Executive Editor went bananas. So what did the marketing department do? They used all those stories in an ad campaign. I had four bylines again! I think the only reason they put up with me was that the financial section was nominated for a Pulitzer while I was there. Or, perhaps, despite the fact that I was there.”

After a stint in the Marines, De Maria got his journalistic start at The Staten Island Advance, covering crime and politics in a borough where those two pursuits were often not mutually exclusive.

“It was the kind of job where you could bump into Roy Cohn in the courthouse elevator,” De Maria remembers. “I was on my way to cover the trial of some lowlife mobster accused of shooting a man seven times in a barroom full of witnesses. Cohn and I had a nice chat. He was very pleasant, not at all like the man who terrified the nation during the Red Scare years earlier.  I had no idea why he was in a Staten Island courthouse, or who his client was.”

Then, after exiting the elevator, Cohn walked into the same courtroom De Maria did. The client was the young John Gotti.

“He wasn’t the ‘Dapper Don’ back then,” De Maria noted. “He was wearing a green leisure suit.” 

But he still was John Gotti.  And Roy Cohn was still Roy Cohn.

“Not surprisingly, none of the eyewitnesses showed up to testify. I think the cops had some forensic evidence, because they did manage to convict him of attempted manslaughter, which conveniently ignored the fact that there was a dead body. He got a few years. Maybe it was the leisure suit.”

The Gotti trial wasn’t De Maria’s only brush with the “mob.” He also spent a week on the set of The Godfather, some of which was filmed on Staten Island.

“I was the only reporter on the set. Nobody could figure out how I was getting all my inside stories. I snuck in as one of the waiters for the crew catering the famous wedding scene. Marlon Brando, Diane Keaton, Al Pacino, James Caan, they couldn’t get enough of the great Italian food served every day. Neither could I, to be honest. I was surprised how nice and accessible they all were. I think they sensed they were creating a classic.”

De Maria left the Advance with an Associated Press Spot News Award under his belt and it wasn’t long before he was exposed to venality on a whole new scale.

“At both The Times and later at Forbes, and then in a brief, lamentable stint in corporate communications, I met some really serious crooks. Gotti or Madoff? You choose.”
De Maria believes that hobnobbing with Wall Street bigwigs was the perfect training ground for the fiction author he now is.

“Most of what they told you was unbelievable, as subsequent indictments proved.”



My service in the United States Marines
My first job as a journalist, 
as a reporter on the night staff 
of the Staten Island Advance
That's me sitting in the middle. 
My Marine buzz cut had grown back. 
I had a lot of hair back then.
The current me. 
Writing almost 30 novels has taken a toll on my tresses!