BORN TO KILL by T.J. English


America's Most Notorious Vietnamese Gang, and the Changing Face of Organized Crime
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 A smoothly readable account of the rapid rise and fall of a tough Vietnamese gang in New York City's Chinatown. English (The Westies, 1990) follows the life and criminal career of Tinh Ngo, a Vietnamese teenager who spent two years in Thailand's squalid refugee camps before coming to the US by himself at the age of 13. Like some other young Asian males in this country, he found in a street gang a sense of belonging that he was unable to feel in a series of foster homes and menial jobs. In 1989, at 17, he joined Born to Kill (BTK), a loosely knit but dedicated group of street toughs and petty criminals presided over by 34-year-old David Thai. BTK quickly became known and feared in Chinatown for its daring and violence, if not for the competence of its individual members (in one robbery, a BTK accidentally shot and killed another member). The gang specialized in terrorizing and robbing Asian-owned massage parlors and restaurants, especially those that were hangouts for rival gangs. In August 1989, media and police attention were finally galvanized when, in broad daylight on Canal Street, Lam Trang, 19, gunned down two 15-year-old Flying Dragons who had verbally insulted Thai. As the cops began to investigate his operations, Thai ordered the bombings of police vehicles. The violence reached its peak in 1990, when a young BTK shot up a tea room and killed two members of the Ghost Shadows, who retaliated by murdering Thai's right-hand man and opening fire on the mourners at his funeral. Tinh, arrested for robbery, had become sickened by the killing and aided prosecutors in securing convictions and hefty sentences for Thai and several of his followers. (Tinh is now living under an alias in an undisclosed location.) English's highly competent examination of an ongoing social problem provides an alarming portrait of what he calls ``a brotherhood born of trauma.'' (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1995
ISBN: 0-688-12238-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994


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