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Book Review: Blood In Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood by John Lee Brook

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Notoriety is the substantive form of the adjective ‘notorious,’ which is defined as “widely but unfavorably known or talked about.” Which means that being notorious is the same thing as being famous, only for all the wrong reasons. Some obvious examples defining the subtle difference between fame and notoriety would be: Jesus is famous. Hitler is notorious. Mother Theresa is famous. Lindsay Lohan is notorious. Yet in today’s world, which espouses an attitude of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” the distinction is lax. It doesn’t seem to matter whether one is famous or notorious. Either way, one is a celebrity. Which is what it’s all about.

I guess.

Without a doubt, with the publication of Blood In Blood Out, the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) will have attained its highest pinnacle of notoriety or fame or celebrity, depending on your viewpoint. For this book is bound to make them famously infamous. Essentially, it is a voyeuristic exhibition of infamy, in which, like a peeping Tom, John Lee Brook gives the reader a view into an extraordinary world. A world of drugs, money, and violence wrapped around an inner core of mystical warriors.

Brook chummied up with bad guys – members of the Aryan Brotherhood – listening to macho skinheads tell incredible stories, and surveyed the connection between Cause and Effect. Bad guys who were there told him what took place. Hearsay, gossip, scandal, unconfirmed reports, and second-hand information from snitches and defectors make up part of the tale. Another part comes from rock solid facts. Put them together and you’ve got a hot, blue, and booming tabloid version of the worst parts of the Bible.

One thing’s for sure. John Lee Brook has a sense of humor. You know that from the way he spins the story. Witty, waggish, whimsical language expressed with tongue-in-cheek incredulity. Like: are you kidding me, man? There is no way that is true … is there? Maybe. But since the tale revolves around the production and distribution of illicit drugs, there’s a good chance it’s the real deal. If it were a movie, it’d be Kill Bill meets Alice in Wonderland, with Johnny Depp reprising his role from Blow. The Mad Hatter goosed up on meth. The Introduction sets the tone. The Introduction introduces an annotated history. Names and dates. A chronology of events, mishaps, and calamitous murders.

The good guys – FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals – look good. They follow the rules and go by the book. And what’s weird is the good guys don’t achieve much fame. Which somehow seems backwards. The bad guys look baaaad. No rules. No book. Just fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. They become notorious.

But in the end, the good guys win. On the way to prevailing, the good guys put together the biggest indictment ever. Then the good guys begin rounding up the bad guys.

The bad guys are in prisons all over the U.S. So the Department of Justice dispatches Con-Air, which really exists. Only it’s called JPATS, which stands for Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System. Con-Air picks the bad guys up and flies them to L.A. Once in the City of Angels, the bad guys are housed in different jails, awaiting trial.

Forty bad guys go on trial in Los Angeles. When the trials begin, assorted snitches, defectors, and informants come out of the proverbial woodwork. Everyone’s playing Let’s Make a Deal, trying to save their skins.

Meanwhile, a bunch of steroid abusing skinheads called Nazi Low Riders decide to start their own business. A superlab capable of producing mass quantities of methamphetamines. Nazi Low Riders believe in free enterprise. But the NLR dudes have a problem: money. So they turn to the Aryan Brotherhood for a small business loan. And pretty soon, business is booming. The intricacies of just how this all comes about makes for astonishing reading. John Lee Brook provides a bird’s eye view of the action, then zeroes in with microscopic precision. The result is up-close and personal entertainment – the kind that thumps you in the chest.

When there’s business to take care of, one of the AB honchos calls on his favorite hugger-mugger, who goes by two different tags. Whichever name he goes by, the point is this: he is a gonzo renegade mercenary, a pathic-squeezing nutcase and freak-patrol hell-on-wheels thug, who specializes in illicit substances, remorseless homicide and flinty sadomasochism for a fee. He does anything for anybody, if the price is right.

The story marches on. The story involves farmers, Cadillacs, and smurfing. The story rocks n’ rolls its way down the highway to hell. It waltzes the Wah-Watusi of legendary literary feat. It does a Fandango on your head. It makes you blink. John Lee Brook has written an electrifying, sizzling book. One that takes you out and never brings you home. If you’re looking for a ticket to ride to the end of the line, this one’s for you.

On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (don’t waste your time or your money) to 5 stars (gotta’ have it), Blood In Blood Out decrees 5-plus stars.

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About Randall Radic