A sprawling, literary true-crime effort that will reward patient readers with its gloomy account of an unstoppable, violent...

BLOOD IN THE FIELDS

TEN YEARS INSIDE CALIFORNIA'S NUESTRA FAMILIA GANG

Brisk, detailed exposé of the little-understood gang Nuestra Familia.

Monterey County Herald staff writer Reynolds, a recipient of Harvard’s Nieman Fellowship, spent 12 years covering the gang (including as co-producer and writer of a PBS documentary), and it shows in her intense, intimate approach: She begins abruptly, without much context regarding the unique nature of Latino gangs. This one began in Northern California prisons in the 1960s as a rival to the powerful Mexican Mafia and has since gained territory via a street-level offshoot, the Norteños. Reynolds builds a long-term narrative focused on a volatile NF clique in Salinas, receiving orders from gang superiors allegedly isolated in the Pelican Bay Supermax prison. She personalizes this approach by utilizing the perspectives of a Mexican-American cop and several beleaguered gangsters, who became informants, accepted plea deals for violent felonies or were themselves victims of violence. Looking beneath their pseudo-revolutionary “Cause” (“a shallow and manipulative ideology”), she portrays a criminal conspiracy fusing cold business acumen, a corporate-style structure and vicious hatred for “Sureños” (Southern California Latinos). By the late 1990s, “the NF had blanketed the state and was now running regiments in every tiny [agricultural] town.” However, the gang’s fortunes turned when then–U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller decided to pursue NF federally. Soon, even the crew’s higher-ups were cutting deals with the FBI, leading to one imprisoned teenage killer’s bitter conclusion: “The Cause…was nothing but generations of lies told to entice kids like him to do a few old guys’ dirty work.” Yet, after spawning a complex investigation, the feds desisted after 9/11, leading the local cops to decide that “the Mexican-American lives lost on California’s back-country roads were of little concern in Washington.” Reynolds concludes that the high-profile prosecutions actually advanced their power: “With each new guilty verdict the gang branched out” within the federal prison system.

A sprawling, literary true-crime effort that will reward patient readers with its gloomy account of an unstoppable, violent subculture.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61374-969-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

more