ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON: The Autobiography of a Street Criminal by John Allen

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON: The Autobiography of a Street Criminal

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KIRKUS REVIEW

I always thought of myself as a hustler. I come from a hustling family,"" says Allen, exhibiting a jumble of criminal and middle-class aspirations as anomalous as it is disconcerting. Reared in the black ghetto of D.C. not far from the Capitol, Allen slid into armed robbery and drug pushing as naturally as he found sex and guns. Crime was his career and he had the requisite skills plus ""the heart to do it""--steal, shoot, rob, kill if necessary. In his autobiography, he speaks matter-offactly about his job, the ups and downs of the street life and interludes in prison, the middling success he achieved. In the end it was penny-ante stuff and he doesn't try to glamorize it. His career was deflected the night of a shootout with the cops which left his partner dead and himself a paraplegic--a difficulty which cramps his style considerably but doesn't alter his basic goals. These are dismayingly conventional--he wants to make a buck for the children he fathered casually by several women and cut a figure in the community. Allen has a strong sense of survival but very little sense of wrongdoing. His autobiography--put together with the help of his one-time lawyer and the co-editors--can be read as a gloss on many things including violence as pragmatism, today's preying criminal underworld, and the very minor impact of the Civil Rights movement on large sectors of the ghetto. Allen is skeptical of the Muslims (""I was born and raised on pork"") and nonchalant about black-white relations (""It's a whole lot of nonsense, so I just try to avoid it as much as possible""). He neither asks for nor invites pity and despite his handicap and this book, there is only the flimsiest indication that he will change. Less than a bombshell, more than a curiosity.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Pantheon