WILD COWBOYS: Urban Marauders and the Forces of Order by Robert Jackall

WILD COWBOYS: Urban Marauders and the Forces of Order

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Despite a few years of research and the promise of his own marauder-like name, Jackall has written an unremittingly wooden tale of drug-related mayhem. Jackall (Williams College; Moral Mazes, 1988) spent a few years with the NYPD, following a trail of murders across precincts in Manhattan, the Bronx, and the West Side Highway connecting the two boroughs. The detectives gradually uncover a single gang operating out of a heavily Dominican neighborhood in Manhattan's Washington Heights. The Red Top crew--enamored of Scarface and clavos, secret compartments for guns that line their fancy cars--moves in and takes over the corner drug trade after murdering the local dealers. Jackall is on the scene as the worst offenders are themselves murdered or rounded up for trial, accused of murdering others, from competing dealers to an innocent college grad who made the mistake of passing a gang member on the highway. But this dramatic story is not well served by Jackall's dry style (it's clear why the police referred to him as ""the Professor""). He is ill at ease with police lingo, and his use of terms like ""pross,"" ""dissing,"" and ""two in the head"" can be grating. Clearly, Jackall has an intimate understanding of the complicated case against the Red Top gang, yet it is confused by the book's poor organization. For instance, Jackall opens with a strong focus on the evil Platano, who suddenly drops out of the narrative; and the real murderers in Red Top, Lenny Sepulveda and Freddy Sendra (a.k.a. Freddy Krueger), are dropped in the text randomly before being properly introduced in later chapters after the reader has forgotten their names. A short speech by the sentencing judge crackles with the only real fury here about how thoroughly the gang has ruined the lives of everyone it touched. An academic, labyrinthine look at the terror gangs inflict on their neighbors and society.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1997
ISBN: 0674018389
Page count: 370pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.