Every face I set eyes on was black. I began to be frightened."" Richard Sale, a Life reporter after a big scoop, managed to penetrate the Blackstone Rangers, a paramilitary black gang in Chicago. Sale, who is white, frequently felt fear, made typical honky blunders (it's black, man, not ""Negro""), got called everything from ""dude"" to ""dumb motherfuck,"" and sometimes nervously gawked at what he saw (""Man, we ain't no animals in no zoo for you to be comin' here lookin' at""). But Sale stuck it out and the result is an exceptionally honest and revealing look at one aspect of the black urban experience in this country. With Joel Hampton (brother of Panther Fred, killed in that famous shoot-out with the police last year) as his passe-partout, Sale talks with gang members, records their street-smart obscenity and ambitions (""ask most young black kids what they want to be and, like, they'll (Sale asked one youth ""What do you feel about this country?"" The answer: ""SHIT.""). Life never did run Sale's investigative report (not enough gang violence, we're told) which is regrettable because this gut account deserves wider readership than it is likely to get in book form. At one point, Joel Hampton chides Sale: ""You keep peelin' away at the skin, don't you?"" True, and this is a view from underneath all those layers of hurt and neglect.