THE COMPOUND by William Gale


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Another tale of the savage South Bronx, this one set in a warren of feral teenagers with names like King Cobra, Wild Child, Apache, Mad Dog, and Stay High. The detectives on the case, Ed O'Rourke and Vito Moles, are with the Bronx Gang intelligence Unit, and they and author Gale describe the bloody rituals of initiation, ""discipline,"" and revenge that cement gang loyalties and attract younger neighborhood kids. To the sound of bongo drums and blaring stereos, the Savage Nomads, the Latin Diplomats, the Mongols, and two other gangs had seized control of five apartment buildings and terrorized the tenants, who fled. In all, about 700 gang members and assorted ""wives"" occupied the Compound between 1971 and 1973 and stocked it with shotguns, automatic rifles, whips, chains, and pistols. Gale notes that no matter how dangerous life in the South Bronx became, neither the victims nor the victimizers could leave--they felt frightened and disoriented away from home. The stories here are about knifings, extortion rackets, gang rapes, and sudden death--the stuff of tabloid headlines. The cops who help gang members with small favors in return for their camaraderie, if not their confidence (they trust no one but each other), estimate that most of the leaders of the early Seventies are either dead or awaiting trial. The Compound too is gone: they used it, destroyed it, and moved elsewhere. Gale doesn't try to find a moral in this amoral society, though an anthropologist could doubtless scrounge one up. His only conclusion is that the cycle of poverty, joblessness, violence, and ghetto entrapment goes on and on. . . . And who knows what dark messianic leader waits to harness the packs of stray children? Grisly.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1977
Publisher: Rawson--dist, by Atheneum