Baylor University Poage Library

Gus Russo

Gus Russo is a veteran investigative reporter, musician, and author. His first book, Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK (Bancroft, 1998), was praised by the New York Times as “compelling, exhaustively researched and even handed.” Kirkus Reviews called Sword, “Probably the last book on the Kennedy assassination you will need to read....Gripping and convincing!” The book was a Book of the Month Club and History Book Club Featured Alternate. Sword was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and has been scripted for a mini-series by Showtime Networks. Russo next authored The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (Bloomsbury, 2002). It was described as “seamless” (Baltimore Sun), “a tireless read...a saga...550 pages of good journalism” (Chicago Tribune), and “one of the essential works on the subject of organized crime” (Los Angeles Times). The Outfit was also nominated for the Pulitzer, and was optioned before publication by USA Networks.

Russo’s next book, Gangsters and GoodFellas (June 2004, M Evans Pub.), was a collaboration with former NY gangster Henry Hill, a sequel to his 1985 biography Wiseguy, which was the basis for the hit 1990 movie GoodFellas, starring Robert DeNiro.
Russo followed with Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America’s Hidden Power Brokers(Sept. 2006); Supermob film rights were sold before publication to CBS-Paramount, and is being developed as a television series. Regarding this book, Publishers Weekly stated: “Veteran investigative author and organized crime expert Russo's magnum opus is a compelling look at one of the last century's major power players. Russo's extensive research is amply evident, and he has made use of recently disclosed records to paint a fuller picture than predecessors such as Seymour Hersh and Brian Ross were able to...a worthy addition to the genre.” Chicago Sun-Times: “An exhaustive look at [Korshak’s] exploits™ Russo does a masterful job™ The amount of research in the book is staggering™ Russo pulls plenty of substantive dirty deeds done by Korshak into the light. Korshak would have cringed.” Kirkus: “there are plenty of revelations in this absorbing book.” SF Chronicle: “[Supermob] adds up to a compelling picture of the exercise of power in the 20th century™ Russo’s chapter on the shameless plundering of the assets of imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II, presided over by a bevy of Korshak’s associates, is particularly stirring.”
In January 2006, Russo, as co-writer with Wilfried Huismann, delivered a breakthrough 90-minute documentary for the German public television network WDR. The film, “Rendezvous With Death,” clarifies the relationship between Cuba’s intelligence service and JFK’s killer. At this writing, the film has aired in fifteen countries. In addition, Russo is also an occasional consultant to Hollywood screenwriter Ron Bass. Russo’s fifth book (w/ Steve Molton), is Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder(October 2008).This book was inspired by the “Rendezvous” film. Brothers was named Winner of the 2008 History Prize by the New York Book Festival.

In 2009, Russo produced and co-wrote Generation 9-11, a documentary feature film on the West’s misconceptions about Islam, for Academy Award-winning director Nigel Nobel. Most recently, Russo’s The Outfit was optioned by top Hollywood producer Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland) as a television series. Russo is co-producing a two-hour special, hosted by Tom Brokaw, for NBC News (Fall 2013).

Russo released his sixth book, a memoir entitled Boomer Days, in May 2011.

As a screenwriter, Russo recently had his original screenplay, Django, optioned by Digital Fortress, whose owner is the former Chairperson of the Producer’s Guild and a longtime producing partner of James Cameron (Terminator, The Abyss, Titanic, Avatar.)
Superbad producer Dara Weintraub is also developing a number of Russo’s film projects.

Previously, Gus Russo has worked an investigative reporter for PBS’ Frontline series, as well as ABC News Special Reports with Peter Jennings (Dangerous World: The Kennedy Years), Dan Rather’s CBS Reports, and Jack Anderson Specials; he has been a consultant for programs such as Sixty Minutes, Sixty Minutes II, and Eye To Eye with Connie Chung; as well as documentary productions based in England, France, Germany, Japan, and Mexico. Russo served as Senior Editorial Producer for Peter Jennings’ November 2003 two-hour documentary on the assassination of President Kennedy. Russo has appeared on countless radio and TV programs, including NPR’s Wait, Wait™Don’t Tell Me!, The History Channel (numerous shows), A&E’s Biography (Jack Ruby), Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC’s Nachman, and Dan Rather’s 1993 special Who Killed JFK? Russo has researched for numerous writers including Seymour Hersh, Gerald Posner, Anthony Summers, and Laurence Leamer, and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The Nation, The Washington Post, Book Forum, American Heritage, The Huffington Post, and for two years was a regular contributor to the health-related website

In another life, Russo was a professional musician, composer, bandleader, and private instructor. In that incarnation, he played with, or in tandem with, many well-known acts including John Phillips, The New Mamas and Papas, Phoebe Snow, Michael Murphy, The Byrds, Livingston Taylor, Poco, Mary Travers (Peter, Paul and Mary), Commander Cody, and Firefall (w/ Rick Roberts). Russo the musician also wrote commercial jingles and low-budget film scores (Basket Case, Brain Damage, etc.)
As an actor, Russo appeared in the opening night stage adaptation of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room at Washington’s AFI Theater (6-10-11).

Russo currently gets his musical kicks as leader of the six-piece group, String Theory, which emulates swing bands that took Europe by storm in the early twentieth century, and mixes it with the best of the American swing combos. With acoustic jazz guitars, violin, upright bass, pedal steel guitar, and vocalists, String Theory takes on Django Reinhardt, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, Hoagy Carmichael, Dan Hicks and other greats that aren't heard nearly enough.